If there was ever a need to answer the persistently wrong and ideologically failed attack on academic selection by 11-plus testing carried out by the DENI, an answer to an Assembly Question by a Sinn Fein MLA gives a resounding response.
|AQW 6202/11-15||Mr Daithí McKay
(SF – North Antrim)
It is little wonder that there were no press releases, planted media articles or angst-filled human interest stories obediently spewed up using words and phrases such as child abuse, stress-laden, difficult, morally wrong, scandalous. The DENI have known since the Household Survey of 2002 that the majority of parents want valid and reliable transfer testing at 11. Their miserable decade long campaign has resulted in failure but the DENI promote failure by denying the taxpayers their right to regulated testing and then object to and hamper those who suceed in doing their work for them. If an example of promoting failure is required then linking the ending of regulated transfer tests to the promotion of the multi-jobbing ESA Chief Execuive may be a good place to start.
Also note that there has been no effort by the unionist parties to highlight the response to AQW 6202/ 11-15. This may be explained by their secret desire to see the issue of transfer testing disappear or perhaps they don’t read answers that don’t refer to themselves.
One written complaint was received by the Western Education and Library Board in the last three years in relation to a primary school in that area preparing its pupils for unregulated transfer tests. No written complaints were received by any of the other boards during that period and records are not kept of any verbal complaints.
November 15, 2011
In February 2009 Stanley Poots was highlighted by PACE for his prominent anti-academic selection views which he made public in an article in the Belfast Telegraph. It may be worthwhile for parents to review the comments below the article since many have expressed increasing concern over the teaching of numeracy and literacy in primary schools. Parents also raise concerns about creeping social selection (parents professional standing and income influencing the teaching professionals re: recommendations on post-primary destination) replacing valid and reliable academic selection.
Peter Robinson this morning signaled his personal willingness to sacrifice the principle of academic selection in order to stay in power. In a statement conveniently timed with Cardinal Brady’s announcement for the future comprehensivisation of Catholic education, the DUP leader has signalled to Sinn Fein and other anti-selection that it is now safe for them to make academic selection and the 11-plus an issue over which they can threaten to bring down the Northern Ireland Executive. Peter Robinson has made the principle of selection negotiable.
“I am determined to ensure that an academic option is available to those from all backgrounds who wish to pursue this path.”
Peter Robinson First Minister
Unfortunately Mr Robinson has not insisted that during the interim period before any introduction of Computer Adaptive Testing, the AQE CEA 11-plus must become the only acceptable exams option not the GL Assessment one day and inferior approach.
Leaving the decision on agreeing a single test to grammar school principals at a meeting in Methodist College this evening is akin to Peter Robinson and the DUP insisting the the Ulster Unionists endorse the Hillsborough Agreement with Sinn Fein.
November 29, 2009
Peter Robinson must think all unionists are educationally disadvantaged. Otherwise he would have thought through his proposal to allow decisions of the Executive, such as on education, to be taken by any three parties. S(election) at 14 has been once again floated by the educationalists including the DENI’s favourite, Professor Tony Gallagher and all the main churches. Since the Catholic Church have found themselves, once again, unable to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on the sexual abuse of young people by their clerics it must have crossed the minds of those, aware enough to appreciate that they have a virtual monopoly on the education of Catholic children, that there may be a link.
If this is Peter Robinson and the DUP’s idea of getting out of jail free on the academic selection at 11 problem they have little concept of the pending backlash. Be careful what you wish for is the best advice PACE can give their educationally and strategy disadvantaged politicians.
November 14, 2009
Having subjected Northern Ireland parents to a decade of disruption and confusion over the selective system of education in Northern Ireland Professor Tony Gallagher and Professor Alan Smith have been reduced to becoming mere commentators for the Belfast Telegraph. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/education/post-primary-selection/experts-offer-ten-ways-to-resolve-the-transfer-muddle-14562283.html
It will hardly escape the notice of most that while Professor Gallagher and the Belfast Telegraph are calling for Caitriona Ruane to “Sit Down and Sort it Out” it is Professor Gallagher’s advice and research to the DENI that created the mess in the first place.
Compare and contrast the statements from Prof T. Gallagher made this week to the research he was paid for delivering to the DENI in 1998.
”A decade of debate has produced no consensus, only a self-interested battle of wills between the Minister and the grammar lobby in which the only losers are our children. The chaos must not be allowed to continue. St Andrews means responsibility for re-establishing a regulated system rests with the DUP and Sinn Fein. Can we end the injustice of early, high stakes selection and preserve the academic traditions of the grammar schools? Some form of selection at age 14 fits with the revised Northern Ireland Curriculum and with collaboration in area learning communities. It can advance the goal of making every school a good school, and give every child genuine curriculum choice and a guarantee of a high quality education.
If the politicians don’t buy this, then let them take no more than three years to come up with an alternative agreed solution and, in the interim, establish a simplified system of selection at 11 which restricts grammar schools to grade A pupils only. This will give all schools the stability they need to educate our children, while our elected representatives face their responsibility to prove that shared government can in fact work.”
Professor Tony Gallagher, Head Of School Of Education at Queen’s University, Belfast Telegraph November 13,2009
“the researchers have concluded that the evidence of this study does not suggest that it provides a better alternative to the 11+ system used throughout the rest of Northern Ireland. In particular, the evidence does not suggest that the two-tier system provides a better educational experience for less able pupils than the 11+ system.”
Title: An evaluation of the Craigavon Two-Tier System RB 6/1998 Issue date: Nov-1998
Instead of parroting the flawed and contradictory views of Professor Gallagher the entire political body of MLAs and those omnipresent ”education experts” should hold him to account for his flawed analysis. Professor Gallagher seems more concerned with propping up the Assembly mandatory coalition than admitting his role in helping to undermine and destroy and education system that worked for the vast majority.
In a move welcomed by many Antrim parents The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister has issued a press statement on Parkhall College, once the only state secondary school in Antrim.
Most telling is that Jim Allister is not an Antrim councillor, MLA or MP but has listened and acted on behalf of parents from Antrim when their elected representatives have remained silent.
The triple-jobbing non-constituency member of parliament for the area, William McCrea, MP MLA has been typically and conspicuously silent on the transformation of the school from controlled to integrated status. The DUP education spokesperson, Mervyn Storey is familar with such experiences as a school in his constituency, Ballymoney Model School transformed while Storey was a member of the board of governors. Rank earned him no privileges. His failures may pale in comparison however to the three Ulster Unionist members of the Board of Governors of Parkhall school who may quit their involvement with the school after helping to deliver to integrated status against the wishes of the local community.
“Let us adopt a can-do attitude. I have grave concerns
about the way in which we govern ourselves. There is
no point in my trying to blame other Ministers. If we
are to have an Assembly, we need to take collective
responsibility. Often, we do not adopt a can-do attitude when trying to move forward on these matters.”
The Chairperson of the Committee for Education (Mr Storey) Monday 15 June 2009 Executive Committee Business:
Is Mr Storey suggesting that we may soon not have an Assembly? Is he pre-announcing further concessions on education? Is he exhibiting the DUP’s practiced pattern of making many promises to the electorate but failing to deliver?
So how did we end up where we are today? Why did it happen that Education did become one of then main areas of struggle?
Well the answer is simple …. Caitriona Ruane…..
Or Minister RUIN Rather than Ruane !!!
I once said she was grossly incompetent – that means 144 times worse than the routinely incompetent. When it comes to education matters Caitriona Ruane is about as confused as Adam was on Mothers day and is about as much use as a trap door on a canoe!
Although to be fair she didn’t nominate herself.
No! She was Gerry Adams first pick. ….
Out of all of the Sinn Fein talent on display … better than Paul Butler … better than Sue Ramsey…. better than Jennifer McCann… better than her namesake Fra McCann… better even than Barry McElduff!
Caitriona Ruane was Gerry’s golden girl.
This, remember is the Minister who couldn’t get involved with the classroom assistants dispute and who couldn’t get involved in the Movilla school dispute. Who told us when she was dragged to the Assembly to answer a priority question, about the school dispute she said, we are where we are !!!
This is the Minister who cannot find time to answer Assembly questions in the stipulated time.
But she will spend months banging her head off the brick wall of the legal guarantees this party negotiated at St Andrews.
In doing so she allowed a situation to develop where other important matters have been overshadowed by her futile approach to the transfer debate.
The Minister’s failures meant that the rest of us have had to do the job she ought to have been doing, but couldn’t find the time.
Conference we will be launching a new document highlighting many of the areas in education that we are determined to improve.
The DUP is in favour of excellence. Excellence for all schools delivered to all pupils.
On the matter of transfer we have met with a wide range of stakeholders and will be doing so again in the coming days.
I will be meeting the Catholic bishops, which will be more an experience for them than me.
Doesn’t it say something about this education Minister that the Catholic Headmasters are closer to our position than they are to hers.
Parents are distraught at her failure and behaviour. Teachers are frustrated. Children are stressed.
It appears that for the Minister the future education of the Province’s children is less a priority than Policing and Justice Powers.
It appears that she prefers to bury her head in the sand and take no responsibility for the chaos and mess she has presided over.
It appears that she prefers confrontation to agreement.
It appears that this Minister would prefer an unregulated transfer system to one agreed between her and the other political parties.
Conference – that is not my way or the DUP’s way.
We have acted differently from this missing Minister – this Minister for mayhem.
We didn’t just simply pocket the guarantees won at St Andrews. We have got involved and got our hands dirty.
Where the Minister sat on her backside and failed to behave as a minister and to do her job, I along with my colleagues got up, got down to work.
We have shown that it is not the few but all the children for whom we want the best possible education provision. We will continue with that goal in mind.
It ought to be a cause of shame, though I doubt their ability to feel it, for Caitriona Ruane and her Party, and it is a source of gratitude for us that as a consequence of that, people today look to this party for action and answers rather than the person whose job it actually is.
Conference it is my intention to continue with that.”
Conference 08 – Mervyn Storey MLA
Until Monday 15th June that is!
May 29, 2009
PACE had warned parents about the DUP’s failure to expose the Education Minister’s blackmail attempt over unregulated tests.
Read the warning again in full.
January 25, 2009
The Minister’s 5th December reply in the Belfast Telegraph to Mr McCartney’s letter shows her lamentable grasp of the issues. In the article she cites no evidence for her “model” of education, but simply offers her opinion. Two of the most highly regarded studies in the history of education research prove that she is wrong. The Revised Curriculum, together will “election” at 14 via a Pupil Profile will damage profoundly the life chances of the poor. The evidence is unequivocal that underachievement will dramatically increase if the Minister’s ideas are implemented.
“Project Follow Through” is arguably the largest and most sophisticated educational project ever undertaken to discover, once and for all, the type of curriculum that maximizes the academic achievement of the poor. To give a sense of the scale of this study, it lasted 20 years, cost a billion dollars to fund, and involved 79,000 children from 180 low-income American communities living in poverty. The conclusion was that the curriculum which helps children out of poverty is a traditional curriculum in which the teacher determines what is to be taught and children work in learning environments which are orderly and highly structured. (The reader can find details of this study by “googling” the words Project Follow Through.) Curricula of the type the Minister is currently demanding that all primary school children follow were shown to be damaging to the development of the numeracy and literacy skills of disadvantaged children. A Minister who expresses concern for children being failed by Northern Ireland’s education system is promoting a curriculum that will increase that underachievement. The evidence that curricula of the Revised Curriculum type push the poor deeper into poverty is overwhelming.
As with all her pronouncements to date, her romantic notions of how one enhances the academic attainment of vulnerable children are entirely at odds with the evidence. The Minister therefore needs a mechanism to impose an incoherent damaging education model on our children. That mechanism is the new Education and Skills Authority (ESA) to be headed by Gavin Boyd, the man whose Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) developed both the Revised Curriculum and the Pupil Profile. Mr Boyd’s approach to curriculum was tried out on the children of the Greater Shankill. The evaluation report concluded that in academic terms, the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. Few parents in Northern Ireland are aware that Mr Boyd’s educational ideas have already been tried out and found wanting. Research carried out on behalf of CCEA demonstrated that the model of education he advocates is damaging to the life chances of the poor. The Shankill study replicates high quality international research on the impact of innovative curricula on the poor. The Shankill study (which refutes in every detail the case set out by the Minister in her reply to Mr McCartney) is rarely mentioned by the Minister, Mr Boyd, CCEA, the Department of Education, the Education and Library Boards or the media. The Minister’s support for ESA, with Mr Boyd at its head, will serve to entrench and deepen underachievement and is damaging to already vulnerable children.
The really curious development is that the DUP have joined the Minister in endorsing Gavin Boyd’s ESA. Thanks to the DUP Mr Boyd’s contribution to the current mess we find ourselves in, is to be rewarded by assigning all aspects of our children’s education to his care. Rather than setting up an enquiry in which Mr Boyd might be asked to provide the evidence base for his ideas, Mr Boyd’s capacity to undermine a world-class education system is to be enhanced. The framework for such an enquiry already exists in the ten “features” of good policy-making developed for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Mr Boyd should be asked to evaluate his history of education policy-making against each of the ten features.
This sets the context for where we now find ourselves. This document aims to set out what the DUP must now do to protect standards of education in Northern Ireland in general, and lever up the basic skills of underprivileged children in particular. The DUP have highlighted their concerns for primary six children, and the plight of these children will be of particular concern in what follows.
The DUP must insist that schools should be free to ignore the Revised Curriculum because of its pernicious effects on the achievement of poor children. DUP politicians should be aware that there is peer-reviewed evidence that the scientific basis for the Revised Curriculum is non-existent.
Why should schools adopt a curriculum whose scientific basis has been refuted and which is damaging to the education of underprivileged children?
It is a measure of the depth of the chaos into which we’ve descended that the Minister has threatened to use the law against primary schools who privilege traditional teaching and learning over the Revised Curriculum. Indeed, in this brave new world in which Sinn Fein seem ready to use the courts against law-abiding schoolteachers, curriculum documents on the assessment of cross-curricular skills begin not with a rationale for such skills, but with a statement of the legal requirements on the teacher. Under Ms Ruane the law is being invoked to deliver what educationalists call the “Matthew Effect” whereby the rich get ricer and the poor get poorer. This from the avowed champion of the poor and underachieving!
It is important to reflect on the educational model which existed prior to the Revised Curriculum and to which schools could return if the Revised Curriculum were rejected. Mr Boyd’s own CCEA described the model which pre-dated the Revised Curriculum in these terms: “Education in Northern Ireland has an excellent reputation. In fact it’s no exaggeration to say that teachers here are regularly achieving results that are the envy of many other areas of the UK.” Who wouldn’t want to return to an education system described in these glowing terms? In addition, any move away from the Revised Curriculum is likely to free up much-needed finance for use elsewhere in education.
Finally, turning to the DUP’s commitment to the primary six child, it is instructive to examine the particular pressures on the primary six classroom. While the DUP continue to negotiate with Sinn Fein, primary six teachers are dividing their time between:
(i) preparing the children for the Minister’s test (by focusing on the Revised Curriculum);
(ii) preparing children for InCAS assessment (in anticipation of schools possibly incorporating InCAS measures in their admissions criteria); and
(iii) preparing children for unregulated tests (whether the AQE achievement tests or NFER’s “intelligence” tests favoured by at least one Catholic grammar school).
The most effective way in which the DUP can bring the misery of primary six children to an end is to take a clear stand on the Revised Curriculum, Pupil Profile and InCAS, leaving schools free to return to a model of education which focuses on maximising the literacy and numeracy skills of children, poor as well as rich. There can be no doubt that the DUP’s failure to take a firm stand in respect of the Revised Curriculum is contributing to the chaos in primary six classrooms.
If the DUP were to highlight the fundamental shortcomings in the Revised Curriculum (of which InCAS is a part), primary six teachers could engage those who demand that they emphasise cross-curricular skills at the expense of literacy and numeracy, with much greater confidence.
In summary, therefore, the DUP must:
· withdraw from negotiations with Sinn Fein, making clear their support for a return to the education model which pre-dated the Revised Curriculum (which was ordered and structured and in which “teachers here [were] regularly achieving results that [were] the envy of many other areas of the UK”);
· require the designers of InCAS to demonstrate that inferences drawn such tools can inform decision-making in respect of post-primary selection;
· require the designers of the Revised Curriculum to explain why they’ve pressed on with a discredited curriculum framework in the teeth of compelling evidence from the Greater Shankill study and Project Follow Through.
December 31, 2008
On the eve of 2009 it is opportune to reflect on the legacy of ending the 11-plus in Northern Ireland. The “unregulated” system has left a vacuum of uncertainty for parents and children in primary schools. One group of grammar schools are offering a privitased transfer test similar to the most recent form of 11-plus testing.
The Catholic sector, unwilling to join their Christian fellows in the Voluntary and Controlled grammar schools, have broken away and will offer a retrograde “intelligence test” impossible to teach for using the current revised curriculum.
The Apartheid system facing parents in 2009 will result in further and formal segregation of schooling on a denominational basis. There will be no parity between the tests and parents living in Belfast will struggle to decide which test to enter their child for. The practical difficulties alone only serve to highlight the ineptitude of those charged with delivering education services. The peculiar moral and ethical juxtaposition of the Catholic Church’s position over a retrograde test for admission is best highlighted in the following passage. It should be remembered that the Church supports the revised curriculum.
As for the DUP; their support for the ESA and the litany of failures delivered by CCEA is only matched by their facile reversal of the St Andrew’s Agreement promises on academic selection and grammar schools.
CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION :THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL
In the specifically educational field, the scope of educational functions has broadened, becoming more complex, more specialized. The sciences of education, which concentrated in the past on the study of the child and teacher-training, have been widened to include the various stages of life, and the different spheres and situations beyond the school. New requirements have given force to the demand for new contents, new capabilities and new educational models besides those followed traditionally. Thus education and schooling become particularly difficult today.Such an outlook calls for courageous renewal on the part of the Catholic school. The precious heritage of the experience gained over the centuries reveals its vitality precisely in the capacity for prudent innovation. And so, now as in the past, the Catholic school must be able to speak for itself effectively and convincingly.The Catholic school, therefore, undertakes a cordial and constructive dialogue with states and civil authorities. Such dialogue and collaboration must be based on mutual respect, on the reciprocal recognition of each other’s role and on a common service to mankind. To achieve this end, the Catholic school willingly occupies its place within the school system of the different countries and in the legislation of the individual states, when the latter respect the fundamental rights of the human person, starting with respect for life and religious freedom. A correct relationship between state and school, not only a Catholic school, is based not so much on institutional relations as on the right of each person to receive a suitable education of their free choice. This right is acknowledged according to the principle of subsidiarity.(18) For “The public authority, therefore, whose duty it is to protect and defend the liberty of the citizens, is bound according to the principle of distributive justice to ensure that public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to select schools for their children in accordance with their conscience“.