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Good morning and congratulations on your patience over a long winter. This morning you will receive the results of your child’s transfer test. All of the effort, costs, studying, revision and application cumulate in the mark revealed this morning and all children are to be congratulated regardless of the result.
Today is a day of mixed emotions for parents; the elation and relief blended with perhaps some sense of pride and appreciation that your child is soon to be fleetingly venturing out in the journey towards adulthood. Be sure to enjoy the day.
Of course with parents a fresh set of anxieties replace the old and thoughts immediately turn to trying to figure out if the mark or grade (grades remove information) will secure a place in the grammar school of choice. Children will naturally be inquisitive and parents keen to answer with accuracy but it will be months before admission decisions are known. Schools will try to be helpful and reassuring but can guarantee nothing absolutely. Some will engage in an intense effort to market and promote their schools even at the cost of misinformation.
Political parties are in general officially opposed to academic selection (but privately their representatives choose to use transfer tests for their children) Many will not admit to this lest they lose a vote; those supporting compromise will talk of a single test (combining AQE and GL, not just one exam) but this is a problem they are unwilling to accept they are incapable of reconciling. Education is soon likely to be an issue on your doorstep during the current election campaign. In no other aspect of business would a government be allowed to interfere in the operation of private business. Bill Gates had a very clear message to those who would attempt to steal, duplicate or pirate his Microsoft products. The Department of Education seem to have no such reservations when it comes to meddling in transfer tests.
Former DUP First Minister Peter Robinson made much of his determination to deliver a single test. He left office defeated in this aim by the resolve of parents and a dedicated group of principled individuals who will not allow political expediency to destroy parental choice for an education suitable for their individual children.
When Arlene Foster became First Minister and the DUP chose the education ministry for the first time it became clear that the DUP were insistent on delivering on the single test goal to satisfy their partners in the Executive. This attitude is difficult to explain since PACE published two letters in the Ballymena Guardian in 2014 outlining very profound concerns over the use of two different tests for the same purpose. No political party or church has had a single word of response. Peter Weir was recently reminded of the warnings but has failed to adopt a leadership position by recommending the superior instrument; the AQE test.
The BBCNI news this morning via Robbie Meredith, Education correspondent tells listeners (parents of future tests takers) that sources inform him that
“talks are taking place between the two testing organisations to find a common exam”
The BBC are misinformed since a simple matter of fact checking exposes the inconsistency. One test is developed by AQE the other by GL Assessment. GL Assessment have not been involved in any talks with AQE involving a single test. The PPTC who deliver the test in mainly Catholic grammar schools have no ownership of GL Assessment products.
The Irish News (opposed to academic selection) were at least able to get close to a truth that the Education Minister, Peter Weir refuses to accept. Weir announced on November 17, 2016
” a team of educational professionals would seek to simplify the current transfer test process”
Mr Weir should read the Irish News more carefully.
Parents with children transferring to post-primary in 2017-18 should insist that politicians stop interfering in the matter of transfer testing since the Department of Education abandoned their responsibilities nine years ago.
Despite the power to do so the DUP Education Minister, Peter Weir, has failed to address his predecessor’s break with United Kingdom parity in respect of academic standards.
Had he acted immediately, instead of buying time for the Northern Ireland Executive, Mr Weir could have adopted the United Kingdom model both in respect of the grading scale for examinations and longstanding concerns regarding coursework or so-called “controlled assessment”
It appears that the DUPs Yes Minister equivalent of Jim Hacker has been an easy victim of the green Blob’s civil servants in Rathgael House. The green Blob is Northern Ireland’s devolved version of the UK education establishment.
The text of the Newsletter Lead Letter
Are GCSE and GCE exam results between GB and N. Ireland comparable?
The answer regrettably, for the moment, is that it is too early to tell.
The general public must be careful not to assume that Peter Weir, by overturning the effective monopoly John O’Dowd granted CCEA over GCSE and GCE assessment in Northern Ireland, has done anything other than tinker at the edges of the problem bequeathed him by Sinn Fein. He seems to be a ‘Yes Minister’ captured by the green Blob, the entrenched education establishment
John O’Dowd’s break with UK parity in respect of academic standards goes beyond his expulsion of two of the largest UK awarding bodies, and presents huge technical difficulties in respect of standards. These could have been solved at a stroke had Peter Weir responded positively by cutting this Gordian knot and adopted the UK model both in respect of its grading scale and its concerns regarding coursework or so-called “controlled assessment.”
This action would have allowed Peter Weir to significantly scale down CCEA’s GCSE/GCE functions. Northern Ireland could simply “borrow” papers from larger awarding bodies and make the substantial savings available to hard-pressed schools.
Given the achievements of our schools in the recent GCSE and AS/A2 results, it is bizarre they now enter another time of uncertainty while CCEA – who act as their own qualifications regulator– fail to reconcile these two sets of standards. The technical difficulties are considerable; CCEA’s assessments differ in the role given to controlled assessment.
The public have a right to know precisely what CCEA’s Qualification Regulator, Roger McCune, means when he promises: “We will start work immediately on the technical implementation of the new grading and continue to ensure that our qualifications remain comparable to other similar qualifications elsewhere in the United Kingdom.”
The CCEA Regulator is confusing squares and circles.
Peter Weir stands in danger of being compared to Jim Hacker for his failure to master his opponents within the green Blob and refusal to act decisively during the first 100 days of a new administration.
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Now that the majority of pupils and parents have the results of the test(s) in hand it is right that there is time taken to acknowledge the effort, celebrate and relax. If only the media would allow it. Instead the annual circus turns up right on cue. Never let facts get in the way of a good story.
T he BBCNI Education correspondent, Robbie Meredith, has prepared a package for today’s local news on the transfer test results. He talks about the Education Minister calling for an end to academic selection – that is not news. Sinn Fein Education Ministers have been trying to end the existence of grammar schools for sixteen years Dr Meredith suggests that non- Catholic grammar schools are mostly controlled – that statement is totally inaccurate and finally he fleetingly mentions the “dualling” schools, ignoring entirely the fact that it is only those schools which require pupils to take multiple tests. Dr Meredith has been informed of the potential misclassification of pupils using the ‘equating’ schemes cited by the “dualling schools” but will not investigate or report on the problem.
The schools accepting GL Assessment and or AQE test results without accepting responsibility for the pressure their unnecessary demands cause are: Lagan College, Belfast (not a grammar school), Glenlola Collegiate, Bangor; Campbell College, Belfast; Antrim Grammar, Antrim; Victoria College, Belfast; St Patrick’s Grammar, Downpatrick; Wellington College, Belfast; Hunterhouse College, Belfast.
Source: Belfast Telegraph Transfer Test Guide published January 25, 2016 Page 19
Most politicians would like to see the end of academic selection but will not admit it to you lest they lose your vote, a problem they are evidently incapable of reconciling. Former DUP First Minister Peter Robinson made much of his determination to deliver a single test. He left office defeated by the resolve of parents and a dedicated group of principled individuals who will not allow political expediency to destroy parental choice.
Enjoy the weekend.
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education welcomes Arlene Foster’s recent statement on education if it is a vow of commitment to her educational vision and not simply a sound bite.
Recent comments from her suggest that she would lead a revolution in education. It says something about the effects of fifteen years of Sinn Fein misrule that common sense proposals to return to the traditional values that made our education system admired worldwide seem revolutionary.
The promise of positive change at this stage is perhaps necessarily vague. Given her appreciation for the education system in which she grew up, perhaps we can look forward to concrete proposals for protecting the educational heritage currently under direct threat from John O’Dowd and that she will commit her Party to retaining the long-established parity between Northern Ireland’s public examinations and those in England.
Why didn’t she give a cast iron guarantee to underprivileged children to remove entirely the Revised Curriculum with its “learning-to-learn” philosophy, proven to be damaging to the achievement of children living in poverty? Why are we continuing to teach these children according to flawed constructivist principles when a longitudinal investigation of the impact of the Enriched Curriculum on disadvantaged children demonstrated that they had fallen significantly behind their peers in traditional classrooms? Why not just remove a curriculum in which the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer? Readers may recall that the CCEA-designed curriculum proposed to raise the reading standards of those children deemed to be not “developmentally ready” by delaying the formal teaching of reading by up to two years! If Arlene Foster were to abandon this ill-conceived curriculum her party could claim – without fear of contradiction – to have removed a significant number of poor children from the “left behind” category.
It currently seems that Arlene Foster doesn’t intend to sweep away John O’Dowd’s legacy. This leaves schools under threat, a curriculum in place which leaves the underprivileged child behind and the standards demanded by CCEA examinations (for the first time ever) perceived to be inferior to those in England, breaking parity.
It follows, therefore, that the most puzzling part in Arlene Foster’s no-child-left-behind policy is its widespread popularity. The First Minister of Scotland proposed precisely this policy one year ago, but that merely involved using standardised tests in Scottish schools to detect underachievement. This could hardly be presented as an educational revolution? Curiously, both First Ministers use the words “no child left behind” without attribution. The education world attributes these words to George Bush’s policy that no child should be “left behind” in a school which isn’t making “adequate yearly progress.”
Are we to believe that the DUP will advocate the American approach to no child left behind? There can be little doubt that this would indeed amount to an educational revolution. But there’s one among many snags facing Ms Foster. For all its focus on tests, the real emphasis in the American model is teaching. It is a requirement of the policy that instruction be “research-based”. That would mean the inevitable abandonment of the Revised Curriculum and a return to traditional teaching in Northern Ireland.
In short, we await further details before deciding if the First Minister’s words are more sound bite than coherent educational vision.
Chair, Parental Alliance for Choice in Education
11-plus, 11-plus tests, Assembly questions on education, Daithi McKay MLA, DUP, ESA, ESAIT, Gavin Boyd, post primary transfer, SF North Antrim, Sinn Fein, transfer system, transfer test, Ulster Unionist Party
If there was ever a need to answer the persistently wrong and ideologically failed attack on academic selection by 11-plus testing carried out by the DENI, an answer to an Assembly Question by a Sinn Fein MLA gives a resounding response.
|AQW 6202/11-15||Mr Daithí McKay
(SF – North Antrim)
It is little wonder that there were no press releases, planted media articles or angst-filled human interest stories obediently spewed up using words and phrases such as child abuse, stress-laden, difficult, morally wrong, scandalous. The DENI have known since the Household Survey of 2002 that the majority of parents want valid and reliable transfer testing at 11. Their miserable decade long campaign has resulted in failure but the DENI promote failure by denying the taxpayers their right to regulated testing and then object to and hamper those who suceed in doing their work for them. If an example of promoting failure is required then linking the ending of regulated transfer tests to the promotion of the multi-jobbing ESA Chief Execuive may be a good place to start.
Also note that there has been no effort by the unionist parties to highlight the response to AQW 6202/ 11-15. This may be explained by their secret desire to see the issue of transfer testing disappear or perhaps they don’t read answers that don’t refer to themselves.
One written complaint was received by the Western Education and Library Board in the last three years in relation to a primary school in that area preparing its pupils for unregulated transfer tests. No written complaints were received by any of the other boards during that period and records are not kept of any verbal complaints.
In February 2009 Stanley Poots was highlighted by PACE for his prominent anti-academic selection views which he made public in an article in the Belfast Telegraph. It may be worthwhile for parents to review the comments below the article since many have expressed increasing concern over the teaching of numeracy and literacy in primary schools. Parents also raise concerns about creeping social selection (parents professional standing and income influencing the teaching professionals re: recommendations on post-primary destination) replacing valid and reliable academic selection.