No words required – the video tells the story. Not one mention of the academic excellence achieved by the pupils required. Michael Gove and John O’Dowd should watch this to realise that they will never get rid of grammar schools – the next generation are already enthused.
September 14, 2009
November 16, 2008
The article below was one of a series of three supplied to the Belfast Telegraph by R. L. McCartney QC.
Without explanation this remained unpublished by the newspaper which recently bombarded parents with endless “exclusives” on the Northern Ireland education reform issue. Take note that the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC have adopted Professor Tony Gallagher as a neutral expert. Professor Gallagher has declined the opportunity to legally challenge the charges made against him. Parents may wonder why not?
The proposed educational reforms place the future of Northern Ireland’s children at the edge of an abyss. The questions facing their parents are these. How and why have we come to the present chaos? and what if anything can be done about it?
Martin McGuinness when he became Minister of Education was hardly, by experience, an expert in the subject but he mistakenly believed that the principle of selection as well as the method of making it were socially unfair and elitist. His social and political objective was to abolish both. The case for removing the principle of selection was weak, with 64% of the parents consulted in the Costello Report responding in favour of its retention. An equal percentage of parents however voted against keeping the 11+ test as the means of selection.
Democratically, the issue which should have been addressed was the finding of a fairer and less stressful method of selection which might have included possible improvements to the existing test, like the use of computer adaptive testing. Research and investment should also have been directed to those areas of the current system said to be failing and the initiation of policies to remedy identified defects.
The cost of this, both in financial and social disruption terms, would have been minimal compared to the consequences of the present proposals, which will create and enrich an array of well rewarded bureaucrats.
Viewed objectively, selection was producing for Northern Ireland, academic results that were the envy of the rest of the United Kingdom. In terms of upward social mobility it was out-performing the mainland comprehensives by some 50%. Despite claims to the contrary, a smaller percentage of children in Northern Ireland were leaving school with no qualifications than was the case on mainland Britain. The case for “keeping the best and improving the rest” was unanswerable in both educational and administrative terms. None of this, however, would have satisfied Sinn Fein’s political and ideological objectives. Grammar schools were erroneously viewed as bastions of middle class privilege and, as such, had to be abolished. The popular antipathy to the 11+ was, therefore, used to mask the real target which was the principle of selection itself. It is noteworthy that on two occasions Sinn Fein has made the Education Portfolio its first choice. It was necessary for Sinn Fein to enlist the assistance of “progressive educationalists” in support of a new education infrastructure that would advance the Party’s political agenda. As a result, the Minister commissioned a series of allegedly independent reports from groups whose members were, in the main, anti-selection and whose advisory experts such as C.C.E.A. (Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment) were opposed to a subject based curriculum.
The first report was that of Tony Gallagher on “the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland”. Gallagher was a self-acknowledged opponent of selection and the composition of his group and his own disproportionate contribution raised serious doubts about its independence. The next report from Mr. Burns relied heavily on Gallagher and made no attempt to answer the central question – “Does comprehensive or selection education provide the best results and the greater degree of social mobility?” A comparison between Northern Ireland and the mainland’s comprehensives would have provided an affirmative answer to both in favour of Northern Ireland. Burns avoided either putting the question or allowing the comparison, since neither would have served the Minister’s objective. In his attempts to veil his support for comprehensives, Burns came up with the totally unworkable idea of the Pupil Profile to be prepared by the primary school and made available to parents as an aid to their choice of school, but not to be disclosed to the admitting school. All efforts to produce a Pupil Profile meeting international standards of validity and reliability have utterly failed. Indeed, recent exhaustive research in Germany where assignment of primary school pupils to an appropriate further school is based on teacher assessment and advice to parents, has demonstrated an overwhelming prejudice in favour of children from middle class families to the clear disadvantage of children from poor and working class backgrounds – the very children who in Northern Ireland are supposed to benefit from the proposed reforms.
The next report was that of Costello. This group, like its forerunners, Gallagher and Burns, was largely populated by anti-selection personnel. This report synthesised the unbalanced findings of Gallagher and Burns and recommended a curriculum directed to the reduction of subject based teaching in favour of the more “Holistic Approach” advised by C.C.E.A. This satellite government funded agency was dedicated to many of the progressive ideas that had failed in pre and post war America, pre-war Germany, and post-war Britain. As an advisory body it was critical of subject based learning and supported its gradual replacement by grandiose schemes clothed in vague and nebulous language. The failed progressive ideas of sixty years ago were enshrined in the paragraphs of Costello dealing with the curriculum and subsequently embedded in legislation by the Education (Northern Ireland Order) 2006.
Carmel Gallagher, then Manager for Curriculum in C.C.E.A., had earlier described her curriculum framework as “the Trojan Horse that would be the vehicle for effecting significant change”. Clearly the change intended by a policy of deception was a move away from subject based learning like languages, maths, physics, chemistry, as well as history and geography, into a generalised and failed so-called progressive education for the 21st Century in which hardly a single idea was new or had proved successful throughout the 20th Century. Moreover, this progressive education had failed most dramatically in helping children from poor and disadvantaged homes. Middle class parents could provide the means that ensured their children survived the most extreme and untested educational reforms, but for the poor, if they were not taught at school, they were frequently not taught at all.
The new curriculum creates a basis for future education requiring “Big Schools” offering a “Bloated Curriculum” and based on educational ideas that have failed in the past. It is a curriculum which is the antithesis of the grammar school ethos and the form of education the grammar schools offer. As such it will eventually make the survival of the grammar school and subject based education untenable.
It has now become evident that the entitlement framework with its projected 24 GCSE subjects to 27 A Level subjects is fatally flawed. No definition of what is claimed to be vocational or academic has been made even when they have been re-designated as applied and general. The 11+ has been abolished without any alternative method of matching a child’s aptitudes to an appropriate school. Parents are placed in a condition of total uncertainly and the Minister is clearly at the furthest limit of her competence. Her present attempts to escape from a chaotic situation by farming out decision making to local groups largely composed of fellow travellers is evidence that she finds the current situation beyond her capacity to solve. The introduction of the Entitlement Framework ( the new curriculum ) is now about to be postponed until 2013, while the inappropriately named “ Enriched Curriculum” for primary schools has now been repackaged as the “ Foundation Curriculum “ with a flawed linguistic phonics programme at its’ core. Starved of resources this curriculum is now in an administrative limbo. Perhaps because of a recognition that it is based on ideas inconsistent with the most recent research on the teaching of reading as demonstrated by the Rose report.
The curriculum proposals embodied in the Education ( NI ) Order 2006 are wholly inconsistent with any future for the subject based education which Northern Irelands’ Grammar schools provide and only its’ repeal or substantial amendment coupled with a fresh beginning can offer any hope for their ultimate survival.
Until parents organise themselves in mass protest and teachers refuse to be dragooned into compliance with the alleged progressive demands of the Education Department, Local Boards, alleged experts and some of their Union representatives, the future education of Northern Ireland’s children will continue to remain bleak. In the United States it was the widespread protest of parents, particularly from black and underprivileged areas, and the courage of independent journalists such as Walter Lipmann that stemmed the wave of “progressive reforms” generated by those claiming to be experts in education; and who mistakenly believed that schools could solve any social or political problem when their real purpose should have been merely “to educate”.
August 20, 2009
The Northern Ireland media are reporting on the case of a mother of six sentenced to two months suspended for remonstrating with a teacher who took water from her child because it was flavored.
It is now common-place for teachers to inspect lunch boxes for banned substances. If you read the “letter from the headteacher” sent out recently with the school calendar 2009-10 it is likely to contain a statement telling pupils not to bring unhealthy snacks to school – fizzy cans (sic) and drinks including energy drinks are not permitted at ….. school. You may also see information stating that your school (even a post-primary school) is a NUT FREE SCHOOL and that pupils without a nut allergy are not permitted to bring nuts or any food containing nuts to school (Snickers, Topics etc)
A search by PACE on Pubmed found the following article on the subject of SSBs (Sugar Sweetended Beverages)
Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 September; 88(3): 605–611.
The study was titled Effects of replacing the habitual consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages with milk in Chilean children3
In the results section the author states: “Changes in percentage body fat, the primary endpoint, did not differ between groups.”
It is unfortunate that teachers have strayed into the area of expertise of other professions. The dangers of meddling by the well intended are known but the food fascists seem to know no boundaries within their education prisons.
For immediate release
AN UNHOLY MESS: THE ATTACK ON ACADEMIC SELECTION AND GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
“Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?”
Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church (A.D. 430)
WHERE IS THE SUPPOSED IMMORALITY OF ACADEMIC SELECTION FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TODAY?
The announcement by the Catholic Commission on the limited use of academic entrance tests for Catholic Grammar schools raises a fundamental question about the Catholic Church’s position on academic selection.
The NICCE representing the Catholic bishops and leaders of religious congregations as trustees of Catholic schools has reversed a previous position by the Northern Bishops.
The reluctant blessing from the bishops for academic selection to continue goes against warnings of legal perils from Caitriona Ruane, the Education Minister and is the outcome established in a bid to agree on a joint way forward for the Catholic sector.
However the new policy on post-primary transfer for Catholic schools suggests that all schools should stop using academic selection no later than 2012. This position is nonsense.
Stephen Elliott, Chairman of The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education said,
“Academic selection, which is a fundamental principle and practice for grammar schools, is being used as an instrument of convenience by the Catholic Church and education system hierarchy.
There remains a fundamental flaw in the Catholic hierarchy’s thinking on the matter of academic selection. The Church leaders fail to acknowledge that parents want academic selection as the first criteria for admission to grammar schools. Parents wish, in consultation and with quantitative information, to choose schools for their children not for schools, educationalists, the DENI or politicians to choose those schools for them or remove them from existence.
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education welcomes the fact that a philosophical right to academic selection has been recognised by the anti-selection Catholic hierarchy. That right must also be recognised by the other main church leaders”
Notes to Editors
Extracts from the Catholic Bishops Statement on Academic selection
“We wish to state our clear opposition to the introduction of independent academic assessment tools by schools as a temporary or future means of pupil selection.”
“In this context, as the legal Trustees of Catholic schools in Northern Ireland, we do not approach the current debate about the future of education here from the point of view of any particular political philosophy or administrative policy. While some have sought to claim the support of the Catholic Bishops for their approach to the current debate, we have scrupulously avoided endorsing the perspective of any political party or specific structures to replace the 11+.
Parents and the wider public will rightly question the credibility of those who claim selection to be morally wrong while at the same time advocating its practice.”
March 16, 2009
Can it be any surprise to parents and society that changes in the school curriculum has given rise to a generation of children who have developed an “al about me” mentality?
Dr Carol Craig said children were being over-praised and schools needed to reclaim their role as educators, not psychologists.
Since 2007, there has been a statutory responsibility on schools in England to improve pupils’ well-being and primary and secondary schools are increasingly teaching social and emotional skills.
It is possible that DENI ETI inspectors will soon appraise schools’ performance in this area; and well-being could be one of the measures used in the school report card system that Caitriona Ruane wants to introduce.
Dr Craig told head teachers that this was not the role of schools.
“Schools have to hold out that they are educational establishments,” she said.
“They are not surrogate psychologists or mental health professionals.”
Learning about feelings from a professional in a classroom did not send out a positive message, she added.
And she warned there was a danger the more schools taught emotional well-being, the less parents would take responsibility.
“We run the risk of undermining the family as the principal agent of sociability,” she said.
It seems the message has not reached Ms Ruane’s DENI, in fact the Northern Ireland educationalists could be described as evangelists in this field.
PACE has issued warnings about the pilot of the revised curriculum, the Early Years Enriched Curriculum which was evaluated by none other than the Queen’s University School of Psychology.
What a surprise that their self evaluation promoted the “all about me” mentality. Parents may now be asking – at what cost?
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.
February 23, 2009
Teachers in Northern Ireland claiming to refuse to teach primary children for grammar school tests are risking their careers in public education.
Since it has been confirmed by CCEA that the numeracy and literacy aspects of the revised curriculum remain the same as those in the preceding curriculum there can be no basis for any teacher refusing to teach the required elements. Indeed it may be illegal not to do so.
Any parent concerned about their childs’ primary school teacher’s compliance with the law should make a complaint to the General Teaching Council if they become aware of a particular refusal to adhere to their obligations.
73-75 Great Victoria St, Belfast,
Parents should not be bullied by the teacher unions. Teachers must understand their professional responsibilities and place the best interests of the pupil and the wishes of the parents first.
Anything less cannot be acceptable.
February 22, 2009
Fortnight Magazine interviewed the Minister for Education about her mission to destroy the principal of academic selection. Illustrating the ease with witch educationalists remain unchallenged by journalists Chris Moffat for Fortnight Magazine opens with the following:
Whatever your point of view, you have to acknowledge that with her record as a human rights campaigner, equality and fairness have to be the priority for Caitriona Ruane. After a career of human rights activism in Nicaragua, Dublin and West Belfast, how could she not conclude that academic selection is ‘wrong, unfair and unjust’?
Perhaps Chris Moffat of Fortnight Magazine didn’t carry out any fact checking prior to or after the interview in which case he would have discovered the Minister’s proclivity for hypocrisy.
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education make the case for parental suspicion and scepticism of proposals from educationalists, including the Sinn Fein Minister.
Why have the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein got it in for the poor?
It seems that these days no public official can discuss education reform in Northern Ireland without referring to “educationlists.” The four Churches issued their recent statement after consulting extensively with “educationalists,” and Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd rarely completes a sentence without the word “educationist” cropping up. Who are these “educationalists” who seems to play such a fundamental role in determining the direction of policy in education reform?
The most likely candidates are the various professors of education at Queen’s University’s School of Education. The vast majority of these professors have never taught in a school but are social scientists, anthropologists or products of the ’s UNESCO Centre. (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) might, for example, insist that children have rights in respect of how they’re taught and assessed, but only those with direct experience of the classroom know the problems associated with implementing such progressive ideas. David Ackerman notes that although “progressivism is dominant in most schools of education, it is rejected in most high schools.”
UNESCO emphasises children’s rights and campaigns for “inclusive” child-centred education. UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement of 1994 uses the absolutist language of rights to require that the curriculum be designed around the child’s interests: “those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools, which should accommodate them within a child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs.” Parents who feel left out of the debate on the future of academic selection, for instance, are probably unaware that Northern Ireland’s schools’ current focus on children’s rights and child-centred education effectively excludes them from the consultation process. (Why consult the parent when the curriculum already takes account of the interests of the child?) An examination of the early documentation which gave form to the Revised Curriculum reveals extensive consultation with “educationalists,” teachers and pupils, but almost no parental involvement.
Critics have also highlighted that UNESCO’s insistence on child-centred approaches owes more to evangelism than the outcomes of carefully designed large-scale studies. For example, no high quality study has established that inclusive education is best delivered though child-centred pedagogy. More worrying, carefully designed studies have demonstrated that such curricula are particularly damaging to the poor. In Left Back, published in 2000, quotes Donald Myers who was charged with evaluating the impact of child-centred curricula in the USA. Myers shares Ravitch’s concerns about “educationalists”:
“The time has come in American education,” he declared, “when teachers should stage a walkout when education evangelists” propose innovations that have not been validated by careful research over a long period of time. Instead of being paid and applauded, these hucksters should be sent packing and “should be thankful they are not jailed as would representatives of a pharmaceutical house for dispensing a drug before it has been tested.”
What if the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein were to take Myers’ advice and ignore our local “educationalists”? What do high quality studies that have been “validated by careful research over a long period of time” have to say? The reforms proposed for Northern Ireland schools are addressed in two highly regarded studies – one centred on assessment, the other on curriculum – and both draw the same unequivocal conclusion which should interest the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein: the poor will lose out dramatically if Sinn Fein have their way! This has already been hinted at in research on the early years “Enriched Curriculum” in Northern Ireland, where a “Matthew Effect” was identified; in progressive curricula – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
“ 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 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.) The Revised Curriculum currently being implemented in Northern Ireland (the one the Minister is demanding that all primary school children must follow) was shown to be damaging to the development of the numeracy and literacy skills of disadvantaged children. ” is arguably the largest and most sophisticated educational project ever undertaken to discover, once and for all, the type of curriculum that maximizes the of the poor.
Richard Nadler noted that poor children taught by traditional methods, when compared to those following more progressive curricula, were “first in reading, first in math, first in spelling, and first in language. No other model came close.” No Northern Ireland “educationalist” seems to have directed the Catholic Church or Sinn Fein to this project, despite its strong association with the American Civil Rights movement. Siegfried Engelmann is not surprised: “Decision-makers don’t choose a plan because they know it works … They choose a plan because it’s consistent with their vision of what they think kids should do. Most educators, he says, seem to have a greater investment in romantic notions about children than they do in the gritty detail of actual practice or the fact that some things work well.”
Finally, turning to the Minister’s preference for election via Pupil Profile over selection via Again, a large scale, meticulously designed study (see “Inequality in the transition from primary to secondary school: school choices and educational disparities in Germany” by Marcus Pietsch and Tobias Stubbe, published in 2007 in the European Educational Research Journal) is at odds with the counsel offered by our local “educationalists.” Consider two children, one rich, one poor, both with a score of 542. Pietch and Stubbe (p. 437) show that these children will be treated as equals in a selective system but when a discussion between parent and teacher determines the poor child loses out: score, once again this aspect of reform damages rather than enhances the of the poor.
For a student with an average German reading achievement (542), the probability of attending a Gymnasium [German grammar school] is more than twice as high if his or her family are higher grade professionals (55.57%) than if they are semi-skilled manual workers (21.36%).
The lessons of the study for the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein are clear: a move from selection via test to election via Pupil Profile will result in a decline in the number of disadvantaged children attending grammar schools. Where a child from a poor background may have a test history greatly superior to that of a middle class child, the confusing, vague and ambiguous language of the Pupil Profile will allow the articulate middle class parent to “talk away” the difference in test scores. The Catholic Church and Sinn Fein should listen to that great communist champion of the poor, Antonio Gramsci, who argued, in his Prison Notebooks, that “the less objective the testing, the more the working-class child or peasant child would be at a disadvantage.”
January 30, 2009
From the Vatican II document Gravissimum Educationis (The Importance of Education)
The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children… This Sacred Council of the Church earnestly entreats pastors and all the faithful to spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools fulfill their function in a continually more perfect way, and especially in caring for the needs of those who are poor in the goods of this world or who are deprived of the assistance and affection of a family or who are strangers to the gift of Faith.
Since the NFER admission test on offer by Catholic Grammar schools comprises a verbal, non-verbal and mathematics paper and cannot be prepared for in primary schools under the revised curriculum it follows that any tuition, coaching or practice for the Catholic test will disadvantage the poor. Any preparation must take place outside of school time.
Gravissimum Educationis is about Christian education but only for Catholic Christians it seems. Reading it, if they have been taught to read, must make the poor child wonder if and when they will ever get an equality of opportunity from the Education Minister and Department of Education in Northern Ireland.
The Duties and Rights of Parents
In addition it is the task of the state to see to it that all citizens are able to come to a suitable share in culture and are properly prepared to exercise their civic duties and rights. Therefore the state must protect the right of children to an adequate school education, check on the ability of teachers and the excellence of their training, look after the health of the pupils and in general, promote the whole school project. But it must always keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity so that there is no kind of school monopoly, for this is opposed to the native rights of the human person, to the development and spread of culture, to the peaceful association of citizens and to the pluralism that exists today in ever so many societies.
Caitriona Ruane and her Departmental officials may benefit from a reading of The Importance of Education
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“.