Don’t abolish selection

Monday, November 19, 2007

The impractical arrangement for transfer of children at 11-plus and their post-primary education favoured by Education Minister Caitriona Ruane can only lead to chaos.

Her advisors, who comprise only those of a claimed progressive bent, have painted her into a time-limited corner. She has been allowed, with the aid of politicians, to run down the clock on alternatives to the 11-plus.

The Costello Working Party included representatives of all of the education sectors. Each had an opportunity to investigate replacement options for the current transfer test.

None did so. It is important to note that from the beginning the Governing Bodies Association condemned the 11-plus. Costello deliberately rejected reliable and valid replacement methods of selection while hiding behind a veil of secrecy and Government promise of anonymity. The Costello members should now be held to account and required to reveal what valid scientific evidence led them to impose a failed comprehensive education model on children against the rights of parents, 64% of whom endorsed the selective principle.

For those eager to accept any solution proffered by the Minister, a practical example of some of the difficulties involved is required.

Where will pupils from Antrim’s primary schools go? Currently there is only Antrim Grammar School and Parkhall College available.

The grammar and secondary schools are on the same campus.

Antrim Grammar School, because of a selection system based on merit and not social class, has a social mix not very different from Parkhall.

What is different is the quality of the grammar school’s academic results because of selection. In the absence of a valid and reliable transfer test based on merit, the stark reality will be a form of social selection centering on the grammar school. This is the overwhelming experience within the English comprehensive system. It will become a damaging legacy passed on by a cabal of superannuated socialists to the detriment of bright working class children.

In a Belfast Telegraph interview with Alf McCreary, Cardinal-elect Brady unambiguously supported the right of parents to choose an education suitable for their children. It is now time for other church leaders to admit their errors in this matter including those who served on the Costello Working Party and join with the Cardinal in standing up for parental rights. Perhaps the answer for parents mired in uncertainty, doubt and misinformation over the transfer and curricular disasters is to initiate a legal challenge to the Minister’s decision under the Human Rights Act.

Stephen Elliott, NI Chairman, Parental Alliance for Choice in Education