November 29, 2009
Peter Robinson must think all unionists are educationally disadvantaged. Otherwise he would have thought through his proposal to allow decisions of the Executive, such as on education, to be taken by any three parties. S(election) at 14 has been once again floated by the educationalists including the DENI’s favourite, Professor Tony Gallagher and all the main churches. Since the Catholic Church have found themselves, once again, unable to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on the sexual abuse of young people by their clerics it must have crossed the minds of those, aware enough to appreciate that they have a virtual monopoly on the education of Catholic children, that there may be a link.
If this is Peter Robinson and the DUP’s idea of getting out of jail free on the academic selection at 11 problem they have little concept of the pending backlash. Be careful what you wish for is the best advice PACE can give their educationally and strategy disadvantaged politicians.
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?
May 21, 2009
A Catholic priest, Fr. Michael Mernagh, has called for a world wide Day of Atonement over the systemic abuse of children in residential institutions throughout Ireland by Catholic religious and lay members.
Visit the site. http://www.kandle.ie/2009/01/23/atonement-walk/
Victims have described the Ryan Report as ” a whitewash”
The same Catholic Church in Ireland have imposed their vision for education in the 21st century.
Discerning observers throughout Ireland will raise doubts over the Church’s current ability to reliably preside over the care of children.
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 31, 2009
Concern over the social stratification in Catholic schools is highlighted in this blog post by Hugh Green
Stepping back 15 years takes the Catholic school system in Northern Ireland to a period before the Good Friday Agreement. That’s progress!
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
January 28, 2009
Newton Emerson made a comment in the Irish News on August 30, 2005. It was
Alas for those unable to buy their way out of the coming catastrophe, the Department of Education is about to learn that it is only what parents want that matters.
Parents will be watching and listening with interest when Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane brings her proposals for regulation of a comprehensive, sectarian education system before the Northern Ireland Assembly tomorrow.
The Executive had better make the right decision. Problem is only parents know the acceptable solution. For almost a decade educationalists and politicians have singularly ignored their views. A major mistake.
January 27, 2009
For parents caught on the horns of a dilemma on choosing which of the proposed academic selection admission tests by grammar schools to enter their children for – the answer is available from The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education.
The answer is: - BOTH TESTS.
The NFER test on offer from mainly Catholic schools is a single test. The NFER test is a verbal, non-verbal reasoning test with mathematics.
The so-called AQE tests are a best score of three. This test is like the 11-plus without science and technology.
So parents should have the pupil take the NFER test (realising that it may only be acceptable at Catholic grammars) first.
Then have their child take TWO of the three AQE tests on other Saturdays.
How schools will determine the acceptability of either test remains unknown.
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“.
November 5, 2008
The planned press conference by the four main church leaders to “break the deadlock on the 11-plus” highlights the degree of desperation felt by the educationalists responsible for the current chaos.
There will be nothing new offered by the church leaders. They are all previously on record supporting (s)election at 14.
Where they are also consistent is their lack of answers on the transfer at 11 problem.
Most embarrassing of all is the clear schism between the church leaders and the people they claim to represent. Catholic schools and parents oppose the Minister’s plans. Voluntary and Controlled Grammars schools with Protestant church leaders on their Boards of Governors also oppose the Minister’s plans.
Perhaps before holding their choreographed press conference they should read Malachi O’Doherty’s opinion in the Belfast Telegraph on how the Irish government got it wrong on the Lisbon Treaty.
Then grab a copy of his latest book “Empty Pulpits”
The joint statement will create more problems than solutions, particularly for the poor.