Access the Newsletter article online here
Antonio Gramsci, Assessment for Learning, Belfast Newsletter, CCEA’s Revised Curriculum, Comparison of achievement models, Direct Instruction, Dr Cathal McManus, John O'Dowd, Michael Gove, Northern Ireland Education Minister, OFMDFM, Peter Robinson MLA, Peter Wier MLA, Pierre Bourdieu, Professor Joanne Hughes, Professor Ruth Leitch, project follow through, Protestant working-class underachievement and unionist hegemony, Queen's University School of Education
In a Comment piece in the News Letter of 10 December, I argued that a project designed to investigate the link between deprivation and academic under-achievement was deeply flawed. OFMDFM, who financed the ILiAD project, didn’t seem to appreciate that the sought-after link had already been investigated in one of the most sophisticated education experiments ever conducted: the USA’s Project Follow Through.
Project Follow Through monitored the academic attainment of 79,000 pupils from 180 low-income communities for 20 years. It arrived at an unequivocal conclusion: those pupils who were taught by traditional methods consistently reached academic standards approximating to their middle class peers. This conclusion was replicated by two other highly-regarded bodies. Progressivist curricula – such as those centred on the pupil’s ability to “learn how to learn” – were demonstrated to damage the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is important because our Revised Curriculum is just such a curriculum.
The lessons from Project Follow Through are clear: abandoning the Revised Curriculum and returning to traditional approaches to teaching and learning would benefit all of our children, but particularly children from poor backgrounds. In addition, a great deal of money could be saved if we turned our back on notions like Assessment for Learning (where children are required to mark their own work) and “levels of progression” (which no country on the planet uses). We could invest more money in our teachers if we weren’t funding what Michael Gove dismissively called “the blob.”
I am writing now to report something I discovered after the publication of my Comment piece. I began to feel even more uneasy about the ILiAD project when I read a paper by one of the project’s authors: Dr Cathal McManus of the School of Education at Queen’s. In an article which addressed “Protestant working-class underachievement and unionist hegemony” and published in Irish Studies Review he argues that the ideas of Antonio Gramsci offer a superior theoretical lens through which to view the underachievement of Protestant working-class boys, than the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu.
What is curious is that the ILiAD project use Bourdieu for their theoretical lens. Why wasn’t Gramsci chosen? His reasoning reinforces the findings of Project Follow Through. Could Gramsci’s rejection of curricula like the Revised Curriculum, and enthusiasm for traditional approaches to the classroom, explain the curious choice of the ILiAD team?
Chair, Parental Alliance for Choice in Education
On the 8th February, 2010 PACE posted a thread highlighting Bangor Grammar School’ s approach to the Freedom of Information Act.
Ten days later a letter from solicitors representing the school was sent to the Chairman.
This correspondence was immediately passed on to PACE’s legal representatives.
Acting upon their legal advice and on the principle of fair comment, debate and free speech and with full reservation of all legal rights PACE now publish the correspondence for the benefit of readers.
N.B. No copy of the PACE Blog was attached as indicated.
To read the entire letter see PACE BGS001
A draft post from PACENI April 20, 2009 is now published.
In an effort to distract from the continued and unexplained silence on the matter of academic selection to Catholic grammar schools by their fellow principals the Catholic anti-selection group have announced the formation of yet another Catholic education body.
The BBC Northern Ireland Education report claims:
“They are forming an association which they say will speak for those whose views have not been adequately heard.”
Nothing could be further fro the truth. The Northern Ireland public have heard nothing but anti-selection rhetoric for years parroted ad nauseum by carefully selected “educationalists”
It is ironic that despite having an unfettered run at delivering their objectives they are no further along than ever. Parents and wider society have grown tired of their ineffectiveness.
The principals say Caitriona Ruane’s admission criteria make testing unnecessary and no Catholic school should have any problem with them.
Perhaps the 30+ grammar principals should explain their change in approach four months later.
It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. … [The bullshitter] does not reject the authority of the truth. … He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are. … Bullshit is unaviodable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled … to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant.
A teacher’s union, the NASUWT, has been on strike for a second week over an alleged assault on one of its members. This is remarkable given that there were 272 physical attacks on staff resulting in suspension. Additional figures available for Northern Ireland schools on the DENI website indicate that 5 assualts on teachers resulted in expulsion in the last year.
No figures were available on the number of pupils cautioned, charged or convicted.
Why the inequality in this particular case?
In addition to the accused pupil an additional 540 pupils have been denied their legal right to an education by the union members.
The Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, asked for a speedy resolution, suggesting a role for the Childrens Commissioner.
The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children, Patricia Lewsley offered to mediate on the dispute but her intervention and comment
Corporate abuse of children’s rights
provoked the union into seeking legal advice.
The latest news is that the pupil in question is to be charged by the DPP and will appear in court in November.
No doubt all the PC, hand-wringing, crocodile tear-shedding union representatives will be delighted to pass the buck to the PSNI and DPP
In the meantime 540 pupils are denied their right to an education.
Joining the parade of culprits is none other that the boss of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) Gavin Boyd. Remember that CCEA, his former employer, are the equivalent of judge, jury and executioner on curriculum and exams matters in Northern Ireland.
The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland are closely aligned to Sinn Fein on education matters.
Entries on the Northern Ireland Conservative Party Blog site http://conservativesni.wordpress.com
of January 31st indicate support for the idea of selection at 14.
One must wonder at the thoughts of Margaret Thatcher, John Major,Michael Howard or Norman Tebbitt when the Northern Ireland branch of the party are aligned with the thinking of Sinn Fein minister, Caitriona Ruane, and her host of advisors presiding over the current education chaos. With friends such as these parents need have no fears about their children’s education future. Conservative comps.
This quote was made by the Chairman of the Association for Quality Education Sir Kenneth Bloomfield: “We in the AQE have always appreciated that we can call something a grammar school but if there’s no form of academic testing at all then there’s no grammar school at all”
Now since this group have abandoned support for the 11-plus and only about a dozen of their member schools intend to use the new academic admission test it is only right that those schools who are not going to use the replacement 11-plus announce to parents and the public that they have turned their grammar school comprehensive
The AQE must thin its member ranks immediately unless of course it intends to deliver the government’s policy through incremental conversion of grammar schools through the consent of heads against the wishes of parents.
Reform of Northern Ireland schools – another attack on all that Protestants hold dear?
It must surely puzzle outsiders that grammar schools of Protestant and Catholic ethos adopt opposite positions on selection at 11. The SDLP, Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church oppose selection and embrace the Revised Curriculum while the DUP and Ulster Unionists see a continued role for grammar schools. It is striking that there are no Catholic grammars among the 25 grammar schools who propose setting their own entrance tests in order to retain their grammar school identities. Furthermore, Catholic politicians and the Catholic Church have been staunch defenders of the Revised Curriculum which seeks to blur the distinctions between school subjects such as IT, mathematics and English through the introduction of incoherent “cross-curricular skills.” Recently the Irish News published a blistering attack on the 25 Protestant grammars who wish to retain selection at 11.
A careful reading of the work of Britain’s leading educational philosopher, John White, reveals that Protestant support for a curriculum comprising distinct subjects, with learning assessed through objective testing stretches back 150 years. According to White, curricula such as the Revised Curriculum, which eschew objective testing and blur the distinctions between the different school subjects, strike at the core values of Protestantism. Given that John White was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to evaluate the Revised Curriculum, senior figures in CCEA must have been aware that they were designing a curriculum at odds with a Protestant worldview. However, the evaluation report has never been made public and when it appears on CCEA documentation it is accompanied by the word “unpublished.”
CCEA’s Carmel Gallagher described reform of the curriculum as a “Trojan Horse” for effecting radical change in schools and the Education Minister drew parallels between the radical nature of school reform in Northern Ireland and the partition of Ireland. A cursory read of White’s latest book – Intelligence, Destiny and Education – may help explain the Catholic Church’s reluctance to sign up to the cause of maintaining Northern Ireland’s truly world class education system. More puzzling, in the light of White’s analysis, is the role of the Protestant churches in embracing the Revised Curriculum and the abolition of selection at 11.