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A challenge was made to John O’Dowd, Northern Ireland’s education minister to refute his error borne out of  reliance on so-called international evidence provided by OECD Pisa data. The Minister has failed to respond. The minister is wrong and remains so.


The letter  above was published in the Belfast Newsletter on Friday, November 6th, 2015.

When Sinn Fein education minister John O’Dowd deliberately used the term “dodgy dossier” in respect of transfer testing during Private Members Business in the Assembly on Tuesday, he reversed the truth.

The minister cited international evidence, based on Pisa scores, that selective education fails children.

Astoundingly not one of the unionist politicians present challenged the minister on the facts.

In a peer-reviewed analysis of that evidence, Professor Svend Kreiner wrote of OECD Pisa:

“Most people don’t know that half of the students taking part in the research do not respond to any reading items at all. Despite that, Pisa assigns reading scores to these children.”

In short, Pisa admit that they don’t measure curriculur content or attainment.

Therefore they cannot make an assessment on selective education systems.

Do the politicians who failed to tackle Mr O’Dowd or those schools participating in OECD Pisa not understand that half of the children in the minister’s research were assigned scores for tests they didn’t even sit?

Does anyone in Northern Ireland know of any pupil receiving an AQE or GL Assessment score without taking a test?

With children about to sit the first transfer test tomorrow, it is a pity that those assigned with opposition to the minister’s ideological campaign agaist selection did not challenge him on Tuesday.

If those politicians and their advisors won’t apologise for wrongly traducing the current transfer system, Mr O’Dowd should, on their collective behalf, make clear that it was he who was quoting from a dodgy dossier.

Stephen Elliott,

Parental Alliance for Choice in Education,  Antrim