NI education qualifiers bumping along the UK bottom…

Really interesting piece of research on educational achievement and its relation to individual economic success in Northern Ireland by Vani K. Borooah at the University of Ulster. In the introduction he notes that, “Based on a survey of 97 studies that estimated returns to education, Ashenfelter et. al. (1999) concluded that the return to an additional years schooling was between 6 and 9 percent”. Now we do extremely well compared to the rest of the UK when it comes to high individual educational achievement, but considerably less well when it comes of overall achievement as a proportion of the population – top and bottom!Well:

Approximately, 30 percent of the respondents in the North East, the North West, the East and West Midlands, Wales, and Scotland had no qualifications compared to around 22 percent for the East, the South East, the South West, and inner and outer London. Of all the regions of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland had the highest proportion of respondents (38 percent) with no qualifications.

And at the other end of the scale:

At the other end of the qualifications spectrum, 44 percent of respondents in inner London, 31 percent in outer London, and 27 percent in the South East had Level 4 qualifications. At the other extreme, only 18 percent of respondents in Northern Ireland and in the North East had level 4 qualifications. In the other regions the proportion of respondents with Level 4 qualifications was fairly equal at approximately 21 percent.

Now for the sectarian headcount thing. And it’s not quite as you might expect:

While there was no significant difference between the proportions of Catholics and Protestant respondents, taken in their entirety (i.e. 16-74), without any qualifications, the proportion of Catholic respondents without any qualifications was significantly higher than that for Protestants for the truncated age groups, 16-45 and 16-30 years.

However, at the other end of the qualifications spectrum, the proportion of Catholic respondents with Level 4 qualifications was significantly higher than that for Protestants for all the age groups: 16-74, 16-45, and 16-30 years. Compared to Protestants, Catholics were more likely to be without qualifications but also more likely to have the highest level of qualifications.

Protestants seem to have a more even spread of achievement, whereas there is quite a (class based?) spread amongst Catholics. On the face of it, you might use these findings to argue that Catholics both benefit from selective education and are simultaneously penalised by it. But, he adds an important caveat:

The empirical evidence tends to suggest that a higher proportion of Protestants migrate to Great Britain (GB) for HE purposes with a significant proportion not returning. This seems a strong explanatory factor in explaining the finding that Catholics have the highest levels of qualification.

But there is no such caveat for the most striking finding at the lower end Catholic performance, which significantly contradicts previous research:

The finding that the number of Catholics without any qualifications is significantly higher than for Protestants is particularly interesting and would tend to be contrary to what previous research has shown, particularly work which Professor Bob Osborne has previously undertaken.

  • kensei

    Hopefully that would prick a few bubbles about the advantages of the Eleven Plus, and having the best education system ever.

    Same there is no comparative figures for the South, though.

  • Crataegus

    The finding that the number of Catholics without any qualifications is significantly higher than for Protestants is particularly interesting and would tend to be contrary to what previous research has shown,

    Wonder what the CCMS would say? Is it the schools or the culture.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Academic research commissioned by the NIO that backs its current education policy by contradicting previous research commissioned by the NIO that backed its previous education policy? Well I never.

    Good job people here are stupid. They’d need to be.

  • AvalonSunset

    Lies, damn lies and statistics – all of it from consultants who charge huge fees for telling our government what they want to hear and we end up paying for it!

  • Reader

    Hey. If these guys are only surverying people who are staying here, then it says more about local job opportunities and migration than it does about qualifications for people passing through the education system here.
    What do the results say about qualifications for people living in the Belfast commuter belt compared with those who live west of the Bann?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Sluggerettes wouldn’t take the word of an elected politician at face value – and rightly so – so why should anyone take the word of the unelected politicians of academia at face value?
    The academic establishment has a clear political opinion on the education system and its own bias needs to be discounted from any ‘research’ that fits its own opinions so neatly.

  • Mick Fealty

    Bloody hell. Is it too much for people to engage with figures, methodology, etc, and then actually engage an argument? Sheering detachment wins you nothing.

    Having said that I may have thrown in a ringer with the comment on the 11+. Individual achievement is high, and any educational reforms that ignore that does so at huge risk to NI’s future…

    But there are problems identified here that are not currently being addressed by the current set up!!

  • Mick Fealty

    Kensei,

    Comparitors on any social measure between Northern Ireland and the Republic is notoriously difficult. I have a useful attempt at it sitting on my bookshelf… most of the data is about ten years old…

  • AvalonSunset

    OK Mick – setting aside the probability that the stats are rigged, I agree that the system does not address the underlying issues. Hoever the solution of taking what has been recognised as the best education system in these islands and deconstructing it to leave the lowest common denominator, is surely not the best way forward. Leave academic selection alone. Leave our small rural schools alone. It’s time this government put the money where it is needed – into our education system (i.e. the teachers and resources on the ground) and not into the current bureaucratic nonsense. It is time to remove several layers of civil service red tape and put the money where it is needed. that is the only solution to the education system here – irrespective of whether it is in the state or CCMS sectors.

  • Nevin
  • Nevin

    Where do professional footballers lie in Vani’s little boxes? Plumbers must be glad they avoided a degree course in the performing arts ….

  • kensei

    “Comparitors on any social measure between Northern Ireland and the Republic is notoriously difficult. I have a useful attempt at it sitting on my bookshelf… most of the data is about ten years old…”

    Surely in this case it is relativey simple – no qualifications, Level 1-4. It should just be a matter of collecting the data.

    “Having said that I may have thrown in a ringer with the comment on the 11+. Individual achievement is high, and any educational reforms that ignore that does so at huge risk to NI’s future…”

    I don’t understand what you mean by “individual achievement is high”. Surely individual achievement is reflected in the proportional figures, and the salient point is that 4 out of ten people here have no qualifications, and in terms of high achievement, we are significantly behind other places?

  • I can’t see how the stats are actually rigged. Like everything in journalism, politics and life in general, different questions bring out different realities.

    There is not necessarily a contradiction between good individual achievment, and poor achievement at the bottom. Though of course the solutions being offered by our politics may tempt us into believing there is.

  • Here’s a breifing from Ark on educational selection, but specifically, it comes out in high levels of achievement (compared to the UK average) in A Level results.

    Experience in England (where this began to happen under Harold ‘you’ve never had it so good’ MacMillan) shows that if you break up grammars on the monodimensionial idea that selection is bad, you break up an educational resource that cannot be put back together again.

  • julian robertson

    Kensei

    To immediately assume this proves selection (as opposed to the 11+ itself)is mistaken. There is no doubt that the educational achievement at our grammar schools consistently outperforms that in GB in terms of results and ongoing education.

    However, noone is saying all is well – we have far far too many people gaining no qualifications and this is the issue that has to be addressed. Why are so many poorly educated? Why do so many not see education as a way to get on?

    Simply abolishing selection won’t improve opportunities for those currently failing. The questions above are harder to address honestly than grandstanding on selection.

  • John East Belfast

    julian

    “we have far far too many people gaining no qualifications and this is the issue that has to be addressed. Why are so many poorly educated? Why do so many not see education as a way to get on?”

    Do you not think the demoralisation resulting from the branding of 75% of our children at the age of 11 has a lot to do with it ?

    The NI Selection system is not about academic selection at all – it is about social selection and I just wish the debate was honest.
    There is no reason why streaming and selection cannot occur within the school – eg as in Campbell College.

    People dont want their kids mixing with the gob shites and want to ensure that happens cheaply via the State system.

    The problem is that NI educates to a high standard an elite which either clears off to GB or elsewhere or joins the Civil Service and then NI plc are left with a large uneducated mass at the bottom who will be benefit dependant.

    We have got to stop academic selection but at the same time introduce a rigorous system whereby discipline offenders are imemdiately removed from mainstream school on the basis not of ability but attitude to wanting to learn.

  • Simply abolishing selection won’t improve opportunities for those currently failing

    For once I agree with Julian Robertson. The disparities between people from different social backgrounds begin in the earliest years in Primary School – i.e. well before selection. Getting rid of the 11+ will make a lot of people happy and let them give themselves big pats on the back and then let them ignore the apalling social disparities in our schools.

  • Do you not think the demoralisation resulting from the branding of 75% of our children at the age of 11 has a lot to do with it ?

    Given that a high proportion of that 75% go on to university, and then particularly to well paid voluntary sector jobs where they talk about how terrible a trauma the 11+ was, no I don’t.

  • Mick says:

    “Comparitors on any social measure between Northern Ireland and the Republic is notoriously difficult. I have a useful attempt at it sitting on my bookshelf… most of the data is about ten years old…”

    and then

    Experience in England (where this began to happen under Harold ‘you’ve never had it so good’ MacMillan) shows that if you break up grammars on the monodimensionial idea that selection is bad, you break up an educational resource that cannot be put back together again.

    If it’s difficult to make contemporaneous comparisons between NI and the Republic, why should it be any easier -or more reliable- to compare 1960s England with NI in 2006?

  • Hugh – there are two different Micks. Three if you include Mick Hall.

  • John East Belfast

    Sammy Morse

    “Given that a high proportion of that 75% go on to university, and then particularly to well paid voluntary sector jobs where they talk about how terrible a trauma the 11+ was, no I don’t.”

    what proportion of that 75% would that be – could you name me 10 such people ?

    Is that your best defence for the 11+ ?

    I assume from previous threads you have never had opportunity to put a child through the 11+

    I await the results for my third this Saturday and a more absurb system for educating NI children for life and work in the 21st Century I cannot imagine.

    Other than saying look at the great results of our grammar schools compared to everywhere else there is no defence for it.

    Parents dont mind if their child is not academically gifted – they all have different attributes and they just want them to be happy and for school to bring out the best of them.

    If you could assure the vast majoroty of parents that their child would go to a ‘good’ comprehensive – ie one where the trouble makers are removed – they would have no problem with that.
    Only the total snobs would care and they could pay for it elsewhere.

    If we tackled the real issue instead of banging on about 4 Grade A* etc then we would get there.

    Let us all be honest – it is social selection

  • kensei

    “To immediately assume this proves selection (as opposed to the 11+ itself)is mistaken. There is no doubt that the educational achievement at our grammar schools consistently outperforms that in GB in terms of results and ongoing education.”

    That’s a huge surprise, considering they select all the best pupils.

  • kensei

    “There is not necessarily a contradiction between good individual achievment, and poor achievement at the bottom. Though of course the solutions being offered by our politics may tempt us into believing there is.”

    Surely there is with low numbers at the top, however?

  • My apologies Sammy – had no idea there were three Micks.

    Julian Robertson says:

    ‘There is no doubt that the educational achievement at our grammar schools consistently outperforms that in GB in terms of results and ongoing education.’

    Can anyone recommend an ‘apples-to-apples’ source that demonstrates this? I imagine this would entail some sort of comparison between the top 25-30% of academic achievers in both regions.

  • Sorry Sammy they were both me.

    Hugh,

    I wasn’t making a comparison as such, just noting that the English experience suggests that if you break down from Grammar to Comp, there are certain things you lose, and which are difficult to compensate for.

    There is a temptation to view the altering of macro educational policies as an easy way to combat all society’s ills. In truth there are multiple ills within education and its longer term relation to the workforce which probably require a range of smaller, smarter approaches.

  • Crataegus

    John of East

    There is no reason why streaming and selection cannot occur within the school – eg as in Campbell College.

    For that to happen effectively would require larger schools and an end to the various parallel systems. Also I am not sure that the English comprehensive model is one that we should blindly follow.

    You know my views by now the priority should be more resources on Nursery and Primary education in areas of low attainment. You need to supplement the skills of the parents if the children are to get an even break. Children learn from those around them if the resources are limited the skills they develop will be equally limited.

  • the English experience suggests that if you break down from Grammar to Comp, there are certain things you lose, and which are difficult to compensate for.

    Ok, but the question then arises as to whether the English experience -given the gap in time, the differently structured societies, differences in industry etc- allows for a telling comparison.

    There is a temptation to view the altering of macro educational policies as an easy way to combat all society’s ills. In truth there are multiple ills within education and its longer term relation to the workforce which probably require a range of smaller, smarter approaches.

    No doubt this is true, but I don’t consider selection to be a macro-educational policy per se. With or without selection, you are still going to have children studying the same subjects for entry to the workforce. At a macro-level then, what gets studied becomes more important than who does the studying. At the human level, we ought to be concerned with equality of opportunity.

    It would be hard to do this without looking at the question of selection in the present system: whom does it benefit, and whom does it not? If it adversely impacts children from lower incomes -and the fact that only 7% of grammar school children are on free school meals as compared with the non-grammar school average of 28% would suggest that it does- then the fundamental question is how to address this.

  • Surely there is with low numbers at the top, however?

    Not if lots of the top achievers leave NI at 18 or 22. Lots do. That’s something wrong with our economy and society, not our education system.

    I imagine this would entail some sort of comparison between the top 25-30% of academic achievers in both regions.

    It’s even simpler than that. Northern Ireland exam results are significantly better even though Northern Ireland exams are generally acknowledged to be harder (not by much). Also, the UU admits the highest proportion of working-class students in the UK by far (close to 40%), and with the University of Paisley (no kidding) second, QUB comes third. In fact, the proportion of working-class students at Queen’s is, from memory, more than twice that in the next best performing Russell Group university.

    And, going back to my original point social differences in achievement are already apparent among 5 year olds. The 11+ is not the cause of the problem; getting rid of it will not, therefore, be the solution to the problem.

    Working-class boys do apallingly badly at school in Scotland and England, and anecdotally I would suggest in the Republic as well. Do not chuck out the baby with the bathwater folks!

    Let us all be honest – it is social selection

    Not for me it wasn’t. It got me away from a housing executive estate Primary School where I was constantly bullied and got me off to a grammar school (the same one that kensei went to) where being clever and liking reading didn’t make you a freak. If the 11+ goes, the middle-classes will have cosy suburban comprehensives to retreat to. The working classes will be left to like or lump what is left.

  • Julian Robertson

    There are quite a lot of comments above.

    John

    Don’t confuse the 11+ exam which is the mechanism currently used and the principle of selection. I agree the 11+ exam is hardly perfect and yes, I have put two through it with one more to go.

    Hugh / Kensei

    The comparison is NI grammars vs GB grammars.

    John

    NI experiences more social mobility within its grammars than anywhere else and we have a beeter social mix going on to university than the rest of GB.

    At the mo grammars select those with academic aptitude from all areas. Scrap selection and grammars (ep in the heavier populated areas) will only be able to draw from the immediate surroundings. House prices will dictate admission (as per GB) thus drawbridges are effectivley being dran up (ref John’s gob shite and snobs comments above!)

    Finally, the architect of going comprehensive in GB admits it was a mistake.

    I fully admit there is a lot to do but I jst 100% believe scrapping selection is just wrong and takes us several steps back which we will regret. Instead of espousing some educational utopia, perhaps we should be a bit more pragmatic and actually learn from the English experience – if they regret what has happend why are we in a rush to copy them????

    Regards all

  • Crataegus

    Sammy Morse

    social differences in achievement are already apparent among 5 year olds.

    Addressing that is the real problem in education.

  • AvalonSunset

    The issue here is nothing to do with either the kids or with the 11+. The problem is the parents and how we instill our fears and bias onto our kids. My kids don’t fear the 11+ – they see it as an opportunity. The 11+ is stressful but the earlier we train our kids to deal with the harsh realities of life then the more capable they will be. Stop using the 11+ as the root of all evil, because if it is abolished you will have to find something else to blame.

  • Hmm…

    ‘perhaps we should be a bit more pragmatic and actually learn from the English experience – if they regret what has happend why are we in a rush to copy them????’

    Perhaps we might do better to look further afield, i.e. at countries with rather better rates of literacy…

    I’m reminded here of a claim made on a previous thread to the effect that NI had a ‘world-class’ educational system because Belfast was producing results comparable (rather worse it turned out) to several British cities…

    Blinkers off folks!

  • Hmm…

    Some examples would be useful?

  • Hmm…

    OECD statistics should be available here: http://213.253.134.43/oecd/pdfs/browseit/8100051E.PDF

    looks like our European neighbours are doing things rather better than we are… Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden all have fewer people at the lowest level of literacy.

    Go figure…

  • Quite a lot of Germany has selective education – pretty much all of the South and West IIRC.

  • Mick Fealty

    Germany does surely. I’m a bit shady on the Netherlands, but Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have interesting variations on comprehensive education. Most of them don’t require their kids to enter mainstream education as early as Britain and Ireland.

    Although Denmark in particular allows students to opt for fairly specialist forms of education after 16 (IIRC).

    There has also been a long tradition in Sweden for older older people to return to full time education through it’s semi private Folk High School system.

  • opto

    The endless wrangle about the 11+ has distracted from focus on the real problem in education which is the poor outcomes from secondary schools.
    We know how to do a good job for our academically inclined children but only do a mediocre to bad one for the rest. There is little sense in streaming children at 11 but then expecting both streams to follow the same curriculum.
    By giving the secondary schools the right to follow a different curriculum there should be a much better chance that they can find the means to a motivate the academically disinclined in other directions, whilst also focussing on the basics for those who have fallen behind.

  • BeardyBoy

    I agree with Sammy – the 11+ gave me an opportunity.
    I think the whingeing about the 11+ comes from a sense of jealousy more than anything else, my brother failed it and he is earning as much as me as a joiner, power to him.

    Why is it that some people think that we must all be academic equals or near equals?

    Society needs everyone from a brain surgeon to a labourer – and all are of equal value.

    What I would want is for all to have the opportunity to receive an education commensurate with their abilities.

    I think we are hung up on exam results – the primary objective of education surely is the broadening of the mind – not qualifying someone for a job

  • me

    Society needs everyone from a brain surgeon to a labourer – and all are of equal value.LOL society might but the market sure as hell doesnt.my fathers a decorating foreman for 40 years since he was 12.my 22 year old trainee accountant sister now makes more than him in her first year.a degree doubles your income .stay in school kids

  • BeardyBoy

    Yes – it may, but then thats free market forces to you. Personally a mans worth is not measured by his wage packet but then not everyone has this opinion.

    Form your own conclusions

  • Alan

    Is there anyone arguing for selection that didn’t pass the exam?

    Support for selection seems to go hand in hand with an inability to accept the clear evidence that the system is not working for society as a whole. Instead, the parents are blamed – but how were the parents treated to education ? They too had to go through the artificial and debilitating trauma of selection.

    Selection has been damaging our society for generations – it is time to change, not deliberately ignore the problem.

    “NI experiences more social mobility within its grammars than anywhere else”

    Wrong – as has been stated, they serve just 7% of those requiring free school meals – other sectors serve 28%.

    “We have a better social mix going on to university than the rest of GB. ”

    The “greater social mix” doesn’t include anyone studying in GB, so those benefitting from the “greater social mix” may not actually be from Northern Ireland.

    There are real problems in schools – and I applaud JEB’s mention of the unmentionable behaviour issue – but working with parents who are already damaged, disillusioned and dispairing of the corruptions of the selective system ( tutoring, special circumstances etc ) is tinkering with the real issue.

    What level of rates increases do you want to propose to enable us to re-educate nearly a quarter of the adult population?

  • kensei

    “And, going back to my original point social differences in achievement are already apparent among 5 year olds. The 11+ is not the cause of the problem; getting rid of it will not, therefore, be the solution to the problem.”

    That isn’t the point. Those from more stable and prosperous homes will always be at an advantage, and whiel the government should certainly look at softening that problem, it isn’t going to go away.

    The key question is does the 11+ and selection exacerbate the problem and introduce further disadvantage. A small rate of working class pupils coming through the system can’t be a worthy trade off for failing almost all the rest of them.

  • an inability to accept the clear evidence that the system is not working for society as a whole.

    That’s an assertion, not an argument Alan. I don’t accept the evidence because I think it clearly shows that there is vastly greater social mobility in Northern Ireland than aywhere else in the UK. And without the inbuilt stratification of the system south of the border where around a quarter of children are educated privately.

    Abolishing grammar schools would do nothing to improve the standards of education for kids at the bottom, but it would seriously and negatively impact on the prospects of bright working-class kids.

    The “greater social mix” doesn’t include anyone studying in GB, so those benefitting from the “greater social mix” may not actually be from Northern Ireland.

    There are relatively few students from outside Northern Ireland in either of our universities – a percentage in single figures. So that’s a factor of second-order importance, at best.

    I’ve always thought that the middle-class left had a direct interest in destroying grammar schools – they could retreat to suburban comprehensives which ensured none of their children risked attending a secondary school, and none of their children had to compete with bright kids with thicker accents from the estate down the road. Then when university application time came, a lot of the bright kids from the estate down the road would have had the spirit crushed out of them and – wayhey – even less competition for your kids. And you can even claim to be a great social egalitarian while doing it. Couldn’t be better.

    The key question is does the 11+ and selection exacerbate the problem and introduce further disadvantage. A small rate of working class pupils coming through the system can’t be a worthy trade off for failing almost all the rest of them.

    That’s an argument for tackling the educational disadvantage faced by most working-class children – not for destroying the escape route for the poorest children and ensuring that society’s élite (and all societies have them) is a self-perpetuating, closed, oligarchy. That children from our poorest communities do badly is sadly true. That getting rid of the 11+ and getting rid of grammar schools would help them do better is, at best, unproven.

    Kensei, I currently live in a little upper-middle class enclave in South East London. All the kids in my little cluster of streets go to the ex-grammar (theoretically now comprehensive) or are privately educated. The kids from the council estates surrounding my little enclave go to sink schools in Peckham, or if they’re Catholic, a sink school on the Old Kent Road. Ne’er the twain shall meet, more than four decades after the abolition of the 11+ in Inner London.

    At the same time, the figures being put Mick’s original post would indicate that Inner London has the best education in the UK. Clearly, that isn’t the case; but it what it does have is lots of well paying jobs that attract well educated people from all over the world. Northern Ireland has few well paying jobs so loses well qualified people. Don’t get caught comparing apples and oranges.

  • willis

    Sammy

    I don’t agree with you much, however you have put a lot of fresh ideas into this debate.

  • kensei

    “That’s an argument for tackling the educational disadvantage faced by most working-class children – not for destroying the escape route for the poorest children and ensuring that society’s élite (and all societies have them) is a self-perpetuating, closed, oligarchy. That children from our poorest communities do badly is sadly true. That getting rid of the 11+ and getting rid of grammar schools would help them do better is, at best, unproven.”

    I have yet to see any evidence that suggests that there is anyway to reform the 11+ to increase the working class throughput. Otherwise people’s route out are on the backs of others failing.

  • Mick Fealty

    Alan,

    I’m not arguing for it, so much as flagging up costs that should be thought through before it is abolished.

    Newton wrote this piece on similiarly unintended consequences to those outlined by Sammy above.

  • Alan

    “That’s an assertion, not an argument Alan. I don’t accept the evidence because I think it clearly shows that there is vastly greater social mobility in Northern Ireland than aywhere else in the UK.”

    Evidence it then, but do try and include the fact that we have the worst rates of kids leaving school without qualifications in GB. Selection supporters will keep whittering on about the top 2 % of the population – open your eyes and stop wishing our problems away. Unless, of course your intention is to let those communities sink further into educational oblivion. Those of us who actually live here don’t have that luxury.

    “Abolishing grammar schools would do nothing to improve the standards of education for kids at the bottom, but it would seriously and negatively impact on the prospects of bright working-class kids.”

    Look at the best performing state systems across the globe and they are all comprehensive. There is no good reason to discriminate against the majority of the population in order to advantage a tiny minority. There is one very bad reason, however, and that is to socially engineer advantage for the well off – that is happening in NI today.

    Grammar schools are allowed to add voluntary and mandatory charges from parents on top of the state subsidy ( at one school that amounts to around £ 700 p.a.) so that Grammars end up spending nearly 50% more than other state funded schools. So we benefit the more able by depriving the more needy. Why should we accept such an outrageous anomaly? Why do working class kids need escape routes, rather than a sound education ?

    Your high fliers should be aided through special measures, not through completely skewing the whole educational system.

  • kensei

    I have yet to see any evidence that suggests that there is anyway to reform the 11+ to increase the working class throughput.

    Ken, you’re the one arguing for a change. Show me any evidence that suggests that scrapping the 11+ would increase working class throughput.

    You don’t make things better for kids at the bottom by denying the brightest and best and opportunity to thrive.

    Alan

    do try and include the fact that we have the worst rates of kids leaving school without qualifications in GB.

    This was certainly true at one time but I know the gap narrowed and was eliminated by the mid-1990s (I can give you Hansard references if you like). It is still so often mentioned that I assumed it had widened again in recent years but can find no evidence of it despite Google. If you can find me evidence of it I will happily eat humble pie but until then, I’m afraid I’ll have to see it as something that comes from the eighties, like a lot of the arguments of the Northern Ireland comprehensive lobby.

    Selection supporters will keep whittering on about the top 2 % of the population

    I have no problem with whittering on about the top 2% of the population. Elites matter, and so does who becomes members of them. But actually, I wasn’t whittering on about the top 2% of the population. I was whittering on about the top 30% of the population. And about why closing the schools attended by them will not help the bottom 20% of the population (the people in the 30-80% range do perfectly well anyway).

    Look at the best performing state systems across the globe and they are all comprehensive.

    And usually in a completely different way than what is meant by that term in these islands.

    There is one very bad reason, however, and that is to socially engineer advantage for the well off – that is happening in NI today.

    Alan – wise up. That is happening in England today. That is happening in the South today. That is happening in Scotland today. That is happening in super-comprehensive France today. Take Germany, where slightly over half the country is comprehensive and the remainder selective. Is there any evidence that the comprehensive areas are more socially fair? No. Our Primary School system is comprehensive; is does not produce equal outcomes.

    You’re putting emotion above logic here, tossing words like ‘discrimination’ and ‘social engineering’ around. Sorry.

    Grammar schools are allowed to add voluntary and mandatory charges from parents on top of the state subsidy

    Which is disgraceful, especially the mandatory element, and which I would outlaw tomorrow.

    Why do working class kids need escape routes, rather than a sound education ?

    You’re just showing how middle-class you are. I needed an escape route because in the primary school I went too, being clever and liking reading was ‘poofy’ and a shortcut to a kicking, especially if you were bad at football. Everybody whitters on about looking after children’s special needs; well my special need was to get the hell out of the shithole of a Primary School I went to and away from most of the arseholes I went with to it and get to somewhere I could be left in peace.

    And there was no other option, not for people like us. My father wasn’t working at the time (cue violins); moving to a different catchment area isn’t really an option when you’re a Housing Executive tenant on housing benefit.

    And, before you ask, the other kids? Well, a lot of them had their own individual needs too, and where lucky enough to go to a secondary school that was just in the process of being turned around from a sink into a school that got good results for some hard kids; not in the sense of them getting 15 A stars and going to Oxford; but in the sense of them learning how to read, write and do maths properly (which many didn’t when they arrived); giving them a sense of responsibility and self-discipline; signposting them to sensible post-16 training that they were going to have an interest in; and also having an academic stream for the late bloomers to move back into a track that would take them on to university. There are always a lot of working-class kids who bloom late in a good secondary school.

    But lots of young people are never going to be brain surgeons – and so what. You can survive without a lawyer but try spending a week with a blocked up bog in the summer. The last time I checked, we had a shortage of people in a lot of the skilled trades, including high earning ones like plumbing. The last thing we need is to force kids into an academic route that doesn’t suit them.

  • willis

    Sammy

    So how many kids in your P7 class actually wanted to go to St Malachy’s and were disappointed?

  • Alan

    Sammy,

    Take the time to read Burns – (http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/22-postprimaryarrangements-new-arrangements_pg/22-ppa-research_and_reports_pg/22-ppa-rap-br_pg.htm )

    Not from the ’80’s, but from 2001 whence this whole process developed.

    Also read The recent Barooah report ( http://www.delni.gov.uk/index/statistics-and-research/stats-research/research.htm ), rather than dismissing it.

    The Grammar lobby liked to dismiss the word of children and adults who had been damaged by selection as mere anecdote and demanded stats. Well, they and you have them, so lets have less of anecdote from yourself and tell me why skewing the Education system helps the majority of real flesh and blood kids out there.

    “There are always a lot of working-class kids who bloom late in a good secondary school.”

    . . . who would bloom all the earlier without the demoralisation of selection.

    “You can survive without a lawyer but try spending a week with a blocked up bog in the summer. The last time I checked, we had a shortage of people in a lot of the skilled trades, including high earning ones like plumbing.”

    That’s straight out of the DUP guide to a good education. Last time I checked most of our plumbers were Lithuanian and local guys were getting it tight, so I don’t know how up to date your local knowledge is.

    I’m not even going to grace the blocked bog with a snifter of wit, Sammy, but, surely it’s time to dump generalising from the specific and start treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

  • lib2016

    Sometime in spring last year Cameron announced that the Conservatives would endorse the Labour policy of raising the percentage of students who reached third level to 50%. Incredibly enough they had previously opposed it!

    My interest was aroused because Bertie had just announced an Irish policy of raising their percentage of third level students to 65% from the existing 57%.

    Since then the IDA ( Southern state body attempting successfully then and now to attract jobs) has stated that third level qualifications were needed for 60% of the jobs being promised last year. It is a percentage which is steadily rising.

    Sorry I don’t have references for this stuff but I do assure you that it is true. The grammar school model may have worked in the past but in future the majority of pupils will need to reach third level and the present system just doesn’t seem to be promoting that.

  • John East Belfast

    In my opinion the two most important issues in this matter are

    1. Do really gifted children have to be in a totally different school to those less gifted to achieve their true potential as opposed to being streamed within classes that play to their strengths ?

    2. Is selection by exam skewed against working class kids ?

    In terms of 1 you have to assume our top 25 to 30% of intellectualy minded children will reach a much higher standard if surrounded only 100% of the time by those of a similar IQ.
    But in my opinion that difference will be marginal and only makes the teacher’s job easier.

    Also do we not think less able children can benefit from being surrounded by more gifted children ?

    Kids from Campbell go to Oxbridge too.

    In terms of 2 there is a lot of statistical evidence to support the system favours the middle classes more but my own personal experience on the ground would support it.

    My daughter got a B1 today and she was undoubtedly helped along the way by the weekly tutoring I started for her in early 2006 as well as the coaching from her third level educated mum and dad.

    What chance has a child from a one parent family in a housing estate got against those odds ?

    I know many working class parent(s) do not have an education ethic – but that should not be held against the child.

    If you believe in a truly egalitarian society where we start with the same potential then such inequalities should be recognised as wrong.

    The stuff about life being hard and people have to get used to it – wise up ! These are 10 and 11 year old children we are talking about.

    Watching my daughter text her friends and sympathise with those who have got less than they had hoped simply isnt what we should be doing to children.
    Do we really not believe that we are unnecessariy scarring the greatest proportion of our children ?
    and why are we doing it ? So we can boast that we get more A stars than England – whooppee do !
    We educate the minority of our children to the highest standard and then about half of them take that education to other places.

    She has gone throughout Primary school with lots of girls and the grade will get her into what is her local girls school of Strathern but her neighbouhood friends will all be scattered elsewhere.

    Fifty years ago the system had merit – I benefited from it myself – but the world has drammratically changed.

    School should consist of children with a range of abilities and the inherent strengths of each contribute to the greater whole.
    It could be languages, science, maths, music or sport – most people have talent somewhere – school should be about bringing that talent – hidden or otherwise out – and getting the best.

    Most importantly it is about instilling a sense of self confidence and worth from the beginning. Segregating 11 year olds on the basis of 75% from 25% is a crazy notion for a 21st century civilised country.

  • Alan

    JEB

    I sympathize with your situation. I went through it over the past two years – and 14 years before that. The system is utterly appalling.

    Congratulations to your daughter – will it be a mobile phone, pierced ears or an MP3 player ?

  • John East Belfast

    Alan

    It wasnt going to be anything but I succumbed and gave her a mobile phone !

  • willis

    J E B

    Congratulations to your daughter. I hope this is the last time you have to go through this.

  • What chance has a child from a one parent family in a housing estate got against those odds ?

    Three points:

    1. I managed it, and so did plenty of others.

    2. Those odds don’t narrow at 14, 16, 18 or 21, and they were already there at 5. Getting rid of the 11+ is just a nice little gesture to let the lefty middle-classes think they’ve done something great to even up the social inequalities in education. Evidence from countries that have moved from a selective to a comprehensive system does not show that it does. Getting rid of high performing selective schools does nothing for low performing children with difficult home backgrounds – please explain to me the mechanism by which it will. Please.

    3. What happens if we get rid of the grammar schools tomorrow? Thick middle-class kids with C2s and Ds, despite coaching will go to suburban comprehensives that will be grammars in all but name; bright working-class kids with As will go to what will mainly be demoralised inner-city comps with poor discipline and where they can look forward to being bullied like fuck for being studious. Nothing will change for the ill disciplined, poor performing kids at those schools, because the educational establishment will still consist of the same people talking the same rubbish. And that is supposed to be progress?

  • kensei

    “1. I managed it, and so did plenty of others.”

    Existential doesn’t imply the universal. Crap argument.

    Btw, your argument boils to “I’m alright, Jack”

    “2. Those odds don’t narrow at 14, 16, 18 or 21, and they were already there at 5.”

    Now, you’ve moved from there are differences at 5 to they are the same as later. Which is it?

    And the 11+ could well be the cause at 12, 16, 18. You’d need to compare apples with apples there.

    “Getting rid of the 11+ is just a nice little gesture to let the lefty middle-classes think they’ve done something great to even up the social inequalities in education.”

    Straw Man. What liberal lefties think is irrelevant.

    “Evidence from countries that have moved from a selective to a comprehensive system does not show that it does. Getting rid of high performing selective schools does nothing for low performing children with difficult home backgrounds – please explain to me the mechanism by which it will. Please.”

    There are successful examples of both models. The suggestion that removing selection automatically means bog standard comp is misleading and wrong.

    There are a number of models that could be adopted: selection, but a school must pull in students from each band. Schools must have x amount of children from different backgrounds. Potential to change schools at 14 as well as eleven. Specialist schools, streaming,further diversification of provision rather than narrowing, who knows. More research and looking around the world is needed. I don’t have all the answers, but don’t suggest there aren’t any there.

    “What happens if we get rid of the grammar schools tomorrow? Thick middle-class kids with C2s and Ds, despite coaching will go to suburban comprehensives that will be grammars in all but name; bright working-class kids with As will go to what will mainly be demoralised inner-city comps with poor discipline and where they can look forward to being bullied like fuck for being studious. Nothing will change for the ill disciplined, poor performing kids at those schools, because the educational establishment will still consist of the same people talking the same rubbish. And that is supposed to be progress? ”

    Supposition without proof or evidence. Some would say scaremongering.

    Extremely, incredibly weak by your standards, there.

  • willis

    “What happens if we get rid of the grammar schools tomorrow? Thick middle-class kids with C2s and Ds, despite coaching will go to suburban comprehensives that will be grammars in all but name; bright working-class kids with As will go to what will mainly be demoralised inner-city comps with poor discipline and where they can look forward to being bullied like fuck for being studious.”

    The big difference between here and England is the lack of a private/independent sector and the continued committment of all our politicians (Gawd bless them) to state education.

    In England in the sixties to present the Tories laughed at Labour who had managed to box themselves into a futile corner. The Toreis could send their kids anywhere they wanted. If it was to a private school that was their choice, if it was a state school they were being heroic. Not so for Labour.

    The very worst thing that could happen here is the growth of a private sector.

  • Existential doesn’t imply the universal. Crap argument.

    Read the thread. JEB was implying the universal (“what hope does a kid from a single-parent family etc.”).

    Btw, your argument boils to “I’m alright, Jack”

    Nope. My argument boils down to “more children from the poorest backgrounds do well in the current system in Northern Ireland than their counterparts in England and Scotland”. I strongly suspect it does well in comparison with the Republic as well, given the degree of middle-class flight from the state system.

    The system already does well for bright children from poorer backgrounds. Knowing this helps us focus efforts to improve the system on where it is really needed.

    Now, you’ve moved from there are differences at 5 to they are the same as later. Which is it?

    There are differences at 5, 7, 11, 14, 16 and 18. Did anyone on either side of this debate ever suggest anything otherwise? No.

    And the 11+ could well be the cause at 12, 16, 18. You’d need to compare apples with apples there.

    OK, let’s try a little gedankexperiment here based on your thesis. Social class negatively affects the school performance of children at 11. Indeed these inequities can already be seen when children start school at 5. These have a set of causes we can call ‘X’.

    Social class also negatively affects the school performance of children at 14, 16 and 18. The cause (or a significant cause) of this is selection. So we have a different cause of social inequity in secondary schools than in our mixed ability, comprehensive, primary schools. Ummmm… I don’t think so, kensei.

    Straw Man. What liberal lefties think is irrelevant.

    Liberal lefties are the people pushing for a change in the system. The working-classes sure as hell aren’t, and nor is the public in general (look at the results of the DE consultation after McGuinness announced he was planning to scrap the 11+). The evidence is, at best, patchy, that moving to a comprehensive system will improve outcomes for children, including children currently at the bottom. Therefore it’s entirely reasonable to ask why this is such an important issue for liberal lefties.

    E.g., if it’s guilt, ideology and the knowledge that you’ll be able to opt out of any negative consequences that motivates the comprehensive enthusiasts, rather than the best interests of working-class children, I think that’s a very important factor in assessing the debate.

    There are successful examples of both models. The suggestion that removing selection automatically means bog standard comp is misleading and wrong.

    If there are successful examples of both models, then why are we expending so much time, money and effort to abolish grammar schools?

    There are a number of models that could be adopted: selection, but a school must pull in students from each band. Schools must have x amount of children from different backgrounds. Potential to change schools at 14 as well as eleven. Specialist schools, streaming,further diversification of provision rather than narrowing, who knows. More research and looking around the world is needed. I don’t have all the answers, but don’t suggest there aren’t any there.

    Banding pupils is exactly what happens in England at present – schools are expected to try and take in 25% Band 1, 50% Band 2 and 25% Band 3 pupils. It doesn’t work – some sorts of Band 3 pupils you want (nice but dim middle-class kids with supportive parents) and some Band 1s you can live without (bright kids from broken homes and complex social problems). And selection by postcode continues under the guise of ‘community schools’ and ‘keeping families together’.

    Potential to change schools at 14 already exists (although grammar schools are usually accused of poaching if they do it). Specialist schools, streaming and diversification – yes, great idea in theory.

    But in the real world, we have two parallel sectarian school systems, as well as integrated and Irish language schools and more mixed-sex secondary education than most countries. And then we have a birth rate that is falling dramatically, meaning we need to close schools rather than opening new ones, and we are only able to fund all that because of massive reliance on fiscal transfers from Britain. (Before Alan chimes in with the idea that we can have average class sizes of about 10.)

  • Supposition without proof or evidence. Some would say scaremongering.

    Firstly, what non-academic criteria are used in school selection now? Primarily geograpgy and keeping siblings together. These are great vehicles for keeping working-class kids out of suburban comprehensives. This is what happens in many other countries – why wouldn’t it happen here.

    What Primary School did you go to, ken? I went to Pim Street and it was a grade 1 shithole. Absolutely hellish. The happiest day of my life was they day I left that tip. That was our great comprehensive primary school system for you. It’s not scaremongering, it’s reality.

    What you and Alan offer kids like I was is another five years of being bullied and tormented for being too clever and liking to read in a “socially inclusive” comprehensive that the middle-classes won’t touch with a bargepole. And don’t say “what about the kids who aren’t clever” – they don’t get tormented for being clever, obviously do they?

    Anybody who says that’s scaremongering knows nothing about what actually goes on in most schools.

    Extremely, incredibly weak by your standards, there.

    Ooooh, I’m so offended. Did you spend the weekend with Peter Hain taking masterclasses in how to be patronising?

  • kensei

    “Firstly, what non-academic criteria are used in school selection now? Primarily geograpgy and keeping siblings together.”These are great vehicles for keeping working-class kids out of suburban comprehensives. This is what happens in many other countries – why wouldn’t it happen here.”

    Becuase we set up the system so it specifically doesn’t and can’t. That is the beauty of making your own system – you can set whatever rules you like, and enforce them how you like.

    “What Primary School did you go to, ken? I went to Pim Street and it was a grade 1 shithole. Absolutely hellish. The happiest day of my life was they day I left that tip.”

    Sacred Heart. It wasn’t perfect and I got bullied a bit, but that was more due to my then weediness and inability to play football rather than my intelligence. I had some good times and friends there too. It is also worth pointing out that bullying isn’t limited to non-Grammars, and I got the odd bit at St Macs as well.

    “That was our great comprehensive primary school system for you. It’s not scaremongering, it’s reality.”

    Again – existential doesn’t prove universal. There are a lot of good primary schools on the same model. I am not adverse to some reform to improve those, either.

    “What you and Alan offer kids like I was is another five years of being bullied and tormented for being too clever and liking to read in a “socially inclusive” comprehensive that the middle-classes won’t touch with a bargepole. And don’t say “what about the kids who aren’t clever” – they don’t get tormented for being clever, obviously do they?”

    Fuck, that’s some chip on your shoulder, there. No, the less bright kids mightn’t be bullied for being smart. They might be bullied for being too stupid, their hair, their clothes, runny noses, their football team, being “annnoying” or any other number of factors I’ve seen. Bullying is a whole separate issue.

    It isn’t what we are offering. Quite specifically isn’t. It is clear that neither of us what that outcome. But neither of us what the current system that is in place, because it demonstrably fails too many people. I’m open to ideas.

    “Ooooh, I’m so offended. Did you spend the weekend with Peter Hain taking masterclasses in how to be patronising?”

    Actually, he phones me for advice. Your argument is still poor.

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