March 13, 2012
John O’ Dowd, Education Minister for Northern Ireland issued a Press Release via the N I Direct Executive web site announcing his decision for the future of assessment at GCSE level.
Unfortunately for the hapless Sinn Fein representative the extent to which the Minister is not fit for purpose is revealed in the content of his PR. Announcing an increased emphasis on punctuation, grammar and spelling, Mr O’ Dowd includes a spelling mistake for good measure. The mistake was contained in a paragraph referencing O’Dowd’s equivalent post-holder and political nemesis in England, the Secretary of state for Education.
One may only assume that someone prepared the press release, someone proofed it and the minister actually read it prior to publication. On the other hand…..
March 9, 2012
Absent a willingness or ability of the Detail.tv and the Belfast Telegraph to address the DENI data on pupil performance at GCSE and A-Level, Paceni offers a warning to the DENI and some reassurance to parents.
League tables and their limitations in the comparison of institutional performance such as schools is not a new issue. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2983325?uid=3738032&uid=2134&uid=372782467&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=60&uid=372782457&sid=47698738446577
Martin McGuinness banned such tables when he was Education Minister in the 1990s but his party colleague John O’Dowd has reintroduced them via the media to persist in the attack on academic selection and grammar schools. However no reference has been made by any education correspondent to an important paper published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society in 1996.
John O’Dowd and the DENI have a statistics and research branch http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/32-statisticsandresearch_pg.htm but it would seem that they ignore warnings provided by those who cautioned against the inappropriate use of data to compare schools. The reason is quite clear. Mr O’Dowd is stepping up his attack on grammar schools for political and ideological purposes. Unfortunately other political representatives are colluding with O’Dowd in order to panic and decieve parents. If the DENI have a response to Harvey Goldstein and david Spiegelhalter the world would be delighted to examine it.
“All documents should be checked for personal information before being made available on a website. This case also highlights the importance of organisations having comprehensive data protection training in place for all staff.
“It is vital that schools, colleges and universities introduce robust systems to handle their pupils’ information on electronic and paper based systems in compliance with the Data Protection Act and we will continue to work with those in the education sector to ensure they are keeping young peoples’ details secure.”
February 15, 2012
Transformation of Parkhall College enrolment has become an expensive and perhaps last ditch enterprise for the Board of Governors, The NEELB and NICIE. A Decaux billboard at the Top of the Town in Antrim advertised the post-primary school’s Open Night before the end of 2011. Just this week a new billboard appeared during the period for parents to choose post-primary schools for the current P7 classes.
- Who commissioned the billboards?
- How many billboards have been selected and what are the locations?
- How much does each billboard cost?
- What is the total cost of the advertising campaign?
- Who is paying for the billboards and advertisements?
While Parkhall attempts to sell itself to prospective pupils via Open days, expensive advertising and prize day speeches parents must examine the facts. The following extract is taken from Mr Beattie’s remarks on prize day when Naomi Long MP of the Alliance Party was a guest. Unfortunately the principal neglected to mention some significant lack of attainment in the area of numeracy and literacy. For those school leaders who readily adopted CCEA’s revised curriculum and the DENI Entitlement Framework the consequences have now become real for pupils. While Mr Gavin Boyd, the Chief Executive of ESA and former Chief Executive of CCEA once stated that pupils would “acquire dispositions” most parents and employers want their charges to be able to read, write and count. While Mr Beattie boasts of record achievement for one pupil he neglects to mention some important facts for many others. At the benchmark of 5 A* – C grade GCSE (considered a measure of success for all pupils) Parkhall did record 57% of pupils reaching the threshold. However when the vital subjects of English and Mathematics are included in the five subjects the result falls to:
Parkhall Integrated* College 28.8% A* – C GCSE including English and Maths
Principal of Parkhall College, George Beattie
Reports have been received by PACENI that requests for information surrounding the enrolment at Parkhall College have been refused. Let it be hoped that the school is not attempting to paint a false picture by hiding information from the community that supports it.
February 5, 2012
The Sunday Times today, 5th February, 2012 carried a front page headline: One-third of North Schools are “failing”. The paper was not referring to Donegal.
After receipt of results from the 2012 11-plus tests from AQE and GL Assessment many parents will be anxious about the choice of school for their child. They may benefit from an examination of the performance of all post-primary schools at GCSE, rather than believing the flattering information given at open days. The important figure to examine is the standard 5+ A* – C (including English & Maths). Local media and the DENI have hidden behind the figures which exclude this important information but parents may feel that achieving competency in numeracy and literacy may not be too much to ask of schools after 12 years of compulsory ( and expensive) education.
Kathryn Torney, former education correspondent of the Belfast Telegraph, and currently employed by the Atlantic Philanthropy funded TheDetail.tv authored the article but her qualitative “analysis” mainly refers to the opinions of educationalists with a long-standing anti-academic stance. None have solutions.
“Over the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a whole series of initiatives of different kinds all focused around the issue of low performance or underperformance. The most recent is the Every School a Good School policy. However, the situation doesn’t appear to have changed that very much in terms of the relative patterns.”
Tony Gallagher, Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast
One very disturbing detail: thirty five schools fall into a group in which only one in five pupils leave compulsory education with 5 A* -C GCSEs.
All are named.
December 12, 2011
Back in May 2011 UTV broadcast a story of parents reporting the leaking of the 2009 GL Assessment 11-plus test in a Catholic Grammar School.
According to the Belfast Telegraph of Tuesday 13th December,2011
“It is understood the school at the centre of the scandal, which has not been named, [why not since the school committed a breach of contract?] photocopied the 2009 GL Assessment English and maths papers, later used as a practice paper to prepare some children for the 2010 transfer test.
Copying the papers was in contravention of the school’s contractual agreement with the English-based GL, which is responsible for the tests’ content.”
Note in the UTV extract the statement from Fintan Murphy of the Catholic Principals Association.
On foot of this story GL Assessment issued a Press Release. Note the claim from GL Assessment that:
If this allegation is substantiated it would constitute a breech of security and copyright by the school involved
Today, after months of delay, Education Minister, John O’Dowd released the findings of his so-called investigation into the matter of those given the test in advance of the 2010 PPTC transfer test. There is no doubt that those who saw the 2009 paper had an advantage. As usual the BBC NI Education Correspondent, Maggie Taggart, entirely missed the fundamentals of this issue and gave the Minister’s nonsense views precedence over the failure to hold to account those responsible for valid and reliable testing. Perhaps parents are failing to appreciate the abject failure of the professionals in education to get to the core of issues involving very serious matters concerning their childrens future. The important message in the BBC report demonstrates the arrogance of the educationalists position.
“A claim that the 2009 test had been leaked could not be investigated because those involved wanted to remain anonymous”
June 24, 2011
Why have the ETI, the Schools Inspctorate, been called in at short notice to review Cambridge House and hastily place a grammar school in special measures? Check the ETI website http://www.etini.gov.uk/ and determine how often the ETI revisit schools – it is usually many years between visits. It has been suggested to PACE by well-placed sources that the DENI were contacted by a disgruntled employee at Cambridge House Grammar School. The Inspection visit was a consequence. Now consider the aim of Sinn Fein Minister, John O’Dowd to end grammar schools in Northern Ireland and the difficulties that Ronnie Hazzard, principal of Ballymena Academy, has incurred over the integrity of the GL Assessment exam used to determine admissions to Ballymena Academy, Slemish College and St Louis Grammar School. Only Cambridge House uses the AQE test and has remained unsoiled by the use of a suspect test. Minister O’Dowd is currenly conducting an investigation into the GL Assessment and PPTC debacle.
For those with an eye for detail notice that the BBC Northern Ireland Report on Cambridge House Grammar school is dated June 17th 2011. The ETI published the Inspection Report for public consumption on the 22nd June 2011 robbing parents and the Ballymena public of an opportunity to immediately respond to the BBC story. Parents may suspect that the Northern Ireland media are a mere extension of the DENI’s publicity/propaganda machine.