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…..
February 8, 2010
The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information is a non-statutory scheme which requires Government Departments and other public authorities to release information in response to specific requests. The Act creates a statutory right of access, provides for a more extensive scheme for making information publicly available and covers a range of public authorities including schools and colleges.
Bangor Grammar School in County Down failed to answer a Freedom of Information request made on Monday 21st December 2009 made by The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education (PACE) on pupil attainments in examinations
. The legislation http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2000/en/ukpgaen_20000036_en_1 allows 20 working days for a reply to issue. The response can include information such as directing the queries to other sources, issuing a partial answer, citing legal exemptions to the request for information.
No such rely was received. Bangor Grammar School has now joined the company of other schools who seem to have failed to have learned the lessons given by their Education and Library Board’s FOI officer on their duties and responsibilities.
This disturbing information is made public to parents to take into consideration when seeking information about how the results of transfer tests such as the AQE Common Entrance Assessment or GL Assessment are to be used to determine admission to a grammar school.
It may be helpful for parents to familiarise themselves with the admission criteria to Bangor Grammar School. Given the school’s choice of the AQE CEA test ( a rank ordered approach) as the instrument to determine admission, the citation of the Minister’s Free School Meal criteria seems to indicate that two horses are being ridden.
To sum up: the School seeks to give due consideration to the constituents who have traditionally been part of the community which the School has served and which it reflects in its ethos; it also wishes to give weight to the Minister’s desire that schools should seek to restore the imbalance in access to post-primary provision caused by social disadvantage. To achieve this in its practice and procedures, the Board of Governors has decided that there should come a point in the selection process when pure academic ability as measured by a score in the AQE CEA as the sole criterion should be balanced against wider considerations. It has therefore resolved that, in principle, up to 90% of its admissions number should be determined by rank order in the AQE CEA and that the remaining 10% should be allocated primarily by means of the non-academic criteria.
Its choice of 90% is determined by the pattern of admission over the last three years, 2007 to 2009, when, on average, 92% of its intake was composed of pupils who had achieved a grade A or B in the Transfer process. The remaining 8% was typically drawn from pupils who had achieved a C1, of whom there were more than there were places available within the admissions number and to whom, therefore, the non-academic criteria were applied. To broadly replicate the position which obtained within the model of selection offered by the Transfer procedure up to and including 2009 and to sustain, therefore, continuity of process, the Board proposes to create a ‘pool’ of applicants drawn from the next pupils in strict rank order after the first 90% have been placed, the size of which is calculated as twice the number of places available and which will be approximately equivalent to the C1 band. Restricting the pool to this number will be more likely to ensure that all will be academically competent, while at the same time giving priority to socially disadvantaged pupils and acknowledging the School’s sense of community as represented by those groups listed in the non-academic criteria.
Perhaps instead of giving weight to the Minister’s desire the Principal should concentrate in compliance with the law.
15. This enables an applicant who is not satisfied with the response by a public authority to a request for information to apply to the Commissioner for a decision on whether the authority has acted in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Subject to certain conditions, for example, the exhaustion of other means of complaint, the Commissioner is under a duty to reach a decision.
May 29, 2009
In a desperate effort to achieve an end to academic selection primary school principals have called on grammar schools to abandon their unregulated entrance tests. Instead of pressuring the Minister, Caitriona Ruane, over her failure to provide regulated tests the teaching unions have picked upon their colleagues in the grammar sector. Of course a grammar school without academic selection is not a grammar school so the approach is doomed to failure.
Mr Harron of the INTO said the conference in Belfast was the beginning of a campaign to make sure voices of primary principals were heard.
The teaching unions practically live in Rathgael House at the Department of Education and parents are undoubtedly sick of hearing their anti selection views forced down the throats of parents via a compliant media.
School heads want tests abandoned
See will simply declare it so.
Mr A McQuillan (AQW 7094/09) asked the Minister of Education if she can give assurances that the Education and Skills Authority will not interfere with the running of successful schools.
Caitriona Ruane, Minister of Education:
The Education Bill will provide a new administrative structure to support the raising of standards in all schools. It is my intention that the Education and Skills Authority (the ESA) will assist schools in achieving significant improvement in the achievements of all pupils. The arrangements being established will see local area support teams working with schools, reflecting the individual needs of each school. It would not be appropriate to characterise this relationship as one of interfering.
I will also ensure that my policy of Every School a Good School will mean that all schools will be seen as successful.
Parents will feel so much better knowing that Caitriona and the ETI refuse to name any failing schools. The hugh number of pupils leaving second level education without qualifications in numeracy and literacy is either of no concern to the Minister or she is talking more nonsense. The fact that English and Maths are no longer compulsory subjects at GCSE makes her promise to improve results impossible to measure. If this lack of willingness to be measured seems familiar then her vitriolic attack on the unregulated tests in numeracy and literacy put her real objective into perspective; the destruction of grammar schools.
May 1, 2009
In her latest attempt to cajole and bully parents into compliance with her “guidance” Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane uses another compliant group of Catholic principals to reinforce her/their mistaken view.
Education Minister Caitríona Ruane said schools should follow her Department’s guidance and not set their own tests.
“It is obvious that the grammars have not considered the needs of primary six children or the impacts these unvalidated tests will have on them, but are more interested in simply preserving the archaic system of academic selection,” she said.
“I would urge all parents to carefully consider the statement from the primary principals which sets out the flaws with the proposed breakaway tests. If schools follow the Transfer 2010 guidance children need not be subjected to any tests.”
Perhaps Ms Ruane has failed to read her own Equality Impact Assessment. It admits discrimination against Protestants and non-Catholics and is therefore illegal under equality legislation.
Her consultation on the EIA is therefore a waste of public funds.
When will she ever learn?
March 13, 2009
Last year saw 25,600 births registered — the highest number recorded since 1991 and a massive 20% increase since 2002.
So say the figures from the Registrar General’s Office. The numbers are verified, accurate and not subject to political manipulation..
It is a pity for parents that the Department of Education for Northern Ireland were unable to use their skills to predict the impact for the furure of education provision. Many schools have been closed as part of the DENI rationalisation plan and no doubt heavy expenditure will have to take place in order to accomodate demand in the next few years.
Perhaps the reader can follow the trend line and tell the DENI which direction the trend is headed.
Barry Gardiner, former Minister of Education, issued a press release stating: http://www.deni.gov.uk/consultationpaper.pdf
Demographic Decline the lowest ever seen in Northern Ireland.
The decline in the population of pre-school children has been significant in recent years. Until 2001/02 the size of the pre-school cohort was usually between 24,000 and 25,000 children. In 2002/03 it fell to undern23,500, and is expected to continue declining until at least 2010, when it will have reduced to around 21,000. The current birth rate, at 1.8 children per female, is down from 2.5 per female 20 years ago and is and is the lowest ever seen in Northern Ireland.
Getting it wrong is a speciality subject for Ministers of Education.
Getting it wrong is a speciality subject for Ministers of Education.
March 11, 2009
During her announcement denying parents a regulated measure of their child’s attainment at primary school the education minister stated:
“I will not do it. The test has been cancelled,”
“To simply make a test available and not have a legal framework to define its use would be highly |irresponsible.”
Caitriona Ruane MLA , Minister for Education Northern Ireland Assembly
On 16th May 2008 the promise to parents was very different.
NI’s education minister has faced the assembly’s education committee about her plans for primary school transfer.
Caitríona Ruane aims to extend academic selection for three years before ending it.
It will take the form of one hour-long test of literacy and numeracy, and it will be held in a grammar school.
The Minister sent instructions through the Permanent Secretary, Will Haire, outlining how CCEA were to proceed.
Asked for the specification under the Freedom of Information Act the CCEA refused.
In early February the Minister withdrew her “regulated test” costing the taxpayer over £100,000
So who’s being irresponsible Minister Ruane?
March 7, 2009
In a dramatic fashion one Northern Ireland Primary School demonstrated that they understand who they work for and who controls their school – the parents.
Parents have withdrawn their children from the County Down primary school.
The parents at Millennium Integrated Primary in Carryduff believed the school was not going to teach pupils for a replacement to the 11 plus.
The school quickly sought to characterise the matter as a misunderstanding. Perhaps the management and teachers now understand that their various attempts to cajole, bully and mislead parents on behalf of their unions and the DENI can be easily remedied by a simple action by parents - withdrawal of children.
In their rapid response to the removal of the pupils the Millennium Integrated Primary have demonstrated that the ” misunderstanding” was nothing of the sort. Indeed the position is now further complicated by their claim to be:
“ preparing pupils for up to three different sorts of exams to cover the diversity of its pupil population.”
The only exam to be prepared for is the AQE numeracy and literacy test which is a part of the revised curriculum.
The so-called NFER verbal reasoning tests offered by the Catholic schools can only be coached for by ignoring some other aspect of the curriculum. The Minister has made clear that her Inspectorate will take action if this occurs.
Since the Education Minister withdrew her CCEA commissioned test and no specification has ever been revealed for it then Millennium Integrated Primary are further mistaken in telling the BBC that they are preparing children for a third exam.
The nonsense and misinformation spouted by the teachers’ union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, is exemplified by the statement to its members claiming “it is illegal to divert from the new primary school curriculum during school hours to coach for the new tests.”
PACE suggests that the union place a call to the DENI to check the law.
Well done Carryduff parents. The answer for other concerned P6 parents is obvious. If you have concerns about teachers willingness to prepare your child for numeracy and literacy testing – move your child to a school which is prepared to teach.
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.
January 22, 2009
Not only has Caitriona Ruane failed to deliver on promises to end academic selection for grammar schools but it seems that the minister has failed on basic numeracy attainments. In the Hansard record of the Northern Ireland Assembly of Monday 19th January the minister answered a question on the cost of the failed pupil profile project. She claimed the total cost to be £180,000
Mr Gallagher: In the Minister’s response to an
earlier supplementary question, she referred to a money
shortage in the Department. Recently, she announced
the end of the pupil-profile initiative. Surely when she
took that decision, she calculated how much money
her Department had spent on the initiative. Will she
tell the Assembly how much money the pupil-profile
initiative has cost her Department?
The Minister of Education: there is a presumption
in the question that the Department has wasted money.
No money has been wasted. the approach to annual
reporting to parents has not changed significantly.
In 2007-08, 2008-09 and the current financial year
to date, the cost of training and support of teachers on
reporting to parents via a standardised pupil-profile
format has been £180,000. I am sure that all Members
understand the importance of reporting to parents,
which was emphasised during all the pilots and
consultations that were carried out. Are Members
suggesting that teachers should not report to parents?
the Department has listened to educationalists and
parents. It has decided that instead of “pupil profiles”,
they will now be called “annual reports to parents”.
PACE had sought information from CCEA, the organisation responsible for the Pupil Profile, on costs in a Freedom of Information request. The information does not match the Education Minister’s statement to the Assembly.
Only one party can be correct. The Minister of Education or one of the constituent organisations of the new Education and Skills Authority (ESA).
Even with generous rounding of Caitriona Ruane’s figure up to £200,000 that leaves £1,800,000 unaccounted for.
Click link to see CCEA FOI figures CCEA FOI Figures for Pupil Profile
Now add up the figures and get £180,000. That’s the revised curriculum in action.