The Belfast Telegraph petition campaign to pressure politicians into a compromise on the use of academic selection tests for grammar schools has taken on a new twist. The newspaper has established a Facebook site.
Interestingly there are no sign-ups from the AQE or Catholic Consortium leaders but many members of the Belfast Telegraph staff including the education correspondent Kathryn Torney have backed their own petition. So is Ms Torney for or agianst academic selection?
The Chairman of the Association of Quality Education (AQE) Sir Kenneth Bloomfield has been appointed to an ‘academic brain trust’ to help with the complex policy choices the country is facing. Given the uncertainty and virtual chaos surrounding the economy and particularly the transfer to post-primary education system this may seem appropriate. It may surprise readers to learn that the country in question is the Republic of Ireland not Northern Ireland.
The president of the Royal Irish Academy, Prof Nicholas Canny said Ireland was lagging behind other developed countries which were following the example of Franklin D Roosevelt, who chose a “brain trust” of professors to help him solve the problems created by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Academics should feature more prominently as opinion leaders and architects of recovery in our society, since they are the ultimate source of new knowledge and innovation,”
PACE are just waiting for the appointment of Professor Tony Gallagher of QUB to this august body to ensure a prolonged depression where the education system is concerned.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield has yet to express his views on the Belfast Telegraph campaign to ‘Sort Out’ the mess in Northern Ireland’s education debacle , his purported area of expertise. Perhaps he is too busy counting the profits earned by AQE since their introduction of aState deregulated private grammar school entrance test.
comedy star Nasser al-Qasabi meets with tough opposition from senior bureaucrats at the education ministry when he presents his ideas on reform.
“When you teach a student one single opinion and deprive him of plurality and diversity he then becomes a prisoner of that opinion. Plurality and diversity are the key aspects of Islam from its tolerant perspective,” he tells a ministry panel.
Parents will be interested to note what happens to exam chiefs who dare to speak the wrong message to the public.
The BBC have reported on the upcoming resignation of Edexcel exam chief, Jerry Jarvis.
Mr Jarvis spoke out in August on the controversy over easier exams saying:
“We are looking at ways of discriminating or ranking figures quite regularly in discussions we have.
“In the future we may see complementary measures of performance.
“But grades have been around for a long time. The public have a feel for what is meant by grades.”
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the exams chief, Gavin Boyd, who brought parents the ending of the transfer test, the revised curriculum, pupil profiles and assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning was promoted to head the entire education system under the ESA.
The lesson here is not to anger the bosses in their superannuated socialist compounds lest the career end early.
The Alliance Party claimed at their Annual Conference in June that the Catholic Bishops were following their lead.
“We are where we are, delegates looking over a cliff into uncertainty, no proper regulation, P5 and P6 children and their parents, confused and depressed, primary heads under pressure from the Department and unions to have nothing to do with independent tests while the grammar schools rough them up trying to force them to do the opposite.”
Trevor Lunn, Alliance Party Spokesperson on Education. March 21, 2009
Well that’s Alliance leadership for you.
Trevor Lunn futher extolled the virtues of Alliance leadership with the following:
Our core policies have not altered, they are clearing stated and updated recently and I acknowledge the work done by Martin Gregg and his group and our effervescent Europe candidate Ian Parsley in this area. We are clear what our objectives are but in the present circumstances we have sought to build consensus.
Obviously Mr Lunn had no insight into Parsley’s objectives in much the same way that most of the comprehensive-loving but academic selective practicing Alliance members haven’t a clue about the fundamental issues surrounding parental rights in education.
Annual Report to Parents Northern Ireland schools, Caitriona Ruane, Education (Pupil Records and Reporting) Regulations (NI) 2009, Minister for Education, Principal Rowan, pupil profile, Sperrin Integrated College
It seems that either the Education Minister is a poor communicator or that principals are ignoring not only her advice but her legislation.
The following was sent to parents of pupils of Sperrin Integrated College in Magherafelt in September 2009. It is little wonder confusion and chaos denominates the quest for accurate information for parents in the post-primary transfer arena when the principal, Mr Rowan, continues to make reference to the Pupil Profile instead of the Annual Report to Parents. Perhaps the Minister will have a word.
Education (Pupil Records and Reporting) Regulations (NI) 2009
The BBC reported on Friday that the Northern Ireland Roman Catholic Bishop responsible for implementing the church’s position against academic selection will to take steps to ensure that there is ‘ not a selectionist about the place’
Bishop Donal McKeown has made it unequivocal on where the church hierarchy stands and it is clearly now actively opposed to the views of Catholic parents who support the right for a choice.
This revelation from a body, none of whom are parents, puts paid to notion of choice and reveals the deliberate sectarian position adopted by the Catholic authorities. Why then did they support their Boards of Governors in providing a GL Assessment test to determine entry to their grammar schools?
Once parents have been croziered into compliance with the “Catholic Test” it will be withdrawn leaving the parents and pupils adrift. For Catholic parents throughout the UK the realisation that the Catholic church place corporate and financial interests before those of parents and children will be hard to accept. The facts hurt.
BBC, BBC Northern Ireland Education Correspondent, Belfast Telegraph unregulated tests, education chaos, Northern Ireland Education Minister, Northern Ireland Primary school principals, Northern Ireland schools, Robert McCartney
November 16, 2008
The article below was one of a series of three supplied to the Belfast Telegraph by R. L. McCartney QC.
Without explanation this remained unpublished by the newspaper which recently bombarded parents with endless “exclusives” on the Northern Ireland education reform issue. Take note that the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC have adopted Professor Tony Gallagher as a neutral expert. Professor Gallagher has declined the opportunity to legally challenge the charges made against him. Parents may wonder why not?
The proposed educational reforms place the future of Northern Ireland’s children at the edge of an abyss. The questions facing their parents are these. How and why have we come to the present chaos? and what if anything can be done about it?
Martin McGuinness when he became Minister of Education was hardly, by experience, an expert in the subject but he mistakenly believed that the principle of selection as well as the method of making it were socially unfair and elitist. His social and political objective was to abolish both. The case for removing the principle of selection was weak, with 64% of the parents consulted in the Costello Report responding in favour of its retention. An equal percentage of parents however voted against keeping the 11+ test as the means of selection.
Democratically, the issue which should have been addressed was the finding of a fairer and less stressful method of selection which might have included possible improvements to the existing test, like the use of computer adaptive testing. Research and investment should also have been directed to those areas of the current system said to be failing and the initiation of policies to remedy identified defects.
The cost of this, both in financial and social disruption terms, would have been minimal compared to the consequences of the present proposals, which will create and enrich an array of well rewarded bureaucrats.
Viewed objectively, selection was producing for Northern Ireland, academic results that were the envy of the rest of the United Kingdom. In terms of upward social mobility it was out-performing the mainland comprehensives by some 50%. Despite claims to the contrary, a smaller percentage of children in Northern Ireland were leaving school with no qualifications than was the case on mainland Britain. The case for “keeping the best and improving the rest” was unanswerable in both educational and administrative terms. None of this, however, would have satisfied Sinn Fein’s political and ideological objectives. Grammar schools were erroneously viewed as bastions of middle class privilege and, as such, had to be abolished. The popular antipathy to the 11+ was, therefore, used to mask the real target which was the principle of selection itself. It is noteworthy that on two occasions Sinn Fein has made the Education Portfolio its first choice. It was necessary for Sinn Fein to enlist the assistance of “progressive educationalists” in support of a new education infrastructure that would advance the Party’s political agenda. As a result, the Minister commissioned a series of allegedly independent reports from groups whose members were, in the main, anti-selection and whose advisory experts such as C.C.E.A. (Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment) were opposed to a subject based curriculum.
The first report was that of Tony Gallagher on “the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland”. Gallagher was a self-acknowledged opponent of selection and the composition of his group and his own disproportionate contribution raised serious doubts about its independence. The next report from Mr. Burns relied heavily on Gallagher and made no attempt to answer the central question – “Does comprehensive or selection education provide the best results and the greater degree of social mobility?” A comparison between Northern Ireland and the mainland’s comprehensives would have provided an affirmative answer to both in favour of Northern Ireland. Burns avoided either putting the question or allowing the comparison, since neither would have served the Minister’s objective. In his attempts to veil his support for comprehensives, Burns came up with the totally unworkable idea of the Pupil Profile to be prepared by the primary school and made available to parents as an aid to their choice of school, but not to be disclosed to the admitting school. All efforts to produce a Pupil Profile meeting international standards of validity and reliability have utterly failed. Indeed, recent exhaustive research in Germany where assignment of primary school pupils to an appropriate further school is based on teacher assessment and advice to parents, has demonstrated an overwhelming prejudice in favour of children from middle class families to the clear disadvantage of children from poor and working class backgrounds – the very children who in Northern Ireland are supposed to benefit from the proposed reforms.
The next report was that of Costello. This group, like its forerunners, Gallagher and Burns, was largely populated by anti-selection personnel. This report synthesised the unbalanced findings of Gallagher and Burns and recommended a curriculum directed to the reduction of subject based teaching in favour of the more “Holistic Approach” advised by C.C.E.A. This satellite government funded agency was dedicated to many of the progressive ideas that had failed in pre and post war America, pre-war Germany, and post-war Britain. As an advisory body it was critical of subject based learning and supported its gradual replacement by grandiose schemes clothed in vague and nebulous language. The failed progressive ideas of sixty years ago were enshrined in the paragraphs of Costello dealing with the curriculum and subsequently embedded in legislation by the Education (Northern Ireland Order) 2006.
Carmel Gallagher, then Manager for Curriculum in C.C.E.A., had earlier described her curriculum framework as “the Trojan Horse that would be the vehicle for effecting significant change”. Clearly the change intended by a policy of deception was a move away from subject based learning like languages, maths, physics, chemistry, as well as history and geography, into a generalised and failed so-called progressive education for the 21st Century in which hardly a single idea was new or had proved successful throughout the 20th Century. Moreover, this progressive education had failed most dramatically in helping children from poor and disadvantaged homes. Middle class parents could provide the means that ensured their children survived the most extreme and untested educational reforms, but for the poor, if they were not taught at school, they were frequently not taught at all.
The new curriculum creates a basis for future education requiring “Big Schools” offering a “Bloated Curriculum” and based on educational ideas that have failed in the past. It is a curriculum which is the antithesis of the grammar school ethos and the form of education the grammar schools offer. As such it will eventually make the survival of the grammar school and subject based education untenable.
It has now become evident that the entitlement framework with its projected 24 GCSE subjects to 27 A Level subjects is fatally flawed. No definition of what is claimed to be vocational or academic has been made even when they have been re-designated as applied and general. The 11+ has been abolished without any alternative method of matching a child’s aptitudes to an appropriate school. Parents are placed in a condition of total uncertainly and the Minister is clearly at the furthest limit of her competence. Her present attempts to escape from a chaotic situation by farming out decision making to local groups largely composed of fellow travellers is evidence that she finds the current situation beyond her capacity to solve. The introduction of the Entitlement Framework ( the new curriculum ) is now about to be postponed until 2013, while the inappropriately named “ Enriched Curriculum” for primary schools has now been repackaged as the “ Foundation Curriculum “ with a flawed linguistic phonics programme at its’ core. Starved of resources this curriculum is now in an administrative limbo. Perhaps because of a recognition that it is based on ideas inconsistent with the most recent research on the teaching of reading as demonstrated by the Rose report.
The curriculum proposals embodied in the Education ( NI ) Order 2006 are wholly inconsistent with any future for the subject based education which Northern Irelands’ Grammar schools provide and only its’ repeal or substantial amendment coupled with a fresh beginning can offer any hope for their ultimate survival.
Until parents organise themselves in mass protest and teachers refuse to be dragooned into compliance with the alleged progressive demands of the Education Department, Local Boards, alleged experts and some of their Union representatives, the future education of Northern Ireland’s children will continue to remain bleak. In the United States it was the widespread protest of parents, particularly from black and underprivileged areas, and the courage of independent journalists such as Walter Lipmann that stemmed the wave of “progressive reforms” generated by those claiming to be experts in education; and who mistakenly believed that schools could solve any social or political problem when their real purpose should have been merely “to educate”.
AQE, Billy Young AQE, Harold Laski, Jr., London School of Economics, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Pat Doherty principal Lumen Christi Grammar School Londonderry, Ralph Milliband, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, The Guardian
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield has raised the prospect of a common entrance exam for grammar schools once again in an article in the Belfast Telegraph. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/education/post-primary-selection/work-on-single-entrance-exam-for-grammars-may-start-soon-14483850.html
His tendency to offer “jam tomorrow” promises to parents serves to avoid careful scrutiny of his group’s past failures. Sir Kenneth spends no time dwelling on his own contribution to the stress, confusion and lack of detail in bringing forward an esentially privatised 11-plus exam. His suspected real agenda was to bring forward a selection instrument that removed information but permitted the selection of “boys of character”, otherwise known as the Pupil Profile or more recently the Parents Annual Report. The AQE had sought membership from the Catholic grammars but have achieved not one Catholic school willing to use the AQE tests. The Church, well aware of the AQE plans, reacted to the prospect of losing pupils by offering their own “free” tests and have attracted others to their camp including Integrated schools that sell themselves as comprehensives. CAT (Computer Adaptive Testing) when it was proposed years ago was rejected outright by the Governing Bodies Association (GBA) an organisation of voluntary grammars for which Sir Ken has acted as spokesman. Now in the Belfast Telegraph Bloomfield talks of new advanced methods of assessing capability. He has simply poured his old wine into new bottles.
In the final paragraph Sir Keneth suggests;
” We, and no doubt others, will wish to give serious consideration to other and more advanced methods of assessing capability, progress and performance, drawing on modern technology.”
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Chair AQE Ltd
In response to an article in The Guardian
one of his grammar school colleagues, Pat O’Doherty of Lumen Christi Grammar School in Londonderry told the reporter;
“However, like all grammar schools in Northern Ireland, Lumen Christi would have preferred to avoid the use of an entrance test altogether, and had lobbied the minister for education to allow schools to use ongoing primary school assessments and pupil profiles for the purpose of academic selection, thus avoiding the need for an entrance examination.”
Once again the division within the grammar school lobby is exposed in its sectarian nature.
In correspondence with PACE Sir Kenneth Bloomfield borrowed a quotation from Clement Atlee, former British PM suggesting,
“A period of silence from you would be appreciated”
Perhaps Sir Kenneth Bloomfield was unfamiliar with the target of Atlee’s leaked comments. Ralph Milliband described Harold Laski, the subject of Atlee’s wrath, in Clare Market Review in 1950 thus,
We did not feel overwhelmed by his knowledge and learning, and we did not feel so because he did not know the meaning of condescension. We never felt compelled to agree with him, because it was so obvious that he loved a good fight and did not hide behind his years and experience. He was not impatient or bored or superciliously amused… His seminars taught tolerance, the willingness to listen although one disagreed, the values of ideas being confronted. And it was all immense fun, an exciting game that had meaning, and it was also a sieve of ideas, a gymnastics of the mind carried on with vigour and directed unobtrusively with superb craftsmanship.
I think I know now why he gave himself so freely. Partly it was because he was human and warm and that he was so interested in people. But mainly it was because he loved students, and he loved students because they were young. Because he had a glowing faith that youth was generous and alive, eager and enthusiastic and fresh. That by helping young people he was helping the future and bringing nearer that brave world in which he so passionately believed.
Bloomfield seems to want silence from parents, unless ,of course, they are represented by his private grammar school admission company. Good luck.
A litte information on Harold Laski.
In 1926 he was appointed professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics One of his more famous books is Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (which was dedicated to Edward R. Murrow. He was active on the American United States university lecture circuit. His 19 year friendship with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes