“Nonsense, Minister.” – Redux

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Sinn Féin’s ideologically driven campaign against grammar schools continues, and it’s the Northern Ireland Education Minister, SF’s John O’Dowd, who’s making the strange claims

When the Association of Quality Education (AQE) tests were being sat this year the Minister labelled them “a clever marketing device”. 

For the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) of schools, who will use a separate assesment test this weekend, he has claimed there is an anonymous “private donor” paying for it.  From the BBC report

“We have a private donor funding tests for young people to access publicly funded – taxpayers funded – education,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Well, it was his party colleague who privatised it in the first place…

But the same BBC report tells us that “Ronnie Hassard, from the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) of schools which use the GL assessment test, has said he knew of no private donor.”

Ronnie Hassard, the head-teacher at Ballymena Academy, which uses the GL assessment exam, said that the money for the tests came from individual grammar schools and was processed through the PPTC and paid to GL Assessment.

He said individual schools paid the money, and he did not know if they got it from elsewhere.

There are 34 schools in the PPTC.  And even if there was an anonymous “private donor” funding the free assessment it would not be the case, as the NI Education Minister also claims, that

More importantly we have a private funder barring young people accessing taxpayers publicly funded education and that in my opinion is even more important.” [John O'Dowd (added emphasis)]

Let the Minister argue that the individual parents who paid the £39.50 fee for the AQE assessment in the other 34 grammar schools are also “barring young people accessing taxpayers publicly funded education”. [Adds - And, as his predecessor discovered, nature abhors a vacuum...]

[Perhaps John O'Dowd's mysterious 'anonymous donor' is Chuck Feeney? - Ed]  Perhaps not…

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  • Cynic2

    Typical SF ideology – deny parents and children the choice. After all John knows better how you should be educated and what you should and shouldn’t do with your own money

  • PACE Parent

    Before rushing to clear up the funding arrangements for the PPTC to pay GL Assessment for their cobbled together multiple choice transfer tests perhaps John O’Dowd should identify the donor behind a private publication ◦Testing the Test (2000) – a joint project with another QUB Schol of Education colleague, Professor John Gardner. This publication was used extensively to undermine the 11-plus but is fraught with methodological weaknesses. It did not stop the DENI or CCEA from citing “Testing the Test” as a reason to attack academic selection and the 11-plus tests. Gardner’s colleague Tony Gallagher referenced the work in the DENI publication The Effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland was published in September 2000. 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 Interestingly Gallagher does not cite this work on his QUB page. Perhaps now that he is Vice Chancellor he’d rather distance himself from his role in attacking academic selection.
    Gardner subsequently encouraged CCEA to adopt Assessment for Learning which relies upon teacher and pupil self-assessment rather than testing to measure attainment.
    First things first Mr O’Dowd. Clear up the funding for the original attack on the 11-plus. Perhaps John Gardner’s mysterious ‘anonymous donor’ was also Chuck Feeney?

  • Rory Carr

    “Ideological” bandied about here like a dirty word I see. Advocacy of an egalitarian educational system is “ideologically” driven but advocacy of a elitist approach is free from any any such taint.

    It is the old,old story whereby only “others” have accents and only non-whites have a skin colour. The WASP status quo parading in full self-delusion mode as the only acceptable norm for the whole of humanity.

    It is the very same mind-set that, in defence of the grossest excesses of capitalism, yet maintains that it is the natural system of social production, that humanity is by nature essentially acquisitive rather than altruistic, that Gecko yet rules and that “Greed is good,” ignoring entirely the remarkable human phenomenon whereby we feed our children instead of eating them.

  • PACE Parent

    While John is rummaging around in fact-finding mode perhaps he can ask Merty and Peter about a grant from Atlantic Philanthropies to their office. the grant is listed on the AP site :Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister

    Peace Building at Interfaces 2010

    $ 2,542,019

    Northern Ireland

    Reconciliation & Human Rights

    Whatever you do do not ask those investigative journalists at the Detail.tv to suss this out. They too are funded by AP

  • Reader

    Rory, almost everything you said is irrelevant to the issue, which is Academic Selection. It was an old-labour government that introduced academic selection to the UK, and even those people who now oppose selection still mostly allow for setting or streaming within schools. Where do you fall on this spectrum?

  • wild turkey

    “It is the old,old story whereby only “others” have accents and only non-whites have a skin colour. The WASP status quo parading in full self-delusion mode as the only acceptable norm for the whole of humanity.”

    rory nail on head

    this past saturday 12.11.11 i had occassion to take jr turkey to his AQE centre for the first test.

    whilst the kids were doing the tests, tea and coffee was provided for the parents. one of the mothers heard my accent and asked if i was american. i said, “yes mam”

    she then went on to say that if we moved back to the states, my children would be put ahead a year because of the ‘schools in province’

    Really? i responded. i’ve been told that if jr and family move back to the states, they will be put back a year, have to do english as a foreign language and also remedial classes in geography and astronomy to disabuse of them of the notion that ‘the province’ is the centre of the universe.

    she then noted that her chloe would be joining the equestrian club at school and asked what clubs my son might be joining

    i responded that he will probably be signing up for the french and also the food science club. afterall he wants to be a chevaline.

    don’t think she got it. apologies to all for being off topic

    oh yeah, PACE, i could reply to your mere rants, but why transgress Goodwins Law on the Children in Need night…. sorry, perhaps in your comfort zone that should be Children in Greed.

    mahalo

  • Tomas Gorman

    Not trying to drag your thread off subject Pete but i I feel the need to ask;

    Isn’t acting ideologically in politics normal or has the drive to centre (right) or other factors killed off peercieved credibility of ideologically motivated politics.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “Sinn Féin’s ideologically driven campaign…”

    For shame that anyone’s ideology drives their conduct. Perhaps they might instead try a blindfold, a dart, and a dartboard. Wherever the dart hits, that’s their policy.

    The age 11 or so selection itself is only a tad bit better, i.e., the timing was chosen simply and only because that’s when the kids would be changing schools in any event.

    Lastly:

    http://reason.com/archives/2002/07/01/stand-and-deliver-revisited/singlepage

    Kindly note the section on “Open Enrollment”, round about half way down the page.

    Almost forgot, but to borrow Jaime’s meme, students will rise to the level of expectation (and helps to remember that you set the level of expectation not with your words but with what you do).

  • Reader

    Tomas Gorman: Isn’t acting ideologically in politics normal or has the drive to centre (right) or other factors killed off peercieved credibility of ideologically motivated politics.
    Ideology is in a three cornered fight with practical delivery and selfish opportunism, so it certainly has an honourable place. But for a politician or party to give themselves wholly over to ideology invites disaster, followed by extinction.

  • dwatch

    How many schools have equestrian clubs in West Belfast?

  • Toastedpuffin

    What exactly is Sinn Fein’s “ideology”???

    It seems to centre on half-assed notions of a vaguely left-leaning nature nabbed from the jotter of a 13 year old grammar school pupil, all tacked on to an overriding desire to get the “activists” elected (or a job).

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    PACE Parent,
    You seem to be throwing a lot of wild insinuations around there which call into question the professional ethics of John Gardner, somewhat ironic as he practically wrote the BERA Ethical Guidelines which every educational researcher on these islands subscribe. Anyhow, back to the points you raised. You say Testing the Test (2000) was a “private publication” but I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. It was “published” by Queen’s University, so I don’t see what your problem is with that. Okay, it’s not in a peer reviewed journal but reports of this magnitude never are. The methodology is there in the report for all to see but of course you say that is “fraught with … weaknesses.” Perhaps you would care to elaborate on what exactly these weaknesses are?

    The next part of your post is bizarre. You then say that Tony Gallagher referenced Gardner & Cowan’s work in a report he did for DENI and then seem to be insinuating he is distancing himself from it by not mentioning it on his web page. However Gallagher only lists peer-reviewed articles and books. The report you mentioned was a “private publication” as you put it earlier on behalf of DENI and published by them. It was not an independent study in the same way as Gardner & Cowan, so perhaps that’s why he doesn’t list it.

    Oh and the current Vice Chancellor is still Peter Gregson, Gallagher might like to think he is VC but he certainly is not.

  • Granni Trixie

    This is one of the few issues where I find myself at one with SF. My reasoning is more moral than ideological,borne from my experience as a teacher who had to try to build up the esteem of children demoralised by perceiving themselves to have “failed” the 11 plus. This is even though the school in which I taught was “comprehensive” and so no-one had to do an exam to get in. Teaching mixed ability is very demanding but most schools deal with the challenge by “setting”.
    I think also that selection impacts negatively on the last few years of a childs schooling at primary level.

    I also believe in integrated education and at this time of rationalisation of schools estate I believe that there will never be a better time for reforming the system.

  • Reader

    Granni Trixie: My reasoning is more moral than ideological,borne from my experience as a teacher who had to try to build up the esteem of children demoralised by perceiving themselves to have “failed” the 11 plus.
    By that age I had got the 11+, but I had also worked out that I would always be useless at art and ball games – two bitter blows. Hopefully, you got those children to the point where they could cope with the results of GCSEs, A levels, Sports Day and real life. But I’m not aware of anyone who has got all that they ever hoped for from life.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Well said Reader, if I were education minister I would stop all mandatory sports in primary and secondary schools.

  • Toastedpuffin

    “I think also that selection impacts negatively on the last few years of a childs schooling at primary level. ”

    Is there any research that supports that claim? Looking back at my own life, I can see why age 11 might be considered the best time to apply selection…

  • padraigpearse

    If Sinn Fein is idealogilly driven then (and by inference this is some kind of minus] then Unionists and others who support elitist schooling are not driven by idealogy and this, by inference is a good thing.

    But sine n ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions one can only suppose that those who want to bin kinds at 11 have no ideas.

    I would have suppose that having no ideas to underpin ones believes was a hindrance rather than a help.

    Pete appears to think otherwise.

    Poor Pete. Poor kids.

  • Reader

    padraigpearse: But sine n ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions one can only suppose that those who want to bin kinds at 11 have no ideas.
    Well, it depends on whether the ideas that flow from the ideology are (a) good; (b) relevant to education; (c) consistent.
    For instance, can an ideology really say that it is right to test children at 14 (Dixon plan) or 16 (GCSE) but not at 11? Does an ideology say that selection is wrong but setting and streaming are right? SF have to at least pretend that there is something else backing up their “ideas”.
    All that SF actually have in the way of relevant ideology is the vague notion that they are sort of leftish, and that sort of means egalitarianism, which sort of means not separating children for other than religious reasons. And anyway, the selective school system created the SDLP, so are necessarily a Bad Thing.
    Meanwhile, in real life, leftists and shinners still try to get their children into selective schools if they think they will benefit.

  • padraigpearse

    The implication of Pete’s comment that idealogue’s and so all ideas are somehow suspect. For of course anyone with an idea who acts on them is, by definition an idealogue.

    his of course being consistent with past performance from both Tories and Unionists who, almost by definition know what they against but are not at all sure of what they are for, reactionaries in fact who would not know an idea if it jumped up and bit them on the buttocks.

  • padraigpearse

    I am glad Reader you are not allergic, like Pete to the noption that someone might have ‘ideas’ but only object to certain ideas. But attempting to justify Petes article by rewriting it where it falls flat on its face is just that a rewrite. Perhaps you would like to do an article of your won, with the door open to the notion that having ideas is not supect?

  • PACE Parent

    padraigpearse It may assist to point out that the SF ideology on education and schooling is based upon equality. Now that particular version of equality is best described as equality of outcome or result which is a socialist or even Marxist idea. John O’Dowd expressed it yesterday on the Stephen Nolan Show with his 40 minute unrebutted diatribe when he claimed that all schools were good schools. Clearly that is not so from an academic attainment aspect.
    The pro-grammar ideology would be best described as equality of opportunity – a difference that O’Dowd and other anti-choice educationalists deliberately misrepresent when they use the word equality..

  • lamhdearg

    heres a ?, did and of the journos, to whom John was speaking, ask him to name the donor.

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    @PACE Parent
    “The pro-grammar ideology would be best described as equality of opportunity”

    Here I fixed that for you:

    “”The pro-grammar ideology would be best described as equality of opportunity for the privileged”

  • lamhdearg

    to say that all children in the grammar system come from privileged background, is far from the mark.

  • lamhdearg

    equality of opportunity for the academically intelligent.

  • Reader

    padraigpearse: Perhaps you would like to do an article of your won, with the door open to the notion that having ideas is not supect?
    No, in this context I agree with Pete. Ideology is all very well for deciding what you want from an education system (integration, segregation, social or political indoctrination, academic excellence, equality of opportunity or equality of outcome, vocational training or general education, choice or conformity). Ideology is the right tool for the job – put it in the manifesto, hammer it out in the Executive.
    But ideology is worse than useless in working out *how* to get there – I gave the examples; 11/14/16; selection/setting/streaming. Ideology only pretends to answer those questions – it’s a fake

  • Reader

    lamhdearg: equality of opportunity for the academically intelligent.
    People are clearly concerned that selection doesn’t deliver that. We can see it’s not perfect.
    It’s just that it’s the only system that seems to be able to deliver a big ration of opportunity without holding back the very capable. The alternatives degenerate into either postcode selection for the ‘nice’ schools, or a parallel system of private schools. And neither of those provides anything remotely like equality of opportunity.

  • carnmoney.guy

    ‘lamhdearg -equality of opportunity for the academically intelligent.’

    equality of opportunity for the children of parents who can fund the coaching

  • lamhdearg

    i know (offhand) 7 people who went to Grammar schools, from working class backgrounds, none of whom had any, funded coaching, what they had was academically clever minds and parents that pushed them and pushed for them.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I feel there is room for a third Nonsense Minister thread after what O’Dowd has done today with regard to SEN children.