November 29, 2009
The Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, has proposed a change to the decision making process of the Stormont Executive.
When applied to the blocked decision of the Education Minister to end academic selection the consequences of Robinson’s folly become apparent. Three parties represented in the current Executive, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist/Conservative are all opposed to academic selection at 11. If Policing and Justice were devolved it would mean the Alliance Party would join the Executive and add their anti-academic selection position to the mix. Mr Robinson’s DUP could loudly claim that the ending of academic selection at 11 was not their fault and that the decision was a positive example of the ending of “party political point-scoring over good government”.
“I am concerned that the failure of the Executive to take certain decisions is taking a toll on the Executive’s credibility with the public.”
Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Mr Robinson’s use of irony is matched only by the Education Minister’s claims to value equality. Both have now adopted the equality of result or outcome model. A Marxist system which typifies the DUP -Sinn Fein coalition. It is little wonder that parents and pupils have fallen victim to the political mismanagement of the mandatory coalition in order to preserve the greedy self-interests of a failed political system.
November 18, 2009
When PACE were contacted by parents concerned about the results of Incas assessments given to them during parent/teacher meetings they undertook to write to the CEM at Durham University, CCEA and the DENI.
The first response from CEM Incas staff was unexpected and raised further concerns. Queries on Incas were being directed to CCEA, the Northern Ireland Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment who had recommended to the DENI that the software use become mandatory for use in primary schools.
The initial correspondence from CEM at Durham University stated:
“If you have any specific queries about InCAS, Paul Wright at the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment would be the best person to help you, firstname.lastname@example.org. “
Amanda Mayman, Project Coordinator, PIPS & InCAS Projects Tel: 01913344220 Fax: 01913344180
Since CCEA were not understood to be the software owners this re-direction of concerns to CCEA seemed inappropriate and an attempt to downplay rising concerns.
Further contact with CEM at Durham University resulted in the following received on November 3rd, 2009
Dear Mr Elliott,
Amanda Mayman forwarded your query to CCEA last week and someone from there will be contacting you to discuss your questions.
Dr Christine Merrell, Acting Primary Director,
CEM, Durham University,Mountjoy Research Centre, Durham, DH1 3UZ. Tel. 0191 3344226
The following correspondence was received by PACE from CEM at Durham University on November 17th, 2009
Dear Mr Elliott,
Many thanks for your interest in InCAS. Your email has been passed on to me to respond to.
CCEA are not the owners of the InCAS software. InCAS was an existing assessment system that, upon the recommendation of CCEA, was adopted for use by the Western Education & Library Board and C2k, with the approval of the Department of Education.
The terms of the grant of license for InCAS are as follows:
’Installation and Use. Durham University grants you the right to install and use multiple copies of InCAS on your computers running validly licensed copies of the operating system for which InCAS was designed [e.g., Windows(r) 95; Windows(r) 98; Windows NT(r) etc.] within your institution.
Neither information distributed throughout the year for use with InCAS nor information generated by InCAS (be it numerical or graphical) may be published in any manner or form outside your institution without the express permission of Durham University.’
While InCAS was an existing assessment, under the terms of the contract we undertook to adapt it to better fit the requirements of the curriculum in Northern Ireland. With the introduction of this bespoke version of InCAS in Northern Ireland – including the provision of training to teachers – arranged by CCEA, it was agreed that all queries relating to the use of InCAS in Northern Ireland schools would be best dealt with by CCEA themselves.
I hope this provides a satisfactory answer to your questions from 27 October but please let me know if you have additional questions. However, as indicated above, CCEA may be able to provide a more complete response.
Mark Wightman, Operations Manager, CEM
It now becomes clear that CCEA had contracted to take complete control of the Incas assessment system that they recommended for procurement to the DENI, CCEA sought alterations to the software and when the software failed CCEA took control of the information provided to schools, principals, teachers, parents and the media via their press releases downplaying the extent of the problem. In summary CCEA took absolute control of the information management around a product owned by a third party. It is remarkable that the local media swallowed the explanation whole. Perhaps they were preoccupied with unregulated tests instead of the flawed taxpayer-funded Incas Assessment system.
November 15, 2009
In a shocking revelation in the Sunday Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6917210.ece a report was passed to the government in July, only a few weeks before GCSE results were released, when Balls accused critics of exam standards of “rubbishing the achievements of young people”.
The government-backed study has undermined claims by Ed Balls, the schools secretary, that GCSE standards have been maintained, by showing that some science papers include questions so simple that they require no knowledge of the subject.
Sir Martin Taylor, vice-president of the Royal Society, Britain’s foremost scientific body said:
“If we have science exams that do not test the quality of mathematics needed to do good science, or if we have questions that do not require scientific knowledge to answer them, then we do not have an examination system that is fit for purpose.”
The findings also demonstrated that examination boards were allowing scientifically wrong answers to be marked as correct and that maths was only being tested “in a very limited way”.
Sir Cyril would be aghast at the policy of the Department of Education in Northern Ireland which has removed the statutory requirement for pupils to take GCSE English/Irish or Maths but has made it compulsory for primary school pupils to be assessed using a flawed assessment system form the CEM Centre at the University of Durham.
Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said the maths paper was easier than 11+ practice papers from 1960 with which he had compared it.
“That is an extraordinary indictment of the current UK education system,” said Pike. “We cannot continue to live the lie of ever-increasing standards while businesses struggle to recruit staff with numeracy skills, or who understand the quantitative basis of science.”
Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry
October 15, 2009
The Belfast Newsletter published a story highlighting the creation of a Department of Education master database containing records of all school children.
Ms Ruane’s Department of Education has developed the multi-million pound eSchools Data project which is currently being phased in across the Province.
It allows each school to view details of their own pupils, parents and staff — but some officials at the Department of Education will be able to access information about any entry.
The DENI said in a statement:
“Access to the data warehouse and its reports is strictly controlled. Users are obliged to obey acceptable use policies and sign up to a statement of responsibility.”
PACE members wonder if this is the same level of responsibility exercised by the Education Minister applied to post-primary arrangements and the numeracy and literacy failures of the primary schools?
In a statement Mr Allister said:-
“ESA and the Department under Ruane will, at the touch of a button, have not just educational data on every child, but highly sensitive personal data, including the religion of every child, the home and work address of every child’s contact, normally their parents. To this I object. At this time of increased terrorist threat and given the history in Northern Ireland of republican terrorists targeting security personnel, it is madness to collate information of this sensitivity and make it available within a Department where it only takes one mole to feed the IRA with security-compromising information and we will have murder on our hands.”
The entire statement is available here. http://www.tuv.org.uk/press-releases/view/354/allister-objects-to-�big-brother�-data-collection-by-ruane�s-department
While not a word of concern has been raised by Northern Ireland MPs or MLAs on this subject teachers in Kent have expressed fury over a census which asked them about what car they drive. Source: Mail on Sunday. Glen Owen Political Corespondent.
Examples of the data collection tool
George Orwell couldn’t have anticipated this unintended consequence when he wrote 1984. It took a Northern Ireland Education Minister linked to the IRA’s Columbia Three to find a back door entry into intelligence gathering methods.