The Northern Ireland Education Minister has launched a desperate “Hail Mary” throw via the fourth estate, hoping that electoral pressure will end academic selection for grammar schools in Northern Ireland.
Preaching to the converted small crowd at the Catholic Principal’s Association annual get together he called on teachers, clergy, trade unionists, and even parents to campaign against selection in order to remove an equality of opportunity and parental choice for children’s education.
Perhaps he wishes to forget the result the last time the then Education Minister, Martin McGuinness tested public opinion.
The Household Survey, virtually a census, returned results which proved that almost two thirds of those sampled in Northern Ireland wished to retain academic selection. It is no surprise that the exercise was never repeated by the Department of Education.
While O’Dowd suggests that all political parties in the Assembly will vote for a change to the legislation, he may wish to bear in mind that the largest of the party in Northern Ireland, the DUP, represents only 30% of the 54.5% of the electorate who bothered to vote in 2011. If they want to end up with egg on their face they should include O’Dowd’s proposal in their next manifesto.
One only needs to examine the recent fortune of Queen’s University Belfast Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher and his 28 year campaign to end academic selection to forecast the result.
Professor Gallagher has been found guilty of academic misconduct in relation to claims made in the DENI research The Effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/85-schools/6-admission-and-choice/6-post-primary-transfer-and-wider-reform/6-ppa-research_and_reports_pg-3/6-ppa-rap-gas_pg-3.htm
The findings of the University and the punishment awarded remain secretive. Perhaps a thorough examination of the entire corpus of the research should be subject to further inquiry.
In the interim PACE suggest that the Belfast Telegraph should be treated with caution in their communications on matters of education given that Professor Tony Gallagher was their education expert and they have yet to report his reported misconduct.