The following letter was submitted to PACE after local newspapers declined the opportunity to print it. Note the date, 15th March, 2008. Parents are not asleep on the dangers inherent in the new curriculum but query why principals, teachers and politicians have been so willing to endorse it.
Similar to requirements of the Letters to the Editor pages PACE have authenticated the letter.
15th March 2008
Re: To select or not to select, that is the question?
There has been varied correspondence regarding the retention of academic selection or otherwise but little attention has been given to what is already happening in post-primary education.
Both Burn’s & Costello reports on the future of education in NI acknowledged that the introduction of the Revised Curriculum and the abolition of academic selection were inextricably linked.
Why then do grammar schools still fight for the retention of an academic selection test when they all have introduced the broad based learning Revised Curriculum in Year 8?
Promises have been made by grammar schools that they believe they can still deliver an academic based curriculum, but one only has to look at the new school text books produced for Northern Ireland Key Stage 3 teaching to realise that academic content is extremely thin.
On the topic of weather in the Y8 Geography book, suggestions are made that the pupil only has to watch a number of TV weather broadcasts to gain technique and should then be able to present weather broadcasts themselves with the added bonus that they may become a “celebrity”. How academic is that?
The Y8 English book is extremely lacking in content and as an introduction to English language takes the pupil back to when they spoke their first words. More Neanderthal than Classical!
Move onto KS4 where the compulsion to study either English or Mathematics to GCSE has been removed by the Education (NI) Order 2006. Instead media studies or financial services are given parity.
Whilst the proposed Entitlement Framework is providing access to greater subject choice there is also a danger that it could lead to a dilution in the uptake of traditional academic subjects.
More significantly, which school will take the accolade for the GCSE grade awarded to the pupil? The school at which the subject is taught or the school at which the pupil is registered?
Parents will no longer be able to take account of GCSE school league tables when deciding choice of post primary school. Every school a good school?
The issue of academic selection must not be allowed to overshadow what is already happening in post primary education in NI. The jury is currently out on whether academic teaching can be maintained in grammar schools.