Nature abhors a vacuum…

The BBC claims it has learned that “Academic selection cannot be maintained in Northern Ireland without cross-party support” and quotes the DUP’s Sammy Wilson’s interpretation of the situation that will emerge with a rewriting of the law to, as I understand it, not ban academic selection but with the universally applied 11-plus exam also being abolished. But there is another solution to the vacuum created by both events coming to pass and the Assembly failing to agree an alternative. Surely individual schools could require prospective pupils to sit an exam prior to acceptance? Personally my preferred option would be to allow post-primary schools to view the Pupil Profiles.. as I’ve suggested before..

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  • Chris Donnelly

    Once again, as in the ridiculous DUP Policing ‘oath’ claims, evidence emerges that the DUP spin on this deal is not what they previously believed it to be…

    “Personally my preferred option would be to allow post-primary schools to view the Pupil Profiles”

    Have to disagree fundamentally with you on this one Pete. Second level schools shouldn’t be allowed near any Pupil Profiles until their intake has been determined, else we open the doors for selection according to which schools/ individual teachers best know how to play the game of ‘selling’ individual pupils to their respective Grammars of choice.

    Throw into the equation parental pressure on schools/ teachers to present a glowing picture of ‘little johnny and mary,’ and the obvious prejudices of Grammar Heads to certain Primary schools, and what you are left with is a recipe for disaster.

    In any case, I would expect the teaching unions to run a hard line campaign on this one, which, coupled with nationalist hostility, should hopefully force this option from the table.

    It’s about time we abandoned academic selection at 11 once and for all. Pandering to middle-class prejudices may be a vote winner for certain parties, but it won’t provide a long term solution to our educational problems.

    In any case, effective streaming within second-level schools can provide for academic selection without the stigma of separate schooling, and with the flexiliblity of allowing for movement within the streams by individual pupils according to their individual progress.

    It also removes the most unfair and unjust aspect of our current system: namely, that in one fell swoop, our system weeds out the most academically gifted 10/11 year olds but leaves behind those just behind them to swim- but most often sink- in classrooms alongside the worst behaviour problems and most educationally challenged children.

  • Pete Baker

    Chris

    A couple of points to note, beyond your fundamental objections…

    The evidence is not as you claim – academic selection will remain an option – as I suggested, individual schools could still use it in their selection policy.

    As to the objection to the use of Pupil Profiles.. their stated puropse is to guide parents and primary schools in selecting an appropriate post-primary school.. it makes no sense – beyond fundamentalist belief – to prevent those selected schools from viewing the same profiles.

  • Chris Donnelly

    As to the objection to the use of Pupil Profiles.. their stated puropse is to guide parents and primary schools in selecting an appropriate post-primary school.. it makes no sense – beyond fundamentalist belief – to prevent those selected schools from viewing the same profiles.

    Pete
    On the contrary, it makes perfect sense when logic dictates that the second level schools will be intent on using the Profiles to ‘select’ according to ability, thereby rendering futile any perceived choices- ‘informed’ or otherwise- made by parents and their children.

    The Pupil Profile should be used as a teaching aid for second level schools, to assist them in placing the individual child in classes and to assist an individual teacher in planning to meet the needs of the child.

    Whatever about the lofty intentions of the Pupil Profile, the fact of the matter is that responsible parents, when presented with a choice, aren’t going to opt for the existing stock of secondary schools out of choice, regardless of what advice a school/teacher provides.

    Furthermore, they are right not to do so in most circumstances as they would be only too aware of the behavioural problems besetting many- if not most- of our secondary schools, at least when compared to the Grammar sector.

    On your point about what individual schools may be permitted to do, that could potentially have ramifications for state funding of those schools which decide to opt out of a non-academically selective system.

    Whilst the unionist parties would doubtlessly strive to ensure this scenario was not visited upon the largely protestant State grammars, in the absence of a devolved administration here, I wonder if the British Ministers would be as willing to provide for a fully subsidised get-out clause for certain grammar schools.

    In the catholic sector, I would hope the Bishops would use their influence to rein in any catholic grammars thinking of pursuing such a course of action, though such influence would be limited due to the fact that the catholic grammars operate with a large degree of autonomy.

    This is why the strategic amalgamations already undertaken by the catholic sector in a number of areas of the north have largely removed the issue of academic selection.

  • Pete Baker

    Chris

    “On the contrary, it makes perfect sense when logic dictates that the second level schools will be intent on using the Profiles to ‘select’ according to ability, thereby rendering futile any perceived choices- ‘informed’ or otherwise- made by parents and their children.”

    Actually, it informs the decisions of all involved and the openness prevents exactly the kind of “selling” of pupils you alluded to earlier in the long term.

    “On your point about what individual schools may be permitted to do, that could potentially have ramifications for state funding of those schools which decide to opt out of a non-academically selective system.”

    Not when such selection is not banned through legislation. Or else those funding the system will find themselves in court.

    You do, though, seem to miss the point of the scenario of this post.. in which no agreement is found between the parties in a devolved Assembly.

  • Reader

    Pete Baker: …to allow post-primary schools to view the Pupil Profiles…
    It may be a bad idea to have fairness in entry to largely Controlled selective Grammars depend so much on the cooperation of Maintained Primaries.
    I’m assuming that the CCMS will choose to go non-selective. Or they could show themselves to be massive hypocrites…
    Anyway, surely the obvious solution is to get a examination board signed up to do a transfer test. A wider ranging test, maybe with topic choices, could cut down the value of cramming, and suit all the schools better. Pupils from primary schools that won’t cooperate could take the tests off school premises. That proposal solves a number of issues – anarchy, cramming and obstructionism.
    (Chris – you’re fighting a different battle – academic selection is not banned. This topic seems to be aimed at working out how to get the project back on the rails. I wasn’t expecting you to help…)

  • Alan

    “You do, though, seem to miss the point of the scenario of this post.. in which no agreement is found between the parties in a devolved Assembly. ”

    And so do you, Pete. The problem is that opponents of ending selection seem to think they have an inalienable right to the dog in the manger attitude. We have to shift beyond that.

    Using Pupil profiles will not protect second level schools from immediate resort to appeals and litigation by wealthy parents. It is not defendable in the same way as the 11+. The system has to change.

    If, as they have suggested all along, those opposed to the ending of selection are concerned to maintain support for high achieving pupils, then let’s do that. Let’s have a “Mensa score” addition to the LMS scheme to support the high fliers across all our schools. Let’s not continue to throw away the future of so many of our children for the benefit of a tiny statistical minority.

  • Alan

    “A wider ranging test, maybe with topic choices, could cut down the value of cramming, and suit all the schools better. Pupils from primary schools that won’t cooperate could take the tests off school premises. ”

    You will have cramming because the primary schools will not skew the curriculum to the exam and the middle classes will have their children working even longer on saturdays, sundays and in the evenings. It would be open from the outset to human rights and equality actions.

  • Reader

    Alan: …the primary schools will not skew the curriculum to the exam…
    That’s a good thing, isn’t it? I have seen many 11+ papers – very narrow and quite crammable. Examining a wider range of subjects is good for better balanced schools and pupils.
    Alan: …and the middle classes will have their children working even longer on saturdays, sundays and in the evenings
    What – and interfere with all that tennis, badminton and horse-riding? Or would it interfere with watching TV and lurking? I don’t think the scale of cramming can really increase. It should certainly get far less *boring*, and far less advantageous. And the final years of Primary school would be far less boring, alienating and divisive too.
    How would the involvement of an examining board give rise to legal cases, by the way? Is that the experience with GCSEs and A-levels?

  • Pete Baker

    Alan

    As ‘Reader’ has suggested the disagreement over the use of academic selection is far from settled.

    And the legislative position envisaged in the BBC report leaves, not a stalemate as the report suggests, but a vacuum.. and nature abhors a vacuum..

    Opponents of academic selection can continue to vent their displeasure, as you and others have done here.. but the reality is that, in the event of a stalemate, there is nothing to prevent an alternative academic selection being used.

  • ciaran damery

    Sure what does Sammy Wilson and his flock of Paisleyites know about education? Let’s be honest about it, DUP is not Mensa by any stretch of the imagination.

    As for the 11+, segregating kids on the basis of their academic performance is a legacy of colonialism and detrimental to the kids who don’t perform well in exams. Children under 11 should just be emerging from a psychosocial moratorium (to quote Erikson) and gradually learning about the life that awaits them. It is cruel and absurd to treat some kids like outcasts cuz they didn’t get honours in the 11+. I wonder how Boxcar Willie Mccrea would do if that gall sat the 11+? Or the Unionist barbarians who attack schools, graves, churches and people simply because they hail from an Irish catholic culture?