Parents will have last word on Grammar schools

Newton Emerson compares the impending reform of the education system – ie the plan to abolish the eleven plus and move towards a comprehensive system – with the coercive integration of black and white children in Kentucky. The Catholic school system, which has already embraced the concept, may be the first victim, as parents move their children to non Catholic Grammar schools in pursuit of the best education on offer.

By Newton Emerson:

Last November I spent five days in Louisville, Kentucky, a city of a quarter of a million people – and there wasn’t a soul to be seen. The sprawling centre was utterly deserted, with whole buildings simply missing, bizarrely reminiscent of an early-evening control zone in 1980s Belfast. This is the legacy of ‘busing’, the forced racial integration of Louisville’s schools.

Since 1975 white children have been sent to black schools and vice versa, by bus and by quota, regardless of the child or the school. As a result everyone who can afford it – black and white – lives outside the city boundaries. At the downtown offices of the Louisville Courier-Journal busing was the first thing the editor explained to us – the key to understanding his city.

At the offices of Mayor Jerry Abramson we learned of his campaign to extend those boundaries out beyond the ‘white flight’ suburbs in an attempt at reintegration. Nobody knows if it will work. No ideology, creed or policy yet devised has ever stopped people trying to do the best for their children at a purely individual level.

This is the fact that must be acknowledged now in Northern Ireland as our own education system faces imminent change. The cosy consensus of the present arrangement is coming to an end, exposed by early moves towards comprehensive schooling in the Catholic sector.

The paradox that has emerged is this: we are told that it is wrong for schools to select children by academic ability. At the same time, we are told that it is right for schools to select children by religious belief.

As both these moral arguments are based entirely on the advantages or disadvantages of selection, both cannot simultaneously be true. Where tribal integrity is at stake the people of Northern Ireland will generally accept contradictory positions – but where education is at stake, even the people of Northern Ireland will break rank in numbers.

The recent upsurge in Catholic enrolment at state grammar schools proves it, but this may only be the start of our own ‘white flight’. In Britain it has long been considered normal to move house to be near a good school, even if it means less space for more money. This will happen here. In much of England it is normal for families on average incomes to pay for private schooling, even if it means no money for anything else at all. This will happen here too.

The Department of Education, the maintained and controlled sectors, the churches, the political parties and the teaching unions can believe, say and do whatever they like. Everyone else will do everything they can to get their children into the best school possible – even if they have to build it themselves.

In Louisville people would be amazed to learn that our authorities plan to resolve the selection paradox by abolishing state grammar schools. Coerced integration wouldn’t work in Northern Ireland any better than it worked in America but coerced segregation won’t work either – because the issue for most parents is not integration or segregation, but coercion itself. Vested interests in the present system are already struggling to maintain their agendas.

Disgracefully, schools have been exempted from fair employment legislation. The Catholic church actively lobbies against the voluntary integrated sector. Clerics and councillors stuff the boards of state schools, terrified that mixed enrolment will dilute their unofficial ‘Protestant ethos’. Politicians who shamelessly compare themselves to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela promote segregation and hiring practices straight from Wallace’s Alabama and de Klerk’s South Africa.

Asking parents to accept all this and a failed comprehensive model as well is an ideological step too far – and how ironic that the maintained sector should be the first to feel the squeeze, having single-handedly created the Catholic middle class whose aspirations it now scorns.

Most ironic of all is that Northern Ireland already has a working compromise between Catholic, Protestant, grammar and comprehensive in Craigavon’s Dixon Plan. For over 30 years the children of Craigavon, Portadown, Lurgan and Banbridge have been selected by subject-based examination at the age of 14 after three years in comprehensive junior high schools. This ideologically impure system is successful and hugely popular – but only with parents, so during the Costello Report consultation the Department of Education completely ignored it.

Alas for those unable to buy their way out of the coming catastrophe, the Department of Education is about to learn that it is only what parents want that matters.

First published in the Irish News.

  • slug

    If they go ahead with getting rid of the 11+ I have no doubt that a group of the present grammar schools, the Voluntary Grammars that have independent status, will mainly declare themselves private and charge fees. (They currently charge fairly nominal capitation fees). This may be thought bad by some, but it will give you the opportunity of giving your children an excellent education if you are willing to save up for it.

    It is well worth paying to avoid an NI comprehensive!!!

  • slug

    “Clerics and councillors stuff the boards of state schools, terrified that mixed enrolment will dilute their unofficial ‘Protestant ethos’.”

    This may be true but I am not aware of this.

    On the other hand I know that many of our VOluntary Grammars actually aim to (and are very proud) to attract people from both sides of the community – something they have a long tradition of doing.

  • slug

    If there is more integration in the Voluntary Grammars (and I hear Strabane Grammar is now 50/50) that is the best news all year. Our education system has been way too segregated. The formally integrated sector is also growing strongly (albeit still only at 6% of total enrollment) and parents groups are taking the lead in setting up new schools

    For example POISED in Rowallane

  • slug

    I meant that last sentence to have a link to a parents group setting up a new school:

    For example POISED in Rowallane

    I love this sort of thing – private initiative.

  • Newton Emerson

    A man of the cloth has kindly written in to the Irish News to correct an assumption in this article – namely, that Catholic voluntary grammar schools are managed by the CCMS. They aren’t – my bad. However I don’t think it affects the point of the article.

    I’d also like to correct the gentleman from the Northern Ireland Council on Integrated Education who wrote in to complain that I was advocating selection. In fact I’m not advocating anything – I’m just pointing out that parents will do what they like regardless of anybody else’s educational ideology. (Although if it was up to me I’d bring in the Dixon Plan everywhere.)

  • slug

    Newton

    Were you a Doxon Plan guineapig yourself? Was this a good experience?

    People often say that the age of 11 is too early to separate by academic ability – the assumption inspiring, I assume, the Dixon Plan.

    I am not so sure. I suspect that intelligence and work-attitude is largely fixed at an early age – 11 seems not too late.

    I well remember the mental stimulation I got when going from ‘easy-peasy’ primary to rigorous Grammar School (amo, amas amat, etc) at the age of 11. It seemed about the right age. If anything I would have benefited from it sooner.

  • Newton Emerson

    I was a Dixon Plan guinea pig and like most people I know I have only warm fuzzy feelings about the whole experience – junior high school is an absolutely fantastic idea, everyone going through those awkward pubescent years in a safely contained environment with no ‘big kids’ laughing at you as various parts of you drop, rise and get hairy. Like all effective comprehensive schools they streamed us like Nazis and the 14+ is a tough exam – but it’s a subject-based exam so you can actually work for it and it doesn’t seem random or unfair. It’s not a perfect system, it’s “still selection” as the SDLP referred to it dismissively and the High Schools can still be a bit of a dumping ground – maybe I only appreciated it because I definitely wasn’t mature enough at 11 to decide my educational fate.

    However I’ll always remember how surprised I was when I got to university and talked to people who’d been to English comprehensives, where they’d spent seven years getting beaten up and being treated like freaks – by the teachers – just because they wanted to do ‘A’-levels. It sounded horrible. At a Dixon Plan grammar school you’re only there from 14-on to do GSCEs and A-levels, so the atmosphere is more like a sixth-form college.

    I did two vocational subjects at the High School as well (not every school can offer every subject) and again the attitude there was “We’re here to get qualifications” – in fact that was better preperation for university because you weren’t spoon fed at all.

    Anyway the ultimate accolade for the system is that estate agents put “Inside Dixon Plan catchment area” on ads for houses. Just like they’ll soon be doing for those voluntary grammars everywhere else, I’m afraid…

  • slug

    Somehow I prefer the idea of the Voluntaries going private and charging fees to the idea that you have to live within a certain catchment to go to them. In the end you pay about the same (just through higher house prices in the latter case) but with the former you have more choice over where to live.

  • slug

    Before I forget, thanks Newt for exaplining the Dixon plan. It does sound good.

  • A.W

    Slug

    In the end you pay about the same (just through higher house prices in the latter case) but with the former you have more choice over where to live.

    Cheap housing around BRA if it is any help?

  • Printemps

    RE: house prices vs fees for volunary grammars – Either way, middle class children will be further advantaged by their parents’ ability to purchase a better education. Comprehensives may not be perfect, but having a two-stream approach, where children may go the vocational route or the university route, seems more fair and more integrated.

    I also don’t think 11 is the age at which intelligence is set for life, although it can be a defining moment if one is marked as a loser at that age. Children mature at different rates and there are different forms of intelligence, which fluctuate and develop over time. Work attitude also depends on a number of factors, including peer group, parental attitude and teachers. Middle class children who are expected to perform may have their ways set (by parents) but children who do not have such advantages may take a bit longer to get to the same place.

    To condemn a child who is lazy at 11 to be lazy all his/her life is such a depressing attitude! (and lazy thinking as well)

  • Slug

    AW: BRA and Methody will just HAVE to go private, given their catchments 🙂

    Printemps: isn’t the point that you won’t really have comprehensives, because NI parents with good aspirations will do ANYTHING (and pay anything) to avoid their children mixing with the paramilitaries kids in the local sink estate?

  • looking in

    I can understand Newtons point about population dynamics and aspirational parents.

    I’d like to plug my own view on this, but acknowledege that 20 years have passed since I left school…… My own perspective is that a heavily subject streamed comprehensive system is best. I attended a rural school in scotland with a role of 1400. The year groups of 200-300 were at pre-O-grade, streamed into, for example, 8-10 maths or english classes on ability. In first year, the assesment of your ability was provided to the high school by your primary school teacher and there after by year on year performance in subject tests and developing ability. For example, in maths in years 1-2 there would be say 10 classes with the most able in maths class 1.1, all way down to 1.10. I started in 1.6. In year 2 I moved to 2.4. Third year enrolement for O-grades meant that classes 3.1-3.6 or .7 did the maths o-grade syllabus, the other 3 concentrated on the purely practical arithmetic syllabus in years 3 and 4. I remained in 3.4 and then 4.4, the kids streamed in the maths course did the arithmetiuc o-grade as well – but it was assumed that your mathematical ability necessitated only a brief review of topics such as compound intrest. For the less gifted they had a full two years to work through the basic arithmetic skills. The same approach was used effectively in all other core subjects. Again, not being gifted at art, but good at technical subjects, i was up in some and down in others. This meant that you really appreciated the subtlty of education and people having mixed aptitudes and abilities. Clearly you also mixed with all creeds and classes

    I can’t compare numbers etc. with NI but it meant that around 150 would stay on for the fifth year and highers and about 80 would remain for a sixth year, so in effect about 60%+ of initial total 1st year enrolement for the catchment remained in school beyond 16. Proportions going on to higher education would be no worse that national averages, and that from a rural school who frequently have many factors that mitigate against kids moving to HE sector at that time.

    Personally I developed very late, I drifted into a degree course, by the skin of my teeth, it was not until around 18-19 I finally got the meaning of the education thing. I have subsequently acquired degrees x 3 inc. higher degrees and have become an academic.

    I know this would not have occured if I had had to suffer the joke that is the 11+ and the grammer school dupe.

    BTW, yes we played rangers fans vs. celtic fans at football in PE and there was a low, largely ignorant, undercurrent of catholic-protestant stuff but I would venture that we all grew up wise and fairly rounded people unlike many of the stunded and skewed whom I have had the pleasure of encountering through my time in HE – to which the grammars and private schools aspire to send the vast majority of their products – and I use the word product in its manufacturing context.

    We owe all children an equal set of opportunities, particulalrly where health and education are concerned. I am astounded by the line taken here be some political parties that condems a very large portion of their electrorates children to educational squalor that arises from a failed 11+ and lack of true educational and social opportunity thereafter- – but maybe I’m actually stupid and that is what it is really about ensuring?

  • Young Fogey

    NI parents with good aspirations will do ANYTHING (and pay anything) to avoid their children mixing with the paramilitaries kids in the local sink estate?

    And the real losers will be bright working-class kids from definitely non-aspirational backgrounds.

    It amazes me that no-one ever asks why social mobility in England has decreased substantially since the 1960s.

  • pauljames

    once again newton delivers a tremendous bullseye, is it just because i agree with everthing he says or is this man the greatest political thinker of his generation?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    “It amazes me that no-one ever asks why social mobility in England has decreased substantially since the 1960s.”

    Yes but its still better than social mobility in modern day America. There is very little positive to be learnt from US public (as in state)schools. Boston has a terrible system. It still uses busing but around 90% of the kids in the Boston public school system are now non-white. The white community have effectively opted out and sent its children to private schools instead. Trying to force peoples social behaviour is rarely successful it would seem.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”once again newton delivers a tremendous bullseye, is it just because i agree with everthing he says or is this man the greatest political thinker of his generation?”

    A big hi to Newt’s mum for this comment.
    No seriously I’m just bitter at the demise of the Portadown News — one of the very few chortles we get in this part of the world.

  • willis

    Young Fogey

    Your question about socil mobility in England is formed like a Daily Mail headline. You are not a DM sub by any chance? Like all DM headlines of that ilk it assumes that only the DM is looking for the truth. So then. What proof is there that social mobility in England has declined in the last 40 years. How many women and members of ethnic minorities studied PPE at Oxford in 1965, and now?

  • slug

    “How many women and members of ethnic minorities studied PPE at Oxford in 1965, and now?”

    YF was talking about social mobility from working class – not ethnic minorities or women.

    And if you look at Oxfords intake (for PPE and all subjects) you will find it’s 50% privately educated, and most of the rest are from comprehensives in good areas.

  • Jock Tamson

    Selection at 14 sounds OK- but this pretty much happens at state schools in Scotland where I live ie you are placed in sets for many subjects you will take at Standard Grade. (GCSE equivalent)

    Comprehensive schools are generally OK where they are in a balanced community and everyone goes to them.

    In small town Scotland there are no private schools, no grammar schools, everyone goes to the local school and most seem to do OK. In big cities you get social selection- good schools in wealthy postcodes. In NI cities a few poor kids might get to mix with the posh grammar kids who’ve spent years preparing for their 11+. What happens to the majority of “thick” kids? They are told they are losers and need not be overly concerned with exams.

    The education debate is always driven by university entrance and employers claiming kids can’t read and write.

    Ironically, the expansion of university places means that the holy grail of a uni place is no longer sufficient for career or social success. Money and contacts have become more useful than ever. Bad news for those poor grammar kids.

    In the past there were plenty of jobs where reading and writing was less important- step forward all those millies (factory workers not “chavettes”.) It’s more of a problem now because the economy demands that even low-paid jobs require a better basic education.

    I suppose the other debate is about knowledge v skills, but the structure of education shouldn’t affect that.

  • willis

    And in 1965?

  • slug

    Dont forget that taken as an AVERAGE across ALL school shildren, NI does better in GCSE and A levels than England and Wales. A good system with a good reputation-don’t mess with it.

  • willis

    Slug

    I think you need to prove that Scotland is failing. Much more difficult.

  • Michael Wardlow

    As the “man from the N I Council for Integrated Education”, Iam glad to see Newt advocates all ability!
    We have 19 all ability colleges already in N Ireland .. all Integrated co –ed schools and last year 600 pupils didn’t make it in as we hadn’t enough places (enough to start about 7 new Colleges!). It is in interesting when comparators for GCSE are done (as recently) we see England and Wales.. (and so the grammar lobby applaud grammar results against these figures), but we do not see the Scottish results at the same time. These results, which reflect the non selective system there, need to be in as a comparator at this time of debate… For example, of the 411,000 entries for Scottish Standard Grade examinations, about 68% achieved results at levels 1-3 (which equates roughly with our standard GCSE A*-C). I know that a significant number of us would be of the view that it would be helpful if UK-wide comparisons were made available so a fully informed debate can take place. As a matter on interest last year’s GCSE results for integrated Colleges was almost 60% at A*-C so we do not even need to go to Scotland to see that all ability can and in fact does work!

  • slackjaw

    Can anyone tell me if there is any available comparison between the performance of the top 25-30% (or whatever % it is of kids who pass the 11+ these days) of students at all ability schools, and the performance of all students at grammar schools?

    Would this be a valid comparison to make in assessing how good grammar schools are in preparing students for exams?

  • DJ

    This all stems back to 1997 and Labour getting back into power. The local Department of Education- presumably to impress their new political masters- came up with research documents looking at the Dixon plan- which they basically rubbished, and the effects of selection- in which they discredited the 11+ exam. These papers led inexorably to the Burns Report and the Costello report, the central tenant of each was that NI’s system of selecting between post primary schools on the basis of academic ability had to end . The McGuinness ministerial sojourn was fairly irrelevant- the current upheavals are being pushed through by an element in the DED and a small group of ideologically driven pro comprehensive academics ie Prof Tony Gallaher of QUB whose name is all over the aforementioned Reports.

    Where we are now is here:-
    Academic selection ends in 2008 to be replaced by parental choice, basically. What happens to oversubscribed schools? DED says there won’t be any. Grammar schools say there will and the criteria they will be allowed to use will end up discriminating between pupils on the basis of how far they live from the school, with no reference to the aptitude of the pupils to the particular ethos of the school. Most Grammars will drift towards all ability comprehensives(a few big ones in Belfast will go private) with selection by postcode rather than academic ability. The Current controlled secondary will see their enrollments shrink further, squeezed by the bigger ‘Grammars’ and the expanding integrated colleges. Many will close.
    The maintained sector are already drifting towards (a religiously segregated) comprehensive system (despite the contradiction in terms) and will be generously rewarded by the DED for their compliance. Eg Garron Tower.

  • Printemps

    Duncan – your example of social mobility in the US concentrates strictly on Boston, where the division between rich and poor is marked. It can hardly be extrapolated that Boston is the model for the entire country, although I’m sure the upper classes are the same in any wealthy city.

    Like the example in small town Scotland, I attended school in the midwest of the US. I attended the town primary school and the locality’s secondary school. We studied according to different levels, but the school, by necessity, was mixed ability. We all studied maths and English according to ability, but otherwise followed the same basic curriculum. Once the basic subjects were covered, one could opt for physics, higher maths or business studies, woodshop or hairdressing (yes, really), according to interest. This system made a great deal of sense to me. The level of snobbery among students was much less than I see among students in NI.

    Academic ability was not seen as the end-all and be-all because it was possible to move back and forth through the strands. And even average students could go to university and take foundation courses to bring them up to speed. To contradict Fitzgerald, there are second acts in American lives and opportunities to better oneself across their lives. Marking a child out as a loser at 11 is damaging at a particularly sensitive time in one’s life.

    I do agree that contacts and money are most important now, which is unfortunate, but it was always so. Before the poor kids never got a look in, now they just have to work harder. But a good comprehensive system where kids mix could provide opportunities.

  • Newton Emerson

    Once again I should point out to Michael Wardlow that the article above wasn’t advocating anything – merely pointing out that parents will find a way around any system anyone else’s ideology imposes upon them.

    My preference, albeit not particularly ideological, is for the Dixon Plan. But parents who don’t like that system stump up the fees for Armagh Royal instead…

  • John East Belfast

    “And the real losers will be bright working-class kids from definitely non-aspirational backgrounds.

    Young Fogey’s comments above or spot on.

    The whole system in NI is not about academic selection or even religious selection.
    It is primarily social selection.

    Parents simply don’t want their kids spending 5 to 7 years of their life in the same classroom with the kind of gob shites our society is producing – those who engage in recreational rioting, burn to death dogs etc – we hear about them on the radio everyday.

    Those from paramilitary controlled sink housing estates for instance – guaranteed they will populate the secondary system and will make life hell for teachers and decent children there.

    I think Selection stinks but I know what motivates parents to push for it if they believe their child is a B2 and above – if he isn’t they will throw resources at it to try and get him there.

    If that fails and they can afford it they will go to Campbell College or even consider Rockport.

    Most parents (I have 4) don’t mind if their child is academically gifted or not – they are more concerned with his happiness and moral develoment.

    They feel this is better catered for in a grammar environment with mostly like minded kids and where discipline can be enforced.

    I believe in a comprehensive system but I would have a rigorous approach to expulsion and ‘special schools’ for those who are trouble makers or who won’t work or are disruptive. I would do this very early on – first 6 months if necessary.
    Academic selection can be done within a school where children weak at subjects can be identified and streamed accordingly.

    Take the trouble makers out of a Comprehensive system and parents wouldn’t object

  • Donnie

    JEB is spot on. The schools aren’t necessarily the problem, it’s the fact that teachers are powerless now to root out the troublemakers in classes where many kids genuinely want to learn.

    I failed the 11+ but I went to a good comp were the streams were spot-on and I went on to get good GCSEs, A-Levels and Degree and a Masters. I’m now in a good job but I can see how failing the 11+ in certain areas would lead to major problems.

    I think academic selection should remain although I’d be in favour of it at 14+ rather than 11+. When I was in P7 football and the A-Team was more important to me that structured reasoning!

    Resources need to be put into non-Grammar schools so that kids who want to learn are not left behind.

  • tok

    a very interesting and provocative argument in regards to education . I am not any great expert in education but in regards to the fact that in the uk and republic due to the lack of graduates in scientific subjects which could hurt our economic competitiveness in getting overseas investment etc is there anything that educational boards or government are doing in regards to thids or do they need to do anything in schools to help this ?

  • tok

    a very interesting and provocative argument in regards to education . I am not any great expert in education but in regards to the fact that in the uk and republic due to the lack of graduates in scientific subjects which could hurt our economic competitiveness in getting overseas investment etc is there anything that educational boards or government are doing in regards to thids or do they need to do anything in schools to help this ?

  • slug

    JEB

    “Most parents (I have 4) don’t mind if their child is academically gifted… “

    How did you end up with 4 parents – sounds fishy.

  • Alan

    Actually, Newt, it’s difficult to see what you’re advocating because you are doing the journalist thing and not advocating – which is a bit of a cop out.

    The Dixon Plan is potentially a huge cost for the system, meaning that we would have to build new schools or bus kids to areas with an available school in a time in which pupil numbers are tumbling every year (300 fewer 1st Formers this year in Belfast and 280 or so fewer again next year). Short term arrangements would then have to be reviewed after three years.

    Dixon is superficial, it passes the buck and still allows grammars to feed off the best pupils and leaves the rest to languish. Remember that some Grammars already take kids with “D’s” and this will increase as numbers fall. The grammars will become comprehensive whether they like it or not (Methody was accepting B2’s last year). They will have to offer vocational and remedial courses

    Costello attempts to get schools co-operating rather than competing in order to ease this process. It isn’t doctrinaire, rather it steps up to the mark on the real issues of educational moment, unlike those who argue on behalf of the Grammar lobby.

  • DJ

    Alan says “The grammars will become comprehensive whether they like it or not… They will have to offer vocational and remedial courses…Costello attempts to get schools co-operating rather than competing in order to ease this process.

    Lets think about what this means in practice. the DED’s latest consultation document arising out of the Costello Report is on Admissions Criteria. No one has really mentioned this yet but in it the DED says that “Post 16 pupils should have an access to a minimum of 27 courses of which one third must be academic and at least one third must be vocational”
    This is what where the co operation bewteen schools which you advocate will presumably come in.

    So in theory a Grammar School in a provincial town will have to co operate will the local Technical College to offer and provide a wide choice of vocational courses for these 16 year olds. Now in my provincial town this might just possibly have been conceivible 20 years ago when there was a fully Functioning Techical College 1 mile down the road, but now that has gone. It closed 10 years ago to be replaced last year by what is little more than an adult education centre catering mostly for ‘Silver Surfers’ and people want to brush up on their Spanish or oil painting.

    Pupils would have to be bussed 15 miles away to the nearest Institute for Further Education. How could this be properly timetabled??

    So while the idea of co operation between schools sounds cosy, how practical is it in the real world?

  • Newton Emerson

    That’s because I’M NOT ADVOCATING ANYTHING.
    Is there a need around here to put everyone on one or the other side of an established argument?
    What I’m saying is that you can put in any system you like – and parents will buck it to get any perceived advantage for their children that they can. It might be better to recognise this, and make it less reliant on family income, rather than insist on everybody being educated together in a lovely garden where they are all equal, but special, but in a special equal way.

  • willis

    Frankly the dismissive attitude to the Dixon Plan is hard to understand. I have yet to meet anyone educated under the plan who has a bad word to say about it. Alan’s point about resources is reasonable , but we are hardly short of school buildings. The SEELB is currently based in an old school and how long will they be around?

  • Alan

    Willis,

    Yes, I should not have said build schools, but open schools. There would have to be a whole cadre of new princpals, and staff complement down to janitors and meals staff on top of investment to meet the requirements of the curriculum .

    DJ,

    Practicality is an issue everywhere. Though it is probably less of an issue in urban areas. If a young person has an interest in design, sound engineering, metal bashing or journalism, co-operation will work better than saying no as happens at the minute.

    Of course, as a trainee journalist, the student would learn not to advocate, and as a counseling student not to get upset and shout about it.

  • Newton Emerson

    I’M NOT A JOURNALIST.

    (I’m a columnist.)

  • willis

    Easy Tiger!

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Printemps,

    I wasn’t referring to social mobility in using Boston as an example. Only to the fact of the funny and I am sure unintended outcome of busing as a social policy. You intend to mix school but you end up with 90% minority instead and only 10% white in majority white city.

    Its a bit off subject but I cant let it go that easy. The social mobility of people in the USA is declining across the nation. America is developing an hereditary elite who are gaining most of the economic benefit whilst the rest of the nation finds its wealth barely increasing at all. The income gap is enormous and nearing the largest it has ever been in US history. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think-tank, argues that between 1979 and 2000 the real income of households in the lowest fifth (the bottom 20% of earners) grew by 6.4%, while that of households in the top fifth grew by 70%. The family income of the top 1% grew by 184%—and that of the top 0.1% or 0.01% grew even faster. Back in 1979 the average income of the top 1% was 133 times that of the bottom 20%; by 2000 the income of the top 1% had risen to 189 times that of the bottom fifth. The key difference is that the entrance to this elite is disguised as a meritocracy. The divide is one of education and most importantly where you went to school. So whilst a Harvard degree (and its ilk) is supposed to be a mark of meritocratic ability it has become a totem of the privileged elite (70% of Harvard undergrads come from families with incomes in the +$200,000 per year range or top 5%.)

    So in America the best indicator of where you will end up in life is where you began. That is not to say that some people won’t go from log cabin to boardroom, or Whitehouse but they are the tiny exception to the vast norm. A classic social survey in 1978 found that 23% of adult men who had been born in the bottom fifth of the population (as ranked by social and economic status) had made it into the top fifth. Earl Wysong of Indiana University and two colleagues recently decided to update the study. They compared the incomes of 2,749 father-and-son pairs from 1979 to 1998 and found that few sons had moved up the class ladder. Nearly 70% of the sons in 1998 had remained either at the same level or were doing worse than their fathers in 1979. The biggest increase in mobility had been at the top of society, with affluent sons moving upwards more often than their fathers had. They found that only 10% of the adult men born in the bottom quarter had made it to the top quarter.

    There is also the study carried out by Thomas Hertz, an economist at American University in Washington, DC, who studied a representative sample of 6,273 American families (both black and white) over 32 years or two generations. He found that 42% of those born into the poorest fifth ended up where they started—at the bottom. Another 24% moved up slightly to the next-to-bottom group. Only 6% made it to the top fifth. Upward mobility was particularly low for black families. On the other hand, 37% of those born into the top fifth remained there, whereas barely 7% of those born into the top 20% ended up in the bottom fifth. A person born into the top fifth is over five times as likely to end up at the top as a person born into the bottom fifth.

    Similarly the Economic Policy Institute also argues that social mobility has declined since the 1970s. In the 1990s 36% of those who started in the second-poorest 20% stayed put, compared with 28% in the 1970s and 32% in the 1980s. In the 1970s 12% of the population moved from the bottom fifth to either the fourth or the top fifth. In the 1980s and 1990s the figures shrank to below 11% for both decades. The figure for those who stayed in the top fifth increased slightly but steadily over the three decades, reinforcing the sense of diminished social mobility.

    Of course like all social science its not certain but those who believe that the USA is the worlds most socially mobile country or that the American dream is alive and well need to think again.

  • michael (integrated man)

    Great to have the debate.. this is needed also in the public domain! Seems all we get are one set of figures set against another set…. and now we have estate agents selling houses on the back of the surmised need to buy property near perceived good schools! (Incidentially grammar schools have always used post codes or feeder primaries in admissions so what’s new????)The fact that this is only one of a menu seems to have been ommitted. The cost to NI for a selective system needs to be addressed … yes we have so called high achievers, but what about those who fail to achieve their potential due to being selected out of the system? Who pays the price for the success (academic) of the few? Costello is no lonnger a report.. it is now Gvt policy which is in the course of being implemented….the legislation will follow soon to embed it.What we need to do is look creatively at how best we can deliver education in a country with declining birth rates (almost 50,000 spare places) underachieveing pupils, increasing sectarianism and working towards a shared future with a thoughgoing review of public administration ongling. We have at last the chance to move ahead.. and so we need to become creators and not consumers of the system… any takers?

  • michael (integrated man)

    Great to have the debate.. this is needed also in the public domain! Seems all we get are one set of figures set against another set…. and now we have estate agents selling houses on the back of the surmised need to buy property near perceived good schools! (Incidentially grammar schools have always used post codes or feeder primaries in admissions so what’s new????)The fact that this is only one of a menu seems to have been ommitted. The cost to NI for a selective system needs to be addressed … yes we have so called high achievers, but what about those who fail to achieve their potential due to being selected out of the system? Who pays the price for the success (academic) of the few? Costello is no lonnger a report.. it is now Gvt policy which is in the course of being implemented….the legislation will follow soon to embed it.What we need to do is look creatively at how best we can deliver education in a country with declining birth rates (almost 50,000 spare places) underachieveing pupils, increasing sectarianism and working towards a shared future with a thoughgoing review of public administration ongling. We have at last the chance to move ahead.. and so we need to become creators and not consumers of the system… any takers?

  • Printemps

    Duncan – I didn’t claim that America is the most socially mobile country in the world. (Incidentally, I would love to know what country is, do you know?)I would think that it’s similar here too – that where you start out in life is where you are likely to end up. Or are you merely pointing out the fact that Americans are deluding themselves if they think they can move up the social ladder whereas people here accept their place and get on with it?

    I doubt that social mobility is much better in England than it is in America – but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

  • susan

    DJ you think your current technical college doesn’t provide much now? The powers that be are currently proposing to have mass mergers of colleges so that only 6 super colleges will be left. They say no sites will be closed but considering the reason they are doing it is to save money I give it 5 years before only the larger urban sites are left. How will alternative and vocational education be provided then?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Printemps,

    As I understand it the UK is marginally better yes. But you hit the nail on the head in that majorities of Europeans generally believe that their fate is decided by thing outside their control. In the UK is a slim majority against. In the USA around 32% believe that. So yes the key difference is that whilst the USA is no more and possible less socially mobile than comparable European nations most Americans don’t see it that way. It’s a peculiar fact of American life really and underpins much of the decision making going on in the USA. Personally I think the American Dream is the American delusion but then I am European!

  • Young Fogey

    Your question about socil mobility in England is formed like a Daily Mail headline.

    Really? I wouldn’t know as I don’t read the Daily Mail but surely you’re not trying to avoid dealing with real arguments by hurling personalised bits of abuse, are you?

    What proof is there that social mobility in England has declined in the last 40 years. How many women and members of ethnic minorities studied PPE at Oxford in 1965, and now?

    Yep, there are lots more women at Oxford than 40 years ago, almost entirely middle-class women; there are some British ethnic minority people, almost entirely middle-class. If you’re born poor, whether a man or woman, black or white, your chances of getting to Oxford are a lot worse than they were 40 years ago. At its lowest point in the 1960s, the proportion of privately educated students at Oxford was below a quarter, the proportion of working class students just below half (now a big fat 9% now).

    What happened after the mid-1960s? Well, Grammar Schools were abolished in most of mainland Britain. Why were Grammar Schools abolished? Because Tony Crossland (educated at the exclusive Highgate School ) felt that his rather “Upper” sort of background would harm his leadership chances and needed to show himself to be a radical education. Combined with the latest ivory tower theories on child development it made a lethal cocktail of self-righteousness, bourgeouis guilt, naive Summer-of-Love radicalism and plain old Santorum and buried working-class children in it.

    My argument for grammar schools is a progressive one; the Ken Bloomfield let’s keep grammar schools to stop our kids getting social diseases from the poor line makes me ill. I’m not the only one who makes it, either. However, your instant tagging of me as right-wing for making shows just how far the dominant strand of bourgeois leftist thinking has drfited from the best interests of the working-class. Your comment about racial equality, stereotypically, misses the elephant in the sitting room that the most effective way of bringing about greater social equality, in the UK anyway, is to narrow the differences in life-chances between people from working-class and middle-class origins, the vast majority of Black and Asian people being working-class.

    Of course a system that fails 70% of children would be a scandal; it’s difficult to make an argument that it does actually fail 70% of children when so many young people go from secondary schools to University. Our system fails a smaller proportion than that, but it does fail too many. It fails kids who are never going to succeed academically but have other talents; it fails young people who would be better served going to work at 16 with part-time education; it fails young people who get into thousands of pounds of debt to get lower class degrees from third-rate universities that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on; it fails young people whose home lives are a mess because we’ve disempowered teachers as authority figures; it fails boys, especially working-class boys, because we’ve created an overfeminised school system that interprets masculinity as threatening behaviour.

    I don’t see comprehensivisation doing anything to change that. But I do see it blocking the advancement of bright working-class kids, and leaving us with the same sterile, fossilised, middle-class élite as England has and Scotland is rapidly developing.

    PS – failing the 11+ hardly codemns you for life – you can leave school at 15 and go on to me Minister of Education, for crying out loud!

    PPS – Of the pre-1992 universities only Aston, Ulster, and Queen’s University in Belfast exceeded their benchmark for state school and working class students. Oh, it’s that terrible Grammar School system persecuting the poor again!

  • DJ

    DJ you think your current technical college doesn’t provide much now?

    Just to be clear Susan, the one I am talking about is an off shoot (it is described as a campus) of the main site which is 16 miles away. It is only an adult eduction centre, with a nice computer suite and a cafe. What used to be on site 20 years ago was a bone fide Technical College populated mostly with 15 to 17 year olds doing ‘vocational’ courses.

    Young Fogey, have you read Stephen Pollard’s web site? He wrote a book with the current junior education Minister Lord Adonis a few years ago, and is from a left wing background but is very pro Grammar.

  • Alan

    YF,

    Selection has left us with a rump of functionally illiterate and innumerate adults who pass on their problems (particularly their hang ups about school and education generally) to their children. That will continue unless something is done about selection on the basis of academic ability.

    Failure at the 11+ can undermine young people for decades but all the grammar lobby can say is, *but don’t look at it as failure.* What rubbed the salt into the wounds was when the GBA demanded that the Department ignore anecdotal evidence from people about how it effected them personally.

    A progressive position recognises that the system has to change and that change has to move towards greater equity across the board. I’ve sat in assembly halls and seen the reaction when parents of children with learning difficulties asked if their child’s challenges would be taken into consideration if they were to do the test. My heart really went out to them.

    Surely, children from the same family should go to the same school, yet how can you make that equitable with selection.

    Most parents want a decent education with the teaching of banded ability groups across key subjects such as maths, english, science and languages, the other stuff can sort itself out. More than that they want schools to be safe for their children to attend, both while they are there and on their way home. Selection doesn’t even start to aswer the key questions.

    The Tony Crosland comments are just plain nonsense. It was a genuine attempt to cut into a class system that distracted from the real issues across society. Young people need to know that society supports them and will encourage their endeavours, not drop them at the first opportunity.

  • susan

    DJ under rationalisation which is the Department of Education’s favourite word leisure courses the ‘silver surfers’ or as they call them ‘leisure courses’ will be full cost recovery or close. As for bussing students in the colleges have enough problems managing the few school classes they currently have in. Colleges have students from all ages and back grounds how to keep them separate if large numbers come in? It hasn’t been thought through.

  • Young Fogey

    Selection has left us with a rump of functionally illiterate and innumerate adults who pass on their problems (particularly their hang ups about school and education generally) to their children.

    If that were true, then non-selective school systems would have a much smaller number of functionally illiterate and innumerate adults and would be well on their way to cracking the problem of multi-generational poverty. They aren’t. There is no evidence that in the socially and culturally similar societies of Wales, Scotland, England and the Republic that they have less of these problems. In fact there’s some evidence that the selective system in Northern Ireland produces more social equity and does more to break down multi-generational poverty than its counterparts in other parts of Britain and Ireland.

    Your hypothesis fails because the facts don’t support it. Sorry.

    That will continue unless something is done about selection on the basis of academic ability.

    Again, the evidence from our neighbours is that ending selection on the basis of ability coincided with a rapid drop in the educational performance. So the facts, again, don’t fit the hypothesis.

    What rubbed the salt into the wounds was when the GBA demanded that the Department ignore anecdotal evidence from people about how it effected them personally.

    Good for them. The plural of anecdote is not data.

    A progressive position recognises that the system has to change and that change has to move towards greater equity across the board.

    I agree that the system has to change. I agree that the system needs to respond better to the needs of children with lower levels of academic ability and with less supportive home environments. I do not think moving to a comprehensive system will do a single thing to do that and the international evidence supports me. Are you sure you aren’t letting dogma stand in the way of progress, here?

    I’ve sat in assembly halls and seen the reaction when parents of children with learning difficulties asked if their child’s challenges would be taken into consideration if they were to do the test. My heart really went out to them.

    An academically focused learning environment is not the best place for children with learning difficulties – and could be extremely damaging to them. A learning environment which doesn’t see academic attainment as the only measure of success and which can nurture their talents and do so in such a way that secures their economic future is. Shoehorning kids into a one size fits all system does nothing to address that.

    Surely, children from the same family should go to the same school,

    Why? Serious question. I just don’t understand this point.

    Most parents want a decent education with the teaching of banded ability groups across key subjects such as maths, english, science and languages, the other stuff can sort itself out.

    Actually, most parents want to keep the 11+, as you well know. The DEL, academia and the left-wing establishment has decided to force upon parents a system that, across the social spectrum, they don’t want “for their own good”.

    More than that they want schools to be safe for their children to attend, both while they are there and on their way home. Selection doesn’t even start to aswer the key questions.

    And comprehensivisation does?

    The Tony Crosland comments are just plain nonsense. It was a genuine attempt to cut into a class system that distracted from the real issues across society.

    You need to brush up on your history of British education:

    “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.”

    Tony Crosland (Highgate School, Trinity College Oxford), Minister of Education, 1965, the year the attempt to abolish grammar schools began. And it had everything to do with the dominant thinker in the contemporary Labour Party, Crosland. and his perception of his private education as a weakness in any future leadership campaign. Comprehensivisation has also proven perfect for parents of Crosland’s background – they get to support a nice, fluffy, progressive policy while at the same time eliminating lots of pushy working-class kids from competing with their children for elite higher education places and jobs. How convenient!

    Young people need to know that society supports them and will encourage their endeavours, not drop them at the first opportunity.

    Young people also need an education that suits them, not an ideological viewpoint.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Alan said:
    I’ve sat in assembly halls and seen the reaction when parents of children with learning difficulties asked if their child’s challenges would be taken into consideration if they were to do the test.

    Why should their learning difficulties be taken into account? A test is meant to be a measure of their ability, not a measure of how hard they tried. It’s a whole other argument to discuss how to look after these people and give them a reasonable chance at a fullfilling and independent life, but issuing them with downright false qualifications is just nonsense. Qualifications should not be sweeties which should be handed out to people who’ve had a hard time. They are supposed to be an attempt at an objective measure of a quantity.

    What do you do with downright stupid people? Is that a learning difficulty? If we take all learning difficulties into acccount, and all learning abilities, we should just give everything the same result in every exam!

    And if some students are to be allowed extra time to do exams, then surely their future employer should be entitled to get extra working hours out of them so that they can perform at the standard of their exam result! And before you point out that an education system should be about more than producing economic units, let me tell you I agree! But I want to know how false exam results will actually help these people in any real way.

    Taller people are known to do better in life, so by your logic we should issue dwarves with certificates stating that they are 7 foot tall.

  • Young Fogey

    the current junior education Minister Lord Adonis a few years ago, and is from a left wing background but is very pro Grammar.

    I wouldn’t exactly call Adonis left-wing, but he does come from a very deprived background and benefited from the 11+.

  • DJ

    Not Adonis, Stephen Pollard who used to work for the Fabien society

    http://www.stephenpollard.net/cat_education.html

  • Alan

    YF and others,

    The great lie about education in NI is that it leads its children to success. It leads an elite to success and denies opportunities to others. There is constant criticism of ending selection. Yet the interesting thing is that those who want to retain selection can say – *Yes there is a problem* – but they have never – never – suggested any solution to the problem. It’s either broken or its not broken and YF and others have agreed that it’s broken.

    You consistently criticise comprehensive education, but that is not what I or others have argued for. It is also not what Costello argued for. It is not what Burns argued for. Look at their arguments and try to answer the real problems that they are trying to deal with.

    Quoting articles on the proportion of people getting to elite universities serves no purpose other that to reiterate the fact that our elite schools do well for elite pupils. That is not our problem.

    There is a real need to stop children being branded as failures including within the family. It cuts deep and hurts kids unnecessarily. There is no good reason why a child of any ability should not enter the same school door and play in the same playground as others. There is no reason why they should not attend classes appropriate to their needs when they are at that same school. We should be integrating, not segregating.

    *Young people also need an education that suits them, not an ideological viewpoint.*

    Neither myself, nor Costello, nor Burns are approaching this from an ideological position. That is a farcical and tendentious statement that is not borne out by the facts. We are trying to fix a system that is broken, a system that you recognise is broken. There has been lengthy discussion over the years and a genuine compromise has been reached, a compromise that does not include comprehensivisation.

    It is the pro-grammar position that is being consistently tendentious and, I will say, ideologically driven in its determination that the only educational policy that cannot change is selection. Such dogma begets only stasis.

  • barnshee

    “It leads an elite to success and denies opportunities to others. “

    Not trueSociety is embarassed with opportunities for people. Year zero university courses (don`t worry only one E come anyway for an extrax year ) BTECS, NVQs- second chances -life long learning,resits — all money spent to try to facilitate the lazy, ill mannered, aggressive bastards on collision course with the dole/local parlimilitary career.

    The eleven plus simply provides an opportunity for people to avoid having their childrens education ruined by scum.

    Neut has it spot on —those –with money will buy their way out of problems where they can.

    Who will suffer and pay when his prophecy falls

  • G.M.C.

    As to “going private”, these independent schools referred to as grammar schools for years are and have been to the fullest extent private of course.

    It is only that they have expected a good majority of their pupils, perhaps even 90 to 95 percent in some schools, by their selection procedures, advertised standards and lack of competition to have their place paid for to the school, as in any scholarship situation, here by the government. What has been seen is effectively the opposite situation regarding scholarship places at the private schools to most of the rest of the country, though the schools are no less independent companies or “private” here.

    Any child who has wished to apply themselves academically, possessing the ability and, crucially having teaching which facilitated this, strange teaching this though, and support from the family, and for whom this worked out for had then the basic requirements for going to nearly any if not any of the region’s selective independent schools. Fees allowance and selection criteria were thus gainable in one task.

    I have seen and others who went to other schools have related also, perhaps in less terrible terms, how this allows for paucity. Friends who were attending other independent grammar schools in Belfast and Holywood, B.R.A. and Methody included, though this was over a decade ago, agreed with general assertions that grammar school eduction here was, to quote one teenage person of yesteryear being helpful, “not very good.”

    I have seen how it allows for a kind of Lord of the Flies culture with in my experience tutors who have no right in anyone’s imagination to teach any child anything at all. And they are still there. Absolutely nothing should have been taught by such persons and largely this was in fact the case though they joked and cajoled and spoke of nothing which didn’t invoke only creased brows in concern. I gained a very basic three r’s education which would not have been any more comprehensive than a basic education 70 years ago.

    In a way I can’t see how this was the fault of the school in some areas, where people this sick concerned only with some mentally ill film star impression of how they seem, in case the good inspector God comes, were not able to teach effectively at all or even relate to any person who could be found at any type of school are the type to examine examination papers only with regard to the full extent of what is taught. A way only to get through the requirements of each and every paper was found and related as if in a kind of very basic study guide, or a super fast method to passing exams, nothing at all to do with education often, and not in any general sesne.

    The G.C.S.E. English paper I took, for which there was no teaching at all for those in my class at grammar school in fourth and fifth year, but for a few weeks of dashed coursework writing before the examination, was the lowest assault on pupils drowning in incredulity and standards which were very often lower than primary school. Most of the papers were tasks in the box where lies tests of identifying timetable information from apparent real life examples of bus and rail timetables. Another example was something very like “write in three very short sentences a classified advertisement as you have lost your pet”. These accounted for around eighty percent or more of the test for this course. I believe the most trying elements were two or three questions asking for creative writing of two thirds of a page to a page, the pages having large line spacing, to the tune of something like “write something about yourself.” Have things got any better at NISEAC? Perhaps I mean the fault is not the teachers though as they, nearly all always, to even all at times, did not have the two crucial factors for a teacher in such a school: the notion of personal accountability (it is imperative for me to get across if speaking of this that here, this was at the level of a very wayward and deviant two year child, actually, though exams when they came could be passed reasonably well) or the notion of education and awareness in a human and cultural sense at all, testing, qualifications and jobs aside. There was never any single indication of the latter at all, as if these people who go to schools as a matter of course beyond the doors would “get it” when you were finished, it seemed from the tutors though! (What else would they do when it acutally was all over, and categorising would set in quickly after one would find it hard to think what on earth it all was.) And so they were not even of the cage where blame can even be found to stick.

    At an independent grammar school which has to do absolutely nothing, and it seems this was the highest criteria it used for teacher selection and teaching impetus, to ensure it has hundreds of the top examined students coming in each year along with a much smaller number of perhaps concerned paying students, the school system was a license for evil in getting away with nothing and less than nothing very often. To me it was only tremendously funny day after day. “You have to laugh” ad infinitum, as it was, there is nothing else and hilarious to this degree had not been even approximately imagined to such a distance before this. The teachers were good enough to allow themselves to be imagined teachers in terrible pulpish books as far as exercising one’s cerebral organ went, but this was perhaps one of only a couple of virtues at all.

    I doubt very much that the students I have referred to whom went to other schools had such a level of bad education, but “not very good” and “sometimes terrible” suggest that the system that was to various degrees allowed for a still black hole in education and the experience and education of young people. This state of affairs was agreed with by some of these young persons from other schools.

    I was a pupil at St. Mary’s Grammar School, Belfast.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Sorry for hijacking this education-related thread, but I just wondered if anyone else say the Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm? It was called “The Dyslexia Myth” – you can guess what it was about.

    Brilliant show. I was always a bit suspicious of the dyslexia bandwagon.

    The proof is there that so-called dyslexic students are no different to other children with reading difficulties. And the best system to improve the reading levels of these children, whether they were diagnosed with dyslexia or not, was to teach them the basics – which letter goes with which sound. The scientists came up with a pretty comprehensive and detailed plan and when the teachers and assistants were trained properly, the system was up to 8 times more effective than the specialist dyslexia programmes.

    Even the Dyslexia Institute didn’t argue against the findings. And there was someone from the National Primary Strategy (or something like that – I think it was a government quango) was in favour of this new observation.

    Of course, among the scientific community, this isn’t really news at all. As usual, the gap between the scientific knowledge and political/joe-public consensus is enormous. But with dyslexia, it appears as if the truth is out at last.

  • willis

    OC

    Wathed the show also, and like you found it thought provoking, however it is a bit simplistic to say that the best system was to teach the basics. The successful system depended on a high level of one to one interaction between pupil and specialist. I would be interested to see what Dyslexia experts thought. As you say, the Dyslexia Institute took a close interest in the research and appeared to be behaving in a professional way.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Yes, it said that a minority of students should be taught in small groups and that some would best be taught one to one.

    I was referring in particular to that fact that the one-to-one teaching seemed to be teaching the basics (although I’m sure the teachers would need to be well trained), as opposed to wierd and wonderful fantasy schemes involving coloured glasses and text-to-speech laptops et cetera, as pushed by the dyslexia industry today.

  • G.M.C.

    The situation I describe above, in a general sense, regarding the existence of the independent grammar schools in perhaps often creating something a ditch in education, by nature of their safeness, totalitarian nature, their knowledge thatt there is no easy alternative, and also by poor fortune, is compounded by their social situatedness within the great truth as described in the post before mine above by barnshee. If one is to put these two blatant truths together, in a real situation as I have experienced, the result is something much worse than a very pitiful real life phenomenon.

    I describe the rock bottom situation of this terrible system, a system which in theory one would imagine would be very different and most likely at least quite beneficial for those who are selected, setting aside how things would be for those who don’t achieve the opportunity to go to an independent school or can’t afford this or won’t pay. It is a harsh and probably very unexpected and unexpectable truth that for many of the “lucky” ones, the system has been extremely, extremely bad. (I think that this though, applied in different ways to a number of schools, and I believe that perhaps most schools were affected in some way by the opposite of what one would expect of safeness and control and, in theory only, intellectual selection where independent school pupils are concerned.)

    Whatever happens regarding state-owned / private / selective / non-selective schools and the bulk of government scholarships to independent schools, through the recent decisions of the government here and the recent and coming decisions of schools which are currently independent, one moves immediately to thinking that there are serious, serious defects in the modern government schemes, where accountability must always lie. These are serious defects concerning teacher training, crucially in the utmost teaching inspection, and of course in the poor salaries afforded to the role which involves some of the very hardest and most demanding work. Brilliant teachers, and a good number, need to be attracted to every school, independent and state-owned, by boards and properly concerned school owners, and there must be a valuing of each teacher’s ability which is some large distance above that which exists today. And this all must be checked, and rigourously and continuously, and not over just a few days, and harsh and immediate verdicts delivered with consequences which work (not recommendations which are nearly never adhered to it is experienced). Teachers should be sent back to teacher training instiutions, and also then left to develop their own courses with aid if thought required. Or simply taken away from pupils. Otherwise the same “fool you” circles will carry on in infinity.

    I and others have seen that this is in fact a necessity for a decent education system. This means that, along with positions at universities and further education colleges, where standards in even the supposed top insitutions may be absolutely (unbelievably, ever) diabolical, as I have experienced, new teachers will need to be employed for periods of perhaps six months or a year, more for further education tutors, at their employing institutions to develop their own courses, before they are to teach.

    I have witnessed, to make one example, a seventeen year old with nearly no pre-college training at all in his discipline, attend one of the supposed and reportedly best higher education institutions in the country and leave without gaining nearly any single advantage in the way of relevant knowledge, expertise, fluency or experience in the discipline supposedly studied. I then saw how this person went to do the one year postgraduate teaching certificate course at the same institution and walk straight into teaching in a private international school as head of department. Any C minus 13 or 14 year old student even with no awareness at all in this area, given two months tuition, at the age of 13 or 14 would be an endlessly better teacher in this discipline than this young man could ever be. With regard to this example which I witnessed in my life, one could be glad that this person did not stay in the country, speaking normally.

    But it seems, the government are crying out for anyone, anyone at all, with or without fake degrees from “top” or “bottom” universities, where not much occurs, to attend the P.G.C.E. course and roll straight into teaching.

    Of course, it should be, it must be, that this course should only take some of the approximately high achievers, if not the very most capable and intellectual aware people, and the salaries offered should be something comparable to a better-paid practioner of the law, at the very, very least 45 to 50 thousand pounds a year, and moving to nearly double this as a matter of course. If it is desired to introduce, really and not in an unserious manner as has been seen before, the idea of “superteachers” the pay would be more still. (Of course, in companies of the people’s law, the partners and some others who merely advise on the usually straighforward rules in law firms receive many times this upper sum annually.)

    There is no reason whatsoever in this world and here in this country, given the element of a radical change in teaching selection, teaching preparation practice and inspection, why teachers should not be some of the more if not most highly paid workers in society, both in private and state-owned schools. (Surely the priveleges, remuneration and inspiration in terms of salary should be, if anything, more in the latter, in many ways, often to be found something of a less easy and facilitating environment.)

    Finally, I would never choose to put anyone through segregated education, although my experience is acknowledged not universal.

  • G.M.C.

    Finally, the rough thing about the wake-up comments I have made regarding how one grammar school at least in the city had abused the system in the worst imaginable way and to an unbelievable extent, comes from the unrealised bitterness of the truth of the two colliding verges referred to above. These are the want for parents and also, of course, often, children to “avoid scum” – and then the unrealised dimension of scum which was found at grammar school of a much worse persuasion than envisaged or experienced previously, or believed then and still believed more even, which could ever be found, though they are not without similar friends all over the country and the globe. Some of the very worst pupils from the state primary school went along to the local grammar with the best.

    The system allowed for the serious and extreme cultivation of scum and especially, from the school itself of, then, the extreme culture of cultivation of scum by this company.

    I watched many pupils being stunted unbelievably, to unimaginable proportions, not in terms of academic development but in terms of the most basic functionalism. I can’t even in some remote way which is about being aware oneself universally, imagine what it could have been like for most pupils as I also spent a large amount of my own time at music school, and so had amongst largely more human and blessed adults, although it is best to say that this institution was not unaffected by the school which I went to in very real ways.

    Most left academic hopes or natural academic life – this only very often lower unselective secondary standard anyway – at the door. And so the company, not knowing in their frequent role of lowest government standard teacher required to pass exams, how to deal with what they saw as snobs (without briefcases or something like this) who in fact were true, and 11 to 18 year olds who were some leagues safely within and then beyond the boundaries of very reasonable, went for the jugular, for the lives and beings of young people. Day after day after day after day.

    And then they started to support the role and purpose of the most damaging students who were damaged in perhaps understandable reactions to this appalling place.

    Things are changing and many parents who themselves were prescribed Christian Roman Catholic belief in their upbringing, are beginning not to favour the schools of this religious group affiliation as a matter of course, and naturally are beginning to see each school as a school. There is not such a sense of foreignness anymore in the schools which are not seen as owned by the church men, where before these schools, whatever they were like, were seen as known and not strange as they were, it seemed, smiled on by those who were respected in the church.

    During a summer after I had left school, whilst I was enrolled in the institution which I had chosen as a university outside of Northern Ireland, I along with another past pupil who also was attending the institution I went to, went to have a look at the school. Talking to a sports, religion and history teacher briefly, I discerning calmly if the school was doing alright as one does perhaps, I related in response to the teacher’s questions if I enjoyed the school that I didn’t. The teacher asked me if I was likely to publish my opinion, and startled, I gave a few responses. These were that I could foresee both that I would be of the frame of mind certainly not to do any such thing, that I hadn’t a clue with respect to this strange question how that would come about, and also that I could foresee that I might in the appropriate situations if I felt compelled to and if it should be a good thing.

    The teacher then responded, “We’ll get you there”, meaning I discerned after some confused enquiry, he indicated to those appropriate situations.

    I expressed my confusion, and I discerned that the teacher appeared ill to me, and I asked him if he was feeling alright. He kept saying things like “get you”, and “save you for” then, and I began to utter comments calmly and clearly indicating that I was leaving.

    Within ten minutes and I was walking down the longish school avenue which back then was part of private ground which has now houses on it, and as I was leaving from this approaching middle aged Gaelic football player I received the hardest and sorest and most extreme sudden kick in the backside I have ever received. It was incredibly sore and I had to go to the doctor and I was suffering from whiplash.

    This happened when I was 20 years old, being friendly and interested although having been respectably detatched and rather uninterested also, on a trip to the school. The teacher frowned when I asked if things were alright, then asking “do you think its alright” and soon after “of course not [with a lot of swearing]” and then “didn’t we show you?. I was not friendly with the teachers while at school though always but for one or two very minor deviations remained a good and ostensibly respectful pupil. I thought possibly that a previous student who had conceivably enhanced the school’s academic reputation by receiving a top A Level mark in Northern Ireland and an award from a major British society for this, along with taking two of the schools Best Pupil at A Level awards would have somehow received treatment of a different sort.