March 3, 2012
For parents who want to know more about the background to concerns about Gavin Boyd’s triple-jobbing influence the following article published by The Belfast Telegraph on 22nd December 2008 is worth reading. Note also the two published comments that follow the article.
READ THIS BELFAST TELEGRAPH OPINION
February 5, 2012
The Sunday Times today, 5th February, 2012 carried a front page headline: One-third of North Schools are “failing”. The paper was not referring to Donegal.
After receipt of results from the 2012 11-plus tests from AQE and GL Assessment many parents will be anxious about the choice of school for their child. They may benefit from an examination of the performance of all post-primary schools at GCSE, rather than believing the flattering information given at open days. The important figure to examine is the standard 5+ A* – C (including English & Maths). Local media and the DENI have hidden behind the figures which exclude this important information but parents may feel that achieving competency in numeracy and literacy may not be too much to ask of schools after 12 years of compulsory ( and expensive) education.
Kathryn Torney, former education correspondent of the Belfast Telegraph, and currently employed by the Atlantic Philanthropy funded TheDetail.tv authored the article but her qualitative “analysis” mainly refers to the opinions of educationalists with a long-standing anti-academic stance. None have solutions.
“Over the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a whole series of initiatives of different kinds all focused around the issue of low performance or underperformance. The most recent is the Every School a Good School policy. However, the situation doesn’t appear to have changed that very much in terms of the relative patterns.”
Tony Gallagher, Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast
One very disturbing detail: thirty five schools fall into a group in which only one in five pupils leave compulsory education with 5 A* -C GCSEs.
All are named.
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?
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?
Since the Enriched and Revised Curriculum projects had their genesis in Northern Ireland it is striking that the N.I. Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) have missed an important opportunity to improve their public confidence level.
It has taken OFSTED, their equivalent in England, to raise public concern about the damaging effects of curricular changes.
Inspectors warned that the changes had prompted confusion in some schools.
A “common feature” of less successful schools was that teachers were “left to interpret the curriculum as they saw fit”, meaning it “lacked coherence”.
Some 24 out of 84 schools introduced “integrated courses” covering all humanities subjects. A similar approach was taken in the teaching of citizenships and PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education).
But Ofsted said inspectors “identified emerging problems with the courses”.
“These included the loss of subject content and subject skills development, lack of continuity from primary school, lack of rigour and challenge, uneven quality of teaching and artificial ‘links’ or themes”, said the report.
However in Northern Ireland evangelist educationalists who spend more time appearing on the media than in the classroom peddling claptrap suggest all is well.
Parents may disagree but there is no refund for a failed education.
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?
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.
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.