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On Wednesday December 4, 2013 the Belfast Telegraph http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk published a contribution from Avril Hall-Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union on the OECD Pisa results.

Parents should be relieved that Ms Hall-Callaghan is nowhere near a classroom where she could influence their children since her “analysis” of Pisa rankings displays a depth of ignorance on Pisa verging on innumeracy and illiteracy.

It seems she subscribes to the commonly held but wrong view that a country’s education system can be accurately summed up in a series of three numbers by OECD Pisa. Compounding her ignorance, Ms Hall-Callaghan attempts to associate Northern Ireland’s primary schools performance in TIMSS and PIRLS with the findings of Pisa. For a start TIMSS measures performance linked to the curriculum while Pisa questions are not linked to the curriculum.

Secondly the UTU spokesperson attempts to link the different rankings in the tests to the selective system of secondary education in Northern Ireland.

One can only wonder where she got such an idea from. Perhaps Professor Tony Gallagher or Professor Alan Smith via their DENI research, perhaps a series of anti-selection Education Ministers in the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly; Martin McGuinness, Caitriona Ruane or John O’Dowd, perhaps senior CCEA officials such as Gavin Boyd or Dr Carmel Gallagher (currently boss of the GTCNI), perhaps Sir Robert Salisbury, O’Dowd’s Numeracy & Literacy Czar?

It is clear that Avril Hall-Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union does not read the Times Educational Supplement even though the TES has been the world’s leading publication for teachers for more than a hundred years.



PISA utterly wrong

PACE now set the union representative some homework to measure the extent of her ignorance and hypocricy on Pisa 2012. Readers may recall a Nolan Show episode when Avril Hall-Callaghan was exposed in her hypocritical attitude to academic selection. She admitted to entering her child for grammar school entrance tests while railing against such choice for other parents. Well it seems she hasn’t learned her lesson fast.

PACE await a response with an evidence base for Avril Hall-Callaghan’s claims on Pisa 2012 and expect an announcemnt on her change in view since Andreas Schleicher of the OECD Pisa famously said of the likes of Avril Hall-Callaghan:

“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion”