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.
In a poor attempt to convince parents of their effectiveness the DUP have misinterpreted the significance of a statement by Father Ignatius McQuillan recently published in the Irish News http://www.irishnews.com/articles/540/561/2009/7/20/622952_388069193305Exambanw.html
In a mandatory coalition executive dependent upon mutual cooperation to avoid collapse the DUP must be seen to be outdoing their Sinn Fein partners. As history has revealed the DUP’s effectiveness in tackling anyone with their own developed strategy is virtually non-existent. Sinn Fein’s destruction of grammar schools has been aided and abetted by token opposition and slick slogans.
While the conflicted anti-academic selection position of the Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland has been sold to the media on social justice and moral grounds that is clearly not the disclosed position for Catholic schools in England where two very high profile campaigns to save Roman Catholic grammar schools have been initiated by headteachers and parents working together.
There is no evidence of ”growing opposition” to non-selective schooling. Such opposition has been constant since the first attempt to remove the 11-plus. If academic selection is to be ended it must be applied to non-Catholic schools at the same time as Catholic schools lest Catholic parents move their children to non-Catholic grammar schools. Unfortunately there won’t be enough room for all the applicants. Social selection will replace academic selection. Perhaps Mr Storey should consult his East Antrim MP friend Sammy Wilson about the parental pressure group STOP. This pressure group petitioned the Catholic bishops to restore the regulated “interim” CCEA test abandoned by Caitriona Ruane in February. The campaign resulted in a complete failure to change the minister’s and the bishops’ position yet not a meaningful cheep from the loud and vociferous MP.
Mr Wilson will know of Mr Storey’s involvement as a member of the Board of Governors at Ballymoney Model Primary School. Despite his senior position in the DUP and access to communication tools Mr Storey was unable to prevent a teacher led plot to convert the school to integrated status.
If Mervyn Storey, Sammy Wilson and the DUP had been fully involved in opposing Sinn Fein’s strategy to remove grammar schools they would have been aware that Ignatius McQuillan, like the late Monsenior Denis Faul, has always opposed the anti-11-plus, anti-grammar position of the hierarchy. Unfortunately the Catholic Church is not a democratic organisation and the power rests with the Irish Catholic bishops. The DUP were made aware of the loss of social mobility when grammar schools were removed in large portions of England but choose to keep silent on the issue. The DUP were made aware of the negative impact of the revised curriculum project inflicted on Shankill Road primary schools but stayed silent. Diane Dodds MEP was the DUP’s representative for the Shankill. The DUP were made aware of the potential disaster that ESA would bring under the former CCEA boss, Gavin Boyd, but predictably did nothing to prevent his rise to power.
Perhaps Mervyn Storey will now disclose the results of his meetings with Cardinal Brady and contrast the Cardinal’s position with that of the stated DUP position on the 11-plus and academic selection to grammar schools. Perhaps they are not too far apart?
“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!