Education minister “wants to take her time and make the right decision..”

The new primary school year has seen an old topic return, academic selection, and the Belfast Telegraph today has a round-up of the critics of the Education Minister Caitríona Ruane – who’s been accused of “dragging her feet on this issue.” The critics aren’t solely focussed on the minister though, the INTO yesterday directed their criticism at the pro-grammar school lobby, the Association for Quality Education, who held a meeting last night after claiming that 40 grammar schools are prepared to introduce their own replacement academic selection test should the Assembly fail to agree an alternative to the 11-plus which is due to be abolished in 2008 – a possibility that Slugger readers were alerted to some time ago.. although some didn’t seem to be paying attention.. ANYhoo.. The spokesman for the Minister is quoted in the Telegraph article

“The Minister wanted the first few months to talk to as many people as possible about the issue. Her view on this is that she wants to take her time and make the right decision rather than be rushed and make the wrong decision.”

Although the minister has previously sounded less undecided..

“I don’t believe that academic selection is the way forward for our society. I think it has created a tail of disadvantage in our system and has failed many of our children.”

It’s not an issue that can be delayed for long.

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  • slug

    The minister will have to tread carefully because the Voluntary Grammars are going to use their entitlement to use academic selection – one way or another.

  • pwrmoore

    I think the “Method of selection” argument misses the point entirely. To be honest I can’t see that selection on any criterion other than academic ability is actually more fair or appropriate to schooling. At least academic ability is related to what is meant to happen in a school. Selection by Postal Address or anything else (over time) just becomes selection by wealth, which is even more disadvantageous to the poorer members of our society.

    What is needed is a way to improve the schooling for those who are not benefited by the current traditional Grammar School sector. Whether this is done by having different streams within a comprehensive system or by having a high school system more suited to the needs of the “non-academic” pupils is almost immaterial. We must recognise that different methods of schooling are appropriate to different children and that as they develop the most appropriate schooling method for any individual child may actually change. The new-improved school system must find the best way to develop each child and whether this is a Comprehensive or a High-School/Grammar school system then there must be 1) sufficient resources invested in “non-academic” development and 2) more opportunities to trasfer between the streams/schools as a child develops.

    I’m very concerned that ther is a rush to “fix” the wrong problem which will leave all of us worse off.

  • Alan

    SO NOW YOU GET THREE 11+ EXAMS RATHER THAN 2 !!

    This is such outlandish, desperate clawing for a “fair” form of academic selection that it beggars belief.

    How much abuse do they want to foist on our children? Let the children all go to the same school and stream them there.

    The issue is that we should not be selecting at all. Selection immediately disadvantages children by suggesting that some are failures. It has been proven not to work, skewing the curriculum and not being capable of meeting the needs of all our children.

    There is no rush to fix anything, we have been working on this since the 90’s, pupil profiles are ready to run and schools are ready to run them. There is a palpable sense of frustration among many school principals at the failure to act to end selection.

    Instead of saying there is a problem with non-academic education they should tell us what they will do about it that has not already been tried and failed over the past 60 years.

  • IJP

    What are all these “talks” the Minister is talking about?

    You do the “talks” before the election, you publish a manifesto, you deliver it in negotiation with your cabinet colleagues.

    Let’s quit fudging, and get on with whatever we’re doing.

  • joeCanuck

    Canada and the USA have no selection. All children go to a High School.
    Strangely enough, we produce our fair share of graduates and Nobel prize winners.
    Can’t understand why.

  • slug

    “All children go to a High School”

    Do people move house to ensure a good school?

  • pwrmoore

    JoeC “Canada and the USA have no selection. All children go to a High School.
    Strangely enough, we produce our fair share of graduates and Nobel prize winners.
    Can’t understand why. ”

    That’s not really true though is it? In Canada and America lots of parents send their kids to private schools and pay fees for the privilege. One of my own kids went to one when I was temporarily relocated to Montreal through work. And do you know what? These schools are seen as exclusive and as the “better” schools and people aspire to getting their kids there.

    I’m wouldn’t argue that we must keep academic selection. But I am concerned that we will get rid of academic selection only to have it replaced by selection by wealth and we will be left with our disadvantaged kids being even more disadvantaged,going to under-resourced schools and getting a second rate education.

    By all means lets get away firom labelling kids as failed at 11. But let’s do it right. Let’s devise a scheme whch gives every kid the opportunity to reach their potential and follow a path through education suited to their needs. Just getting rid of academic selection on its own isn’t going to do that, and I see little evidence of anyione working on the rest of the jigsaw.

  • joeCanuck

    Slug, I’m sure some people do.

    pwrmoore, I would dispute that a “lot” of people send their kids to private schools. Some certainly do.

  • joeCanuck

    pwrmoore,

    Should have added that if a kid has ability, he or she will do very well in our public school system and will be selected for the best universities based on their success there.
    If a kid does not have academic ability, no amount of private schooling is going to overcome that.

  • pwrmoore

    Same happens here joe. The current selective process doesn’t actually hinder the bright kids from any area. They get on just fine. The kids that are not served well are the ones that are rejected by our current form of selection and thrown into the second tier. Just getting rid of selection is not going to fix that, replacing it with selection by wealth is not going to fix it either. Properly addressing the shortcomings of our schools by properly funding academic and non-academic schooling and allowing kids to move between academic and non-academic schooling as they develop should do it just fine. Once we’ve worked out how to do that then the question of whether we shold have a few big comprehensive schools or a larger number of smaller specialised schools will become less of an issue.

  • pwrmoore

    I should also add that the current selective system does actually give disadvantaged kids who are academically oriented a good education. That is not necessarily a justification for keeping selection, but if you are going to have a form of selection it’s a good argument for keeping academic selection rather than basing your selection policy on who can afford to buy a house closest the best school.

  • kensei

    “If a kid does not have academic ability, no amount of private schooling is going to overcome that.”

    The public (private, bizarrely) schools in England get a large number of places in Oxbridge unis and excellent grades. Are the children of rich people fundamentally smarter than the rest of us, do you think?

  • slug

    “Are the children of rich people fundamentally smarter than the rest of us, do you think? ”

    No. In fact its been shown that attributes like intelligence tend to revert to mean.

    However what these kids have is AMBITION in capital letters! Something which can substitute for ability (up to a point) when it comes to getting good A levels.

  • slug

    PS In my 05.39, I mean the ones who get into Oxford.

  • slug

    “The public (private, bizarrely) schools in England get a large number of places in Oxbridge unis and excellent grades”

    Kensei

    I would agree totally with your basic point – a LOT of these kids are fairly average intellectually but do a lot better BOTH because they have lots of teaching resources thrown at them and because their parents push them.

  • Garibaldy

    Surely the Minister is not backsliding on this issue? It is a bit of a joke that no decision has been made on the replacement. There is a real danger that the education of the first post-11 Plus children will be adversely affected.

    I think the American system is a bad example to follow because of the way it is funded, which results in massive differentiations in resources, with consequences for the education of the poorest children.

    As for the argument about wealth and postcodes replacing academic selection. The reality is that success in the 11+ already correlates very closely to class.

    Streaming within properly funded, fully integreated comprehensives is the way forward.

  • joeCanuck

    Streaming within properly funded, fully integrated comprehensives is the way forward.

    I agree Garibaldy.

  • ulsterfan

    There is a conflict of interest between parental choice and the democratic view of the Assembly whenever this is reached.
    How will this be resolved?
    Surely the assembly must take precedence.
    I also believe the churches should have no part in the education system.

  • Tiny

    Could it be that some, if not most of the blame for the failure of children from disadvantaged backgrounds to excel at school lies with the parents and their family circumstances.
    It’s often said that the children from the Shankill, in particular boys, do badly, but how many of them get home to see their father return from work, how many of them even see their father regularly.
    I know it is wrong to generalise, but to blame their under achievement on selection at 11 is naive and may be missing the point altogether, the answer lies in addressing the problem not only of family breakdown, but in many instances the absence of a traditional family unit in the first place. This problem will never be addressed until the present level of benefit dependency is tackled, to persuade those who have never been in work, whose parents never worked, and whose entire lifestyle is dependant on benefits to work will not only take a lot of ‘carrots’, but also a lot of ‘stick’.
    The question are our politicians prepared to address this issue head-on, in particular the two leading party’s who have traditionally polled well in areas of social disadvantage?

  • Reader

    Tiny: I know it is wrong to generalise, but to blame their under achievement on selection at 11 is naive and may be missing the point altogether,
    … particularly since the results of selection at 11 are used as evidence for the problem, suggesting that the issues originate with 11-, not 11+

  • Tiny

    Reader, the problem originates in the home, not the school