February 18, 2011
November 14, 2010
It will hardly come as a surprise that the Northern Ireland Sinn Fein Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane has intensified her attack on parental choice and measurement of numeracy and literacy attainment while enveloped in evidence that such standards are continuing to fall short. Those politicians, like her, who persist in attacking grammar schools and parents who believe in their value are seriously out of touch with reality. Ruane clearly is attempting to bully parents into choosing her neighbourhood comprehensive school diktat despite having selecting a grammar school for her own child. The bully is becoming increasingly frustrated,seemingly as stubborn as the poor levels of numeracy and literacy accepted by her teachers and fellow politicians.
In 1999 during the euphoria following the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland the then Education Minister, now deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness banned the publication of school performance or league tables. The TES http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=348747 published an article calling for a similar action in Wales. Fast forward a decade.
Research published this week http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11669714 on the effect of such an action in Wales, another UK devolved jurisdiction, showed the effects of simplistic ideological imposition versus application of sound scientific evidence.
McGuinness and his party were wrong in 1999 they remain in error and denial today. Children from disadvantaged areas throughout Northern Ireland have suffered enough at the hands of so-called “reformed” terrorists. To deprive them and their parents of information on the effectiveness of their teachers is despicable. McGuinness’ replacement in the Department of Education, Caitriona Ruane has adopted the same Marxist ideology of imposing equality of outcome in her failed attempt to end academic selection. She has also failed miserably to improve numeracy and literacy results for the disadvantaged while ignoring and delaying the publication of evidence that public opinion did not support her policy.
Ruane was a prominent member of the Bring Them Home campaign for the Colombia Three, which sought the safe return of three Irishmen later convicted in their absence in Colombia of training Marxist rebels.
Parents should insist that politicians re-introduce performance/league tables in Northern Ireland as a priority. The naming and shaming exercise has already been highlighted in this blog when the Los Angeles Times published information on teachers performance despite threats from the teaching unions and a threat of boycott.
Ruane might want to head up another crusade – The “Bring Them Back” campaign – for school performance tables. Don’t hold your breath.
December 20, 2009
So says Conor Ryan, who describes himself as “A blogger about politics, education, a Dublin-born writer and consultant, former adviser to Tony Blair and David Blunkett on education, based in Bath in the South West of England.”
Citing a Guardian report, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/dec/10/vote-weakens-sats-boycott
The National Association of Head Teachers, the union that represents many of the heads in primary schools, has already voted to back a boycott of the tests, but is unlikely to go ahead without the NUT.
The tests for 11-year-olds in English, maths and science were introduced in 1995 and have always been controversial. Much of the opposition to the tests stems from the use of results to create league tables.
Ed Balls, the schools secretary, has announced reforms to next year’s tests which will see teacher assessments published alongside the externally marked tests.
Northern Ireland already publish these data. When PACE analysed the results one of the most obvious findings was the disparity between teacher assessments and the externally marked tests. Parents are likely to be misled over their child’s attainment by a significant margin.
Last weeks failure by the local media, including the BBC, to pick up on the dramatic decline in standards of lietracy and numeracy in post-primary schools http://paceni.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/northern-ireland%e2%80%99s-key-stage-3-literacy-levels-crash/ demonstrates the problem of accepting teacher union claims as being representative of their members.
The crying shame for parents and children is that individual teachers do not have the courage to raise their heads above the parapet and speak out.
December 17, 2009
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education Northern Ireland Branch Press Release 17/09 Thursday, 17 December 2009
PACE has uncovered that in the last 2 years Northern Ireland’s Key Stage 3 literacy levels have crashed. The general decline in pupils’ attainment is best evidenced in the results obtained in English at Key Stage 3. Statistical figures obtained from the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) demonstrate a year-on-year decline in the Levels of attainment obtained in the examinations. Key Stage 3 tests are taken by students in third year at post-primary school.
Selected Results of Northern Ireland Key Stage 3 Assessments 2004 – 2009 Source: CCEA: Key Stage 3 Assessment 2008/2009 NORTHERN IRELAND SUMMARY http://www.ccea.org.uk/ HOME » CURRICULUM » KEY STAGE 3 » Research and Statistics
The Direction of Change Data Source: http://www.ccea.org.uk/ Graph prepared by: the Parental Alliance for Choice in Education©2009
In an unexplained development the pupil absence figures for Key Stage testing have risen from a baseline of around 3% to a staggering 44.5% this year.
The Government examination body statistics also show that in recent years following the introduction of the revised curriculum Teacher Assessment predictions have overestimated the pupils’ actual results by a factor of two or more. (See Table above) The natural consequence is that both the parent and pupil will believe that satisfactory progress is being made and discover too late the truth of the matter after irreplaceable learning time has been lost.
In 2006 the decline in standards in literacy was critically highlighted by reports of the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee in Westminster. Responses by the Department of Education Permanent Secretary, Will Haire, promised to focus on improvement. (See DENI Circular 2007/11) The Circular states: “The Department of Education accords a high priority to literacy and numeracy in line with the revised Northern Ireland Curriculum and asks all teachers, at all key stages, to seek to promote literacy and numeracy in the classroom.” In February 2007 the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel issued a Memorandum on the 2nd and 3rd Reports from the Committee of Public Accounts Session 2006-2007. An abstract from the report states: “The creation of a new, single Education and Skills Authority (ESA) to support the school system from April 2008 will also have a positive impact on literacy and numeracy. The primary task of the ESA will be to work with schools to improve quality and raise standards across the system and to place literacy and numeracy at the centre of this responsibility.”
Instead of improvements the Key Stage 3 literacy levels have crashed. As parents can see from the CCEA figures the Department of Education has failed on this vital issue yet again. While the decline in pupils achieving Level 6 at KS3 has doubled over a five year period and the negative trend has almost tripled at Level 7 there has been no comment or concern raised from any quarter of the education establishment. The fact that none of the highly paid education watchdogs have reported that something has gone seriously wrong must reflect a degree of complacency over numeracy and literacy.
PACE believes the Revised Curriculum to be the chief suspect in the literacy decline. The questions must be put;
• What is going to be done to reverse this numeracy and literacy decline in schools before the betrayal of an entire generation of pupils in Northern Ireland becomes irreversible?
• When will those responsible for failed education initiatives be actually held to account?
Wales, a devolved government which took up the Revised Curriculum and other questionable ideas from the Northern Ireland Education Department, has evaluated the effects of programmes funded to help the poorest pupils. It will come as no surprise that more money is not the answer to poor numeracy and literacy problems allowed to grow in primary schools. Read the report here. http://www.estyn.gov.uk/ThematicReports.asp
The BBC report highlights some of the shortcomings. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8145113.stm
It will be recalled that Northern Ireland is hardly the exemplar for Numeracy and Literacy modelling throughout the UK.
About £14m a year has been spent since 2006 on the Welsh Assembly Government Raise programme to improve the literacy of the most disadvantaged children but education watchdog body Estyn found that those pupils still “perform significantly less well” at key stages.
According to the report by Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales, the money has been used to pay for additional staff and resources to work with those poorest children. Most schools have used the money to concentrate on reading and writing, but some used the cash to set up homework clubs, others to fund behaviour projects and to work on improve attendance. The performance levels of free school meal pupils in secondary school have deteriorated.
May 22, 2009
Numeracy and Literacy?
Edna: Seymour, you have to think of the children’s future.
Seymour: Oh, Edna. We all know that these children HAVE no future.
[Everyone stops and stares at Seymour.]
Seymour: Prove me wrong children. Prove me wrong.
While announcements are heralded about a meeting of primary school principals on their chaos over the unregulated11-plus transfer system parents may want to share some of one principal’s helpful information.
The school, Greystone Primary School, has been providing updates to anxious parents. However the source of the anxiety may be closer to the school prinipal’s efforts with Local Area Planning than meeting pupil’s needs.
The following extract from Update 6 reveals a disturbing attitude to numeracy and literacy attainments and the school’s approach to solutions on behalf of some pupils.
“You might want to consider whether you want your child to continue with these as work done in class during this time might be more useful if you do not intend to apply for a place in Antrim Grammar.”
Ivan Skinner, Principal of Greystone Primary School, Antrim
The following questions arise from Principal Skinner’s missive.
* Are only pupils seeking a place at Antrim Grammar worthy of numeracy and literacy teaching?
* Why is Antrim Grammar the only grammar school choice? Do Ballymena Academy, Cambridge House, Belfast Royal Academy, Belfast High School, RBAI no longer exist as a choice for parents and pupils?
* Are parents restricted to only AQE tests?
* Do the pupils know they are scoring low?
* How were the scores communicated to parents?
* What “work” does Principal Skinner mean?
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.
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.