From 11+ into the void…

The sheer lack of detail is one of the most frustrating aspects of any policy discussion on education. But over at the Daily Telegraph Jenny McCartney warns that the frightening thing about the abolition of the 11+ is not its going but the fact that there is nothing concrete in Catriona Ruane’s proposals to take its place.

Update: Bob Wilson explains how he believes the whole thing is a ‘policy free’ attempt to wind up unionists over at the Conservatives NI site.

  • heck

    why do you need something to take its place?

  • BonarLaw

    Let’s not get too exercised about a sub-optimal ministers’ left leaning wish list. She knows that the required legislation cannot pass (I note there is no date for a Bill). I also suspect she knows that her performance to date (eg. attending meetings with teacher reps without pen, paper or any interest in note taking, confiding to head teachers that her daughter had the occasional “shite” day at school) means her time around the Executive table is limited. The performance on Tuesday had more to do with her future reputation on the back benches than the future education of our children.

  • BonarLaw

    heck

    because the only the test not academic selection has been abolished.

  • eranu

    saw her on hearts and minds and the lack of any plans was deeply worrying. she must have talked about ‘imagination’ about 5 or 6 times when asked about what sort of system would replace the 11+. misty eyed dreaming of some better system if only people had the imagination… blah blah blah. its just a lot of waffle.

    it seemed a bit like big Gerrys roasting on RTE during the election campaign when he couldnt give any substance beyond saying ‘equality’ alot.

    never mind what your constitutional politics are, when you see the minister in charge of an important government department like education just give a load of clichés and vague phrases, it has to give you that sinking feeling in your stomach. it generates an opinion that the person is not up to the job and things are about to go badly wrong.

    noel – “so, what is your replacement idea for the 11+”

    catriona – “if we can all use our imagination…”

    WTF ? !

    glad i dont have kids….

  • Mick Fealty

    Whilst there was one concrete suggestion to sell off the ministerial land back, that ‘i’ word was the major stick the SF backbenchers used to beat Margaret Ritchie’s objection to her ministerial budget cut with.

    It is a poor stand in for a rationally thought through argument. You suspect any competition over this issue will be an uneven contest, and not simply in terms of votes counted at the end of the day.

  • PeaceandJustice

    I have to agree with those who back the Craigavon system. Academic selection at 14 makes more sense. No academic selection at all makes no sense.

  • gram

    Eleven plus scrapped. Pupils/Parents select their preferred next school. Geography/DIstance from school being the first selection criteria.

    What’s so tough to understand?

    I’m with heck why does something need to take it’s place?

  • interested

    Gram,
    Its actually quite tough to understand why a so-called ‘socialist’ Minister would want to bring forward a system which would select pupils on the basis of the ability of their parents to move close to a good school. Financial and social selection can hardly be described as better than a system which allows people to be judged on their ability, leaving all social aspects out of it.

    Her oul twaddle about a “world class school in every neighbourhood” doesn’t stand any scrutiny. Every country, every area has some schools which are at the very least perceived to be be better than others, and in all reality some schools will always be better than others. You therefore move to a position where the ability of your parents to buy a certain house gets you a step up.

    Wonder why her agriculture minister colleague who is so interested in rural development hasn’t pointed out that it also puts rural children at an immediate disadvantage.

  • BonarLaw

    gram

    because public opinion supports academic selection, academic selection has been preserved by statute so an alternative means of academic selection is required.

    There’s also the fact that the minister cannot get her proposals through the Assembly.

    I wonder what all the bourgeoise SDLP voters think about this weeks’ debate? For rexample, I don’t detect any desire for Lumen Christi to become Brandywell Comp in order to pander to some form of pan nationalism.

  • mnob

    gram – then housing nearest the good schools rises in price so only the richest can afford a decent education. Social mobility is reduced and we educate the richest not the brightest.

    Whats so tough to understand about that ?

  • PeaceandJustice

    gram – “Eleven plus scrapped. Pupils/Parents select their preferred next school. Geography/DIstance from school being the first selection criteria. What’s so tough to understand?”

    The problem with no academic selection at all is that you get a house price bubble near all the good schools. So the rich buy the houses and the poor don’t get a look-in. That’s what has happened in England.

  • Mick Fealty

    gram,

    Well, is it a ban on academic selection? Or is it just a rescinding of the 11+? Martin McGuinness originally posed these as two separate questions. No brainer on the first second. But there is a majority against the second first.

    Tony Gallagher, Finbarr McCallion and Simon Doyle kicked this around usefully on the Stratagem Policy Panel on Education (bear with the uneven sound quality) before the last election.

    McCallion points out the problem of the postcode lottery that comes from making geography/distance the chief criteria. Not least the outflow effect to the private sector that followed the implementation of the Plowden Report in Britain in the 60s.

  • michael

    Anybody have any idea how the transition to post primary works elsewhere (the south, Sweeden, Finland etc.?) and what implications this has had for social mobility, ‘Postcode lottery’ etc.?

  • michael

    Sorry, should have qualified. I ask, and mention those countries specifically, as they have a reputation (valid or not) for providing a good education system, do they use any form of selection.

  • gram

    >>gram – then housing nearest the good schools rises in price so only the richest can afford a decent education. Social mobility is reduced and we educate the richest not the brightest.<< If "bad" schools develop now or in the future then that's a separate issue I'm afraid and the department of education should be making steps to ensure they improve. Not so sure that many bad schools exist. They only appear "bad" because they are forced to take pupils who fail the 11+ exam. To ensure equality the DOE should also ensure that any barriers to entry, e.g. school fees, are not imposed by schools.

  • jaffa

    I just left this question for Big Ulsterman but it’ll do just as well here.

    The allocation of 11+ grades is designed to separate children into populations of relative intelligence, not absolute. So 25% get A’s, 10% B’s (5% each B+ and B-), 10% C’s and 55% D’s.

    As spare capacity has grown in the Grammar school system these schools have been permitted to allow entry to an increasing number of children so that North Down Grammars are now accepting kids with C’s (including Sullivan – see their admissions pages).

    If you believe that Grammars should offer a distinctly different education to the most gifted then surely you need to argue that they should be permitted to accept only those with (as they used to) A’s. If so do you accept the consequent closure of “redundant” Grammars and the concentration of super-academic schools in centralized hot-houses?

    If, on the other hand, you believe that Grammars should accept an increasing number of the lower quartiles where they have space (and they clearly do) do you also accept that they need to offer a diversity of education within them so as not to apply a “one size fits all” solution to the children they take in?

    In other words you either close Grammars or you force them to offer only vocational / technical courses + abreiviated general education to some streams. Once you’ve done that you may as well allow the Grammars to adopt High Schools or open their own internal technical schools or departments.

    I see no threat in Bangor Grammar opening a technical school or St Columbanus (catholic high) a Grammar School, perhaps in their own blocks, perhaps on a separate Campus (Bangor could use Glenlola next door to the Tech if we got rid of our sexual hang-ups too). The presence of a choice of facilites within the one school seems the most sensible way to deal with demographic change and local Grammar School education provision without having to resort to what’s being called a one-size-fits-all approach.

    I’ll make this yet easier. We can and (being small and wanting to give our kids the best opportunities) should buy our qualifications in from the international best. I would seriously consider the BTEC/General Ed combinations in the new English Diplomas in the Technolgy Schools and the International Baccalaurate in the Grammar School. That provides a positive and win either way choice.

  • kensei

    “McCallion points out the problem of the postcode lottery that comes from making geography/distance the chief criteria. Not least the outflow effect to the private sector that followed the implementation of the Plowden Report in Britain in the 60s.”

    Just scanned that Muck as I have to be off soon – but it seems entirely incidental to the question of selection. If anything, the 11+ corrupts the whole process as it forces education to be about an exam syllabus for 2 years. Still, I suppose that is good preparation for modern education at GCSE, A Level and Degree level.

    While we’re on the point of restrictive syllabus – I always wondered if moving to Leaving Certs (normally finished in the South by 17) but maintaining the requirement of leaving at 18 would be a good idea. It would give a years worth of time to broaden education, but still get exams recognised by all the unis in the UK and Ireland.

  • gram

    >>Well, is it a ban on academic selection? Or is it just a rescinding of the 11+? Martin McGuinness originally posed these as two separate questions. No brainer on the first. But there is a majority against the second.<< What stats are you using to say that a majority are infavour of retaining the 11+?

  • Rory

    “I wonder what all the bourgeoise SDLP voters think about this weeks’ debate?”

    I couldn’t begin to speculate, Bonar, but I suspect that they would be horrified at your misspelling of bourgeois ( and even more horrified if they even suspected that you had used a noun where an adjective was appropriate).

  • The 11+ was the void and it illustrates the poverty of education of those who, no doubt, may have benefited from academic selection at 11 that they’re so afraid of the word/concept, imagination.

  • Michael, you asked what happens in the South. A key factor is the fact that there are almost 60 fee paying secondary schools in the South; they take the “cream”, particularly in Dublin. Some areas operate what’s called a deanery system where schools group and you apply to the group, listing your preferences in order, the risk being, if you don’t get your firest preference you may then drop to your third or fourth. Admission policy tends to be a confused mess of geography, specific feeder primary schools, age, siblings, religion – everything but academic. And then once in they do a test and stream and create mini grammars within the school of children who will do higher level exams. It’s not the worst system but no fairer than the 11 plus.

  • jaffa

    I attended two NI Grammar Schools and neither was particularly strong on imagination. Rugby football and Exam passes were the only priority.

    Neither had so much as an economics A level. Far too social sciency.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    It all corrupts in the sense that it each policy option brings about different outcomes. That’s why the missing detail renders the announcement almost meaningless. The social mobility argument is not to be sniffed at, since comparatively speaking the comprehensive system in the Republic leads to greater differentials between performances by students defined by class than in Northern Ireland.

    Indeed, the lower you go in class, the more open Northern Ireland becomes, and the more closed the Republic becomes, at least according to figures in Richard Breen and Christopher Whelan’s 1999 paper ‘Social Mobility in Ireland: A Comparative Analysis’. The difference is much more pronounced amongst women than men.

  • As Bonar Law has pointed out the discussion is all a tad irrelevant as there is no chance of Ms Ruane’s vision coming into effect.
    I’ve explained in detail why not at:
    http://www.conservativesni.com

  • Mick Fealty

    Bob, will attach to the above.

  • Stolen from the Telegraph

    Comprehensive failure

    Al Hamilton 06 Dec 2007 19:59

    Is there anything that does work that these loons do not destroy?

    Anyone want to lay a bet that within five years Northern Ireland’s school leavers will have sunk to the enumerate, illiterate unemployable level of the rest of this sad country?

  • Mick Fealty

    gram,

    None. I simply got my formers and latters mixed up. Doh!

  • BonarLaw

    Rory

    LOL!!

  • gram

    >>Anyone want to lay a bet that within five years Northern Ireland’s school leavers will have sunk to the enumerate, illiterate unemployable level of the rest of this sad country?<< Yes me. Supporters of the 11+ continuously make the incorrect assumption that the, perceived, high levels of educational achievement here are as a result of having academic selection.

  • Mick Fealty

    What’s your view on the reasons for the differential gram?

  • jaffa

    Bob Wilson,

    Please answer my question. If the North Down Grammars are accepting children with lower grades (as low as C+) as a result of demographic change and over capacity is the Conservative Party calling for a reduction in North Down Grammar School places to prevent unacceptably egalatarian education from taking place?

    That’s a Yes or No answer by the way. None of that Sinn Fein evasiveness please.

  • Hogan

    As an advocate of academic selection lets put this one to bed.

    Grammars should not be taking C or D grades. If they can’t fill their numbers then we should have a rationalisation of grammar schools.

  • gram

    Other possible reasons for higher educational performance:

    Lower levels of divorce, more stable family units.

    The troubles. Emphasis on getting a good education as a way out of here.

    Better teachers and poor job market. Fewer opportunities for talented individuals in other sectors of the economy.

    Ireland and it’s history of emigration. Again empahsis on getting a good education.

  • jaffa

    Of 157 girl’s accepted in Glenlola in 2006, 18 had grades below B- so (projecting) you’ve called for an 11% cut in Grammar places – 1 school in 9.

    And since when was B- considered acceptable?

  • Bob Wilson

    Personally I would like to see a reduction in places to protect the academic ethos of the grammar system.
    I dont know about North Down but I know such a move is being considered by others.
    I cant make up party policy and am allowed to be vague the Minister is not!

  • jaffa

    Thanks Bob,

    I’ll e-mail the Speccy.

    North Down Tories call for Grammar School closures!

  • gram

    >>Personally I would like to see a reduction in places to protect the academic ethos of the grammar system.<< Fair enough but you shouldn't expect the public purse to pay for it. (I'd like my bin collected every day. I don't ecxpect it to happen though.)

  • Rory

    Whatever the future of the 11 plus the future of our children’s education will be determined by the income levels of their parents.

    As ever, a few obviously gifted children from families of lower income levels will be invited in to the more elite establishments to sharpen up the other intake from the wealthier group. The less obviously (but possibly actually even more gifted) will not.

    “Tony” Blair’s famous premiership election winning slogan on education was known as “the three “E’s”. “Indeed”, we might say, “Elitism, elitism, elitism!”

    If you do have children and live in Britain or Ireland and are not well off and if you really care for your children’s education then I suggest you have two choices:

    1) Take political charge of your local education board, get in some Cuban educationalists and teachers who care about all children’s education or,

    2) Do it yourself.

    There is always a third choice of course:

    Lie to yourself and pretend that the ruling political class give a shit about your children or their future.

  • Insider

    Bob

    Some points about you & the crazy NI Tory education policies:

    (1) First of all Gram has got it right. If you’re going to cut down on the Grammar School entries do you expect tax payers like me to keep paying for this? Remember, there is 7.4 times more spent on the Grammar School sector in N.I., than the secondary sector (i.e. on a per pupil basis).
    (2) Latest UK Government research shows that 45% of UK jobs in 20 years time will require a Degree level qualification. How are we going to achieve this in N. Ireland with your policy of selecting a small clique at 11, and leaving the rest with little chance of achieving this higher level of education.
    (3) Bob (& others) – do you ever ask yourself why every major political party in the British Isles opposes academic selection, and the clique of N.I. Tories and the Unionists don’t? Are you saying that everyone else is wrong & you’re right? – could be, but I don’t think so!!
    (4) Great Britain has had a largely Comprehensive education system for the past 30-40 years. As such, it’s reasonable to assume that the people who went through this system in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are now running the UK economy in all sectors of government, business and industry, and the UK economy is reckoned to be among the best in the World. Therefore we can’t really criticise an education system that produces this performance – can we? Please also remember that’s its English, Welsh and Scots tax payers who pump in £2-3Billion each year into this tiny little province, a chunk of which goes into the 7.4* per pupil funds mentioned above!

  • agh

    I think the obvious compromise is to shift selection to 14. However, this presents 2 major probs:

    1. We’ve 2 years to implement this! And we have no pathway in place = chaos!

    2. Where do kids betwen 11 and 14 go? Do they stay in their pimary schools? where are the clas rooms? Who teachs them? do they have specialised teachers for each subject? Or do they move to a comprehensive for 3 years b4 being tested – then if they fail/pass they then may get chucked out and moved to another school or maybe stay there?
    OR, do we have 3rd set of schools for 11 to 13s? Where is the cash for buildings and teachers?

    The whole thing is a joke. If a clear plan was in place, 2 years may be feasible. With no plan whatsoever in place, 3-5 years would be a realistic timeframe.

    How about some pilot schools? Okay we have craigavon, but how about another model school?

    Her head is in the clouds. I think her problem is that she has too much imagination and no sense!!

    As a whole, Unionists over-reacted big style. Why they took such a thoughtless statement seriously, I’ll never know. Just take it as a bad joke and move on…

  • BonarLaw

    Insider

    “Great Britain has had a largely Comprehensive education system for the past 30-40 years. As such, it’s reasonable to assume that the people who went through this system in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are now running the UK economy in all sectors of government, business and industry, and the UK economy is reckoned to be among the best in the World. Therefore we can’t really criticise an education system that produces this performance – can we?”

    Are you really suggesting that comprehensive schools are responsible for the success of the UK economy? Dare I suggest that the commanding heights of the economy/ law/ civil service are occupied by those spared a comprehensive education either by means of their parents financial ability to buy a selective education or by means of their parents ability to purchase a home in a selective county?

  • jaffa

    Agh,

    Catriona’s getting stick for saying “use your imagination” rather than setting out an exact plan for each borough so I’ll suggest something for Bangor.

    We currently have a Girl’s Grammar next door to the South Eastern Regional College (education to MBA standard if you want) and across the road from the newbuild Bangor Academy (not yet built yet so still time for any adjustement needed). We’re about to knock down the Boys Grammar and move it to another new building on the ring road. Proposal – Glenlola becomes the co-ed 11-14 year school and at 14 kids go either to the Grammar School to do the Bac or the Academy where they can access vocational resources from the tech.

    Might not be appropriate everywhere but that’s about 1/20th of the problem on the prod side dealt with. Don’t panic. Just vote Alliance for old fashioned liberal compromise and good sense.

    It’d be nice to find a way to bring St Columbanus into the loop too.

  • Insider

    Bonar Law

    Your question: ‘Are you really suggesting that comprehensive schools are responsible for the success of the UK economy?’

    Yes, I am actually suggesting that, because the figures prove it! There is, and have been, only a tiny, tiny % of people who go through the private and/or selective sector in GB in the past 30-40 years. The total UK economic performance can’t all be due to them – can it? In any case, all organisations are team efforts – Today, in this modern age, you need a good team of well educated motivated people around you to make any business work, whether public or private.

    I note you haven’t commented on my point regarding 45% of UK jobs in 20 years time will require a degree level qualification!

  • Alan

    We need to maintain the integrity of our school system in all this, but we also have to accept that the current system is failing children and no-one has yet come up with a working system to put that right using selection as a base.

    Just as Grammars are part of the school system, so they are part of the problem and may be part of the answer. It is , however, crucial that we accept that change is central the deal.

    If either the UUP and DUP hold out against change, if they sit on their hands and refuse to deal, then the 11+ becomes their exam.

    Let’s say we can get to a stage when children go to their local school of choice. They will walk through the school gates with the same kids that they went to primary school with. They will be there by right, unpunished by an unfair exam.

    There will be immediate changes. Schools who previously had to work solely with late developing children will have the leven of brighter pupils at a younger age. Schools that have previously focussed on competitive examinations will have to focus more on the children.

    When children and parents have to make key decisions – at 14 – we will have an opportunity to meet real needs, rather than corral and restrain. You will have schools working in the same way as primaries do at present. You will be able to band according to ability in subjects that need it, providing opportunities to all. Our teachers can and will rise to that challenge.

    Post 14, you can have a range of provision, academic, vocational and entrepreneurial. Pupils will move schools for favoured opportunities. Parents and young people will sit with school prospecti and weigh up the advantages of options as happens at A level. There will be more thought to careers and direction. If, as a society, we can give young people rights to education in this way, if we can turn the education system away from the easy academic road towards a more imaginative focus on life choices, then we will have gone a long way to providing educational opportunities for all.

    You can also forget property bubbles, it happens with primary schools already – that particular die is long cast. It is nothing but an irrelevance. Have the Grammar lobby given up trying to make a case on Educational grounds, rather than increasingly inept economics.

  • jaffa

    This idea of 14+ sifting isn’t as new as everyone’s making out by the way. Grammar’s with large rural hinterlands have accepted kids on a general level for years (Coleraine Inst for example) , sifting them out at 14 with a “promotion exam” between junior and senior schools and sending the elect off to the Tech to study tractor maintenance and muckspreading.

    This is a bit harsher as some of the kids get chucked out at 14 but I think most heading that way will be ready for the move if they’ve had 1 year of being in the bottom half of the class (year 1 when kids are randomly assigned) and 2 years in the lower sets.

  • Alan

    I’ll probably get hung for saying this, but I feel that the Bac is too broad, and its minor subjects largely irrelevant.

    Surely, passing a subject GCSE should mean that you don’t have to study the same subject at a lower level for an additional two years?

    Does anyone with experience of the Bac or the Leaving Cert have any comments ?

  • agh

    I think the majority of people, unionists included, agree that selection at 11 is not ideal. And if logical, well thought out, financially viable alternative was put on the table we’d have something to discuss.
    However, all we have to work on is Ruane’s ‘imagination’!!

    Am I right in saying she is refusing to fund the examinations?? But schools operating selection will still get funded?

    Surely grammer schools will just charge kids to sit exams and fund their entrance exams that way? Cheaper than buying a house next to the school i would have thought? So for example, if all the grammer schools got together and formulated a NI grammer school entrance exam, charged each kid £100 to sit the paper, and grammers can select from the results. Hmmm, I may quit my day job and start the company myself… watch out for agh on Dragons Den….

  • jaffa

    I don’t think it’d make sense to use the Bac in place of A level and retain GCSE’s. I’d have in the mind a 14 – 18 education that avoids the potential duplication of using two independently produced systems. The IBO have primary, middle years (11-16) and higher (16 – 18) courses. Putting together a 14-18 course shouldn’t be hard.

    That said, if you’re clever enough to choose Maths, Physics and Economics at A level you benefit from a shocking amount of redundancy between the three courses (or you did in my day). Same for Chemistry, Physics and Biology up to a point. Properly integrated diplomas (which might have a life sciences or physical sciences bias rather than a subject bias for example) would avoid wasted time and leave room for a bit more breadth.

  • jaffa

    Agh,

    I think that’s exactly what Kenneth Bloomfield’s proposing.

  • willis

    Insider

    I find the 7.4:1 ratio mind-boggling. where does it come from? I certainly could have believed it in the 50-70s but now!!!

    Again a link for the 45% figure would be useful. There is a big difference between what firms ask for and what they really need.

    In my own field, Broadcast Engineering, some of the best participants have good solid qualifications, but not degrees.

    Actually a recent play which addressed the failure of graduates to fully develop in ‘The Real World’ is “The Duke of Hope”

    http://www.belfastfestival.com/Events/EventsByDate/index.html?id=77120

  • kensei

    “It all corrupts in the sense that it each policy option brings about different outcomes.”

    That’s a poor spin, Mick.

    “That’s why the missing detail renders the announcement almost meaningless. The social mobility argument is not to be sniffed at, since comparatively speaking the comprehensive system in the Republic leads to greater differentials between performances by students defined by class than in Northern Ireland.”

    First off – are we comparing apples with apples? What is the comparative size of each class in each jurisdiction? What’s the definition? Are the variations uniform or skewed for example by inner city Dublin. Second, how do you know that difference is due to the 11+. There could be significant differences in attitudes North and South towards education within those classes. Third, how much of that is attributable to the grammar schools? What is the rate coming out of the secondaries.

    “Indeed, the lower you go in class, the more open Northern Ireland becomes, and the more closed the Republic becomes, at least according to figures in Richard Breen and Christopher Whelan’s 1999 paper ‘Social Mobility in Ireland: A Comparative Analysis’. The difference is much more pronounced amongst women than men.”

    That appear seems to require me to spend money to read it. But if it has been written in 1999, it’ll study before than, and there have been significant economy changes that will impact on social mobility since then. Besides “more open as you go down”? You are arguing over an ever decreasing slice of cake. The fact remains that the amount of people dumped on by the system – and I’d guess without any figures to hand that they are disproportionately in the lower social orders – is huge.

    I would suggest that if you assigned school place based on a lottery for each class so you wind up roughly in the same proportion as the 11+ produces, and then focus all your resources on that group at the expense of the rest, with the best teachers and best facilities, you’re rate of mobility would be much the same. Sadly that experiment is not an ethical one to conduct.

    You’re right in that this is meaningless until there is more detail fleshed on the outline given. What is clear, though, is that the 11+ fails too many people to be considered a good answer.

  • J Kelly

    This whole issue of detail is a nonrunner as far as can see. Currently the Grammar schools have 11plus results as their first criteria to be reached secondary schools have criteria that doesn’t have 11plus results. So for the grammar schools all they have to do is drop the first point out of their admissions criteria. Many secondary schools are currently oversubscribed and cope with the situation well. So it will not be a big problem. Even at present children have t make htree choices so from 2010 children will still make the same three choices and go through the admissions policy without academic selection as the first hurdle.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s not spin, ken. It was just a not very good attempt to suggest that actually policy matters. And it matters because it affects real outcomes for real people. Personally, I am not in favour of big one size fits all solutions to education. Small, intelligent and as independent from state control as is practical would suit me.

    But if you are going to tinker with what is already there, you need to recognise what’s already working well as well as what’s not. The postcode lottery is only part of it, the ebbing of wealthy kids from state to private cram schools is what dampens social mobility over the longer term. Inside the state system the affluent middle class reinforce the in-built advantage they already have over poorer kids by clumping together around the better schools in ‘nicer’ areas. Or at least that is what is observable in England.

    So far as I can tell social mobility in the Republic has always been lower that Northern Ireland since universal post primary education was introduced in the sixties.

  • kensei

    Mick

    I pointed out that the 11+ skews primary education, often in ways that the very people advocating it don’t like. You replied that say all policies have outcome. Moving from specific to general in that fashion is spin.

    Sure, we have to look at successes as well as failures. However, you are ignoring the fact that the possibility the two may be linked. Selecting and supplying an elite with the best schools and (crucially) the best teachers if going to advantage them. It will certainly help those that get through. The rest, however, get fucked. Only 20.4% from Catholic schools and 12.7% under other Management leave school to go to an Institute of Further Education.

    There are other issues, and think a lot depends on attitudes of pupils and ethos of schools – I think Grammars will also pull a bit of a boost from this. And also note Catholic schools tend to do better http://www.deni.gov.uk/sls0506pdf.pdf
    However, selection is ultimately about allocation of scare resource. Do we focus on an elite or should everyone get an equal chance?

  • kensei

    should be “leave a secondary school”

  • Elvis Parker

    Bob’s piece on the Conservative website is interesting but ignores the elephant in the room.
    We have two entirely separate school systems. The political represenatives of the Catholic one want a comprehensive sysyem along Ruane’s vision. The politcal reps of the State/Protestant system wants selection. The answer is obvious: let them both have what they want.
    Why does it have to be winner takes all?
    What right has Ruane to decide on State education?

  • test
  • jaffa

    The body which delivers 45% of schooling in NI and (if Kenzei’s right) gets the higher results doesn’t seem upset. Maybe they speak Ruane. Note that they seem to think it’ll help focus on better vocational training rather than just give us the “one size fits all” education that the Conservatives (I include the DUP & UUP in this ugly clique) are trying to scare us with.

    http://www.onlineccms.com/news/100/

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Ken,

    I think there is a missing link here between us. Though I’m not sure what it is exactly.

    Outcomes are important. Absolutely crucial in fact. I would want to have a clear idea about the potential outcome of any policy option before backing it.

    But this is one of the key problems about discussing a ministerial decision that is not a ministerial decision. There are no outcomes, other than confusion.

    On the face of it what we have here is nothing more than a reheat of Martin McGuinness’ October 2002 announcement. There is nothing actually under the bonnet. Perhaps the minister wishes us to ‘imagine’ there is? 😉

    “…selection is ultimately about allocation of scare resource”.

    Indeed. But this policy void may give us some scope to kick around ideas of how to distribute those limited resources in ways that are both fair and do not destroy the ‘good stuff’ we already have on the ground.

    I’d commend this short report on a talk the Scottish born economist John Kay gave recently. Not least the advantage of drawing some of the lessons of the market into state governance (this is not necessarily the same as privatisation):

    We need to be wary of excessive government centralisation. Decisions are not always made by sensible people and there appears to be a lack of honest feed back on experiments that take place in the market system. This in turn hinders markets from working at their full potential and efficiency. We need to understand the endemic evolutionary character of the market. Markets are organisms that evolve. As such, there needs to be room for small scale experiments to realise what works and what does not and allow room for mistakes and successes to take place. Therefore, what is needed is to stimulate technological innovation and experiments to allow for ‘disciplined pluralism’.

    Further his argument goes:

    Giving honest feed back on issues relating to the market is often deemed counterproductive by politicians. Politicians are suspicious of ‘disciplined pluralism’ due to the uncertainty which private sector experimentation entails, which in turn risks undermining the credibility of politicians. The public also tends to be suspicious of ‘disciplined pluralism’, although for different reasons: by associating the market with a system driven by greed and individual self-interest, the public tends to prefer to keep the market away from those areas – like education and health – which matter most to them. According to Kay, this conception of the market is not only erroneous but also counter-productive: what we need is the opposite, more market – in the sense of more innovation – in these areas, not less.

    I’m not suggesting there is a clear model here, but neither do I buy the idea that we should get caught up in a mechanistic binary between preserving/destroying quality on hand, or equality/’equantity’ at all costs on the other.

    Mick (sorry about the admin moniker)

  • kensei

    Mick

    I have read The Truth About Markets. The problem with “disciplined pluralism” in educational and health spheres is that when things go wrong, it either ruins someone’s chances, or it kills people. There need to be room for failure – but only so much, and the kind of total risk that is acceptable within normal business sectors is not applicable within the key parts of the public sector.

    The other problem remains allocation of resources. If two companies are competing, then in general I am free to select from their products or services. In terms of health and education, I am in general not free to chose any hospital or school, and nor would it be practical for me to do so; and it should also be noted, nor is it really rational for the best hospitals or schools to set up in the roughest areas. The correction mechanisms are also greatly skewed against those that are least engaged – whether that’s a failing secondary modern or a sink comprehensive.

    There is also a certain fetish against Centralization at the moment. It is not always a bad thing, and distributed resources and variability create their own problems. I suspect 10, 15 years down the line, we’ll be dealing with those and things will swing back towards Centralisation. I think a large degree of Centralisation is a necessary evil to maintain minimum standards. But within that there must be room to develop different ethos, different specialisation, and different character. I suspect there are applications of broken window theory / the power of context here. I don’t suggest a clear model either, but I suggest our instincts diverge at the amount of centralisation and the acceptable rates of failure.

    On Outcomes, of course they matter. But let’s run a thought experiment. Suppose you ran a selection test at 7 and split the populace into Stupid and Smart. Stupid gets minimal education and limited resource. Smart gets all the resources and heavily pushed. Now suppose, hypothetically that this resulted in the best possible of all outcomes – best results, best mobility, best effect on economy. Is it fair?

    But all this is tangential to the 11+ and I assume it will be until more concrete proposals are produced. I think an outline is there though, and the main sticking point is working out how the hell they’ll get it through Unionism. But as an aside, as things stand “chaos” actually amounts to several experiments and a loosing of state control within education.

  • Mick Fealty

    Impressed you’ve read Kay. If you’re not already, you should be working full time for your party of choice!

    Risk of failure is the key political problem. The extent to which local ministers are prepared to calculate and accept the challenge of that risk is the extent to which we are able to address some of the intractable problems facing us.

    As for the 11+, it has no supporters. Selection does. They are not the same thing. Newt Emerson got this in one. Abolish grammars, and they will simply go private, and serve their own interests above those of wider society. The least we need is an intelligent solution that keeps those ‘smart’ resources available to that wider society.

    “…our instincts diverge at the amount of centralisation and the acceptable rates of failure.”

    Not necessarily. But I agree it is an important question. My personal instinct would be to push it as far towards the edge as is practical, but I also recognise that this is to a large degree a political risk which has to deal in public reaction to failure and the potential for future crises of confidence.

    The problem with not moving in that direction at all is that we condemn our schools, teachers, and students to an endless grind of pot filling that serve little purpose other than the timid management of that same political risk. Certainly it does not serve the interests of the kids themselves.

  • Reader

    Jaffa: The body which delivers 45% of schooling in NI and (if Kenzei’s right) gets the higher results doesn’t seem upset. Maybe they speak Ruane.
    They don’t *need* Ruane. The maintained sector could go comprehensive immediately if it wanted to. But they didn’t. And they won’t until they have to.

  • Reader

    kensei: Stupid gets minimal education and limited resource. Smart gets all the resources and heavily pushed.
    Of course you were dealing with a hypothetical – a thought experiment. But the other side of the coin is that, done properly, a secondary modern education could be just as expensive in resources as a Grammar education. Just that the money would be spent on different facilities.

  • jaffa

    Reader,

    Thanks. My point is that while we lay people can make a fuss about Ruane’s lack of clarity the education sector can’t. While she’s using technocratic language (I have the impression she’s reading out the civil servant’s brief when her job is to interpret and sell it) it certainly seem familiar to the CCMS.

    Regarding “comprehensive” education – if you’re referring to the traditional English version I don’t think that’s the idea. In fact I think the spectre of a “one size fits all” comprehensive is a particluarly transaparent Unionist Aunt Sally.

    Mick,

    In a similar vein, why do you keep saying that there’s no “private” schooling in Northern Ireland. There is. The difference is that we don’t penalise families sending their children to independent schools by refusing to pay their tuition fees if the parents make a contribution to “capital” fees, and beacuse independent schooling is more affordable it seems less independent.

    Here’s the link to Campbell’s fees;

    http://www.campbellcollege.co.uk/boarding/boarding_fees.htm

    Note that people not getting their fees paid are paying £5,500 while the locals pay £1900 for day boys with a further £7400 for boarding. A similar education in an English Headmaster’s Conference school would be £8-£11K for day boys.

    I attended another Headmasters Conference school in Northern Ireland – regional list here

    http://www.hmc.org.uk/schools/regions.htm

    If your suggestion is that we give parents “vouchers” by paying tuition fees, allowing capital contribution top ups, and allowing schools to expand in relation to demand (ie run additional capacity), I think you’ll find we already do.

  • Mick Fealty

    Point of Order Jaffa. Where exactly did I say there was no ‘private’ schooling?

    At the moment there are some but but they are either exclusive, or subsisting off the parents of a small number of middle class kids who can’t make the grade for the state Grammars.

  • jaffa

    Mick,

    NI Voluntary B schools include Belfast Inst, Coleraine Inst and Methody!

    Campbell (if you mean a middle class comp) wins awards for its best students as well as not letting down it’s can’t-make-the-graders.

    Anyway, what is it about your position that I’m missing.

    The voluntary B compromise is that these schools don’t need to charge tuition fees so long as they teach the national curriculum and don’t charge exhorbitant additional capital fees (ie extra tuition fees in disguise).

    The suggested threat is that, to protect the exclusion of kids who get c/d grades, parents of children at Belfast Inst will pay an additonal £5K or so per year to keep the oiks out.

    Coleraine has run one perfectly valid and successful compromise for decades. Random general entry in year 1. A non-latin stream of kids to 14. A promotion exam for entry into the senior school at 14 and the quiet disappearance over the summer of the kids who fail and their entry into the technical school – the stage at which vocational training becomes a positive choice.

    Applying the same elsewhere Belfast Inst and Methody are next door and just up the road from Belfast Met. It shouldn’t be beyond them to accept a few extra kids at 11 and manage an orderly entry to a Belfast Met linked technical school at 14.

    So there’s no reason why volutary B Grammars (permitted to use academic selection at 14) can’t adapt to the suggested situation. And given that there’s no reason why all Grammars can’t become voluntary B, which unless I’m wrong is a step towards your social market proposal.

  • kensei

    Mick

    “Impressed you’ve read Kay. If you’re not already, you should be working full time for your party of choice!”

    It’s been a few years and I need to reread it. I think his insight that the key characteristic of markets is adaptation is stupendous, but I wasn’t entirely taken by his solutions. The answer to the failings of Capitalism is Capitalism seemed a little trite.

    “Risk of failure is the key political problem. The extent to which local ministers are prepared to calculate and accept the challenge of that risk is the extent to which we are able to address some of the intractable problems facing us.”

    The system is really not set up for those kinds of risk, and if anything the mutual veto sticks breaks on those kinds of things.

    I’m not sure it is the most pressing concern yet, however. There are a lot of quick wins that can be made before we hit that point. But it’ll will hit eventually.

    “As for the 11+, it has no supporters. Selection does. They are not the same thing. Newt Emerson got this in one. Abolish grammars, and they will simply go private, and serve their own interests above those of wider society. The least we need is an intelligent solution that keeps those ‘smart’ resources available to that wider society.”

    I disagree. I think the Grammars have supporters, rather than selection. The middle class realize they can push their kids for the 11+ and get them tutored and are greatly advantaged by them. And if anything is clear in this debate, it’s that the Grammars are primarily interested in their own interest. I note also the same people parroting “Best Schooling in the World” are quite unconcerned with attempts to break up Catholic education, which has better outcomes according to that report.

    In any case, I can’t see Catholic Grammars going private. There are too many links (and monetary ones too), to parishes. There’d be uproar. I suspect there’d be difficulty for quite a few state grammars that would have problems too. But there is a simply solution if they tried it: tax and regulate them out of existence. Some might find that illiberal, but I’d take a dim view of such moves.

    I agree we need a smart solution. But the top performing Nordic country don’t actually have a great deal of selection, AFAIK. So I think there is something else here that is being missed.

    “…our instincts diverge at the amount of centralisation and the acceptable rates of failure.”

    “Not necessarily. But I agree it is an important question. My personal instinct would be to push it as far towards the edge as is practical, but I also recognise that this is to a large degree a political risk which has to deal in public reaction to failure and the potential for future crises of confidence.”

    Actually, this is the point of divergence. You talk solely in terms of outcomes and political strategy for selling it to the populace. Those matter, but it is somewhat cold and callous: I am also concerned that people are getting a fair shot. I note you didn’t answer my question, which boils to “Do needs justify means, even if the means are shafting a lot of the populace?”.

    “The problem with not moving in that direction at all is that we condemn our schools, teachers, and students to an endless grind of pot filling that serve little purpose other than the timid management of that same political risk. Certainly it does not serve the interests of the kids themselves. ”

    I think fundamental problems would still remain. The system is set up to educate people to pass exams to get a job, rather than to teach a subject. This runs right to university level here.

    Reader

    “Of course you were dealing with a hypothetical – a thought experiment. But the other side of the coin is that, done properly, a secondary modern education could be just as expensive in resources as a Grammar education. Just that the money would be spent on different facilities.”

    Sure, but it just doesn’t happen in real life, and the grammars will always be able to pull in further resource easier if needed.

    And the Grammars also have the not inconsiderable advantage of prestige, even in a straight race.

  • Insider

    Mick

    Your point: ‘Abolish the Grammars and all they’ll do is go private’ shows a lack of understanding of the massive amounts of investment the public purse pours into the Grammar sector, and the whole secondary education system. The economics show that N. Ireland (i.e. the N.I economy) could only support 1-2 private Grammar schools, and that’s at a push!! Remember Campbell is subsidised to an extent via the public purse, as someone else’s figures above showed

    There is literally £Millions upon Millions, poured into the local Grammar sector over the years – There’s just no way, even the upper middle class here could afford to send there kids to private schools – you’re talking about fees of over £12,000 per School year.

  • Insider,

    That point was subsidiary to the main point: ie, top end Grammar Schools in NI represent good value for money in terms of the end product. Not least in terms of the degree of social mobility they provide.

    That’s not argument for sustaining the status quo, just a statement of where some of the residual value lies. If you listen to the Policy Panel discussion you’ll find remarkably little rancour amongst the policy experts. Each of them I think would be open to innovation, not least in anything that recalibrates the balance towards vocational education. Such change might be usefully done to take advantage of the vocational Diplomas that are coming in.

    I have to say though that the example in England is clear enough. Over there, pub landlords and nurses routinely send their kids private school. In Northern Ireland all you need is to create the incentive to go private. As the demand rises, so will the supply. As for paying for it: what’s the average positive equity in a Belfast terraced house?

  • Adds: actually ‘value for money’ rather than ‘good value for money’ is probably more accurate.

  • kensei,

    I don’t want to monopolise your good inputs, on the grammar/selection issue (and I’ve a dozen things heaping in on me elsewhere). Going back to Kay, self interest should play a part in the defence of the grammars, as it should similar attacks on faith schooling.

    One point I would take up with you though is this:

    “The system is really not set up for those kinds of risk, and if anything the mutual veto sticks breaks on those kinds of things.”

    I don’t think this is true. In fact, radical innovation in the Minister’s proposals, when we are finally allowed to see the real rather than the imaginary ones, is the one thing that will get her past an otherwise difficult cross community vote.

    In order to avoid tripping a unionist veto on the matter, the Minister would need to apply herself to find some creative way to tackle some of the issues laid out above: ie retaining Grammar school excellence, whilst beefing up technical and skills based education.

    Politically however she may find it difficult to embrace anything that smacks of a market solution, even though the party’s primary advice to the SDLP’s Housing Minister to date is ‘use her imagination’ and sell off the ‘land bank’.

  • Alex S

    1. One of the criticisms levelled at the present system is that it favourers the middle classes yet the proportion of working class kids going on to third level education is higher here than in England where academic selection was more or less abandoned in the sixties, why is this, and does this fact not undermine the central arguments put forward by the opponents of selection?

    2. Having watched Catriona Ruane on Hearts and Minds the other evening firstly she is out of her depth, unable to give a straight answer to simple questions, secondly, and I suspect this applies to the vast majority of unionists when she was representing the ‘interests’ of the Columbia Three she repeatedly claimed that she had nothing to do with Sinn Fein (and that the three were bird watching), yet here she is a few years later as the Sinn Fein Minister of Education telling us all to use or imagination and to trust in her, when she tries to convince unionism of her good intentions her own credibility will be an issue.

  • Insider

    Mick

    I’m not sure what planet you are on!! – Nurses in England sending their Kids to private school???

    I would vouch that the No. of Nurses in GB who send their kids to private school, by funding this themselves (& not via other means such as rich husbands etc.), you could count on the fingers of 1 hand!!!

    Pub Landlords – Yes some, but Pub Landlords are hardly a true representation of the working class – are they?

    Remember we’re talking about the mass of people here, and how they’re educated – In the UK, the No. of people privately educated still only amounts to a few %.

  • It wasn’t offered as a ‘representation’. It was in response to your idea:

    “There’s just no way, even the upper middle class here could afford to send there kids to private schools”.

  • lámh dearg

    insider

    the actual figures for England in 2006 were

    7% of all children attended a fee paying school

    23% of all English sixth-formers attended a fee paying school

    This would equate to about 20 thousand in NI terms. This seems incredible but those are the statistics and show that “ordinary” people will spend the money if they feel the alternative is bad enough and the advantage purchased is valuable enough. I have met people in England with a second job which is solely done to pay school fees.

    The figures also raise a further possibility about options for the grammars, they could become private Sixth Form colleges and cream the best from the state sector. By that stage of their children’s academic life many parents would be committed to getting their child to university and would reckon 2 years fees would be a good investment. I think NI could easily sustain half a dozen such institutions.

    Again, as always the middle classes would continue to do better.

    Mick’s point remains valid the trick is to spread educational advantages as widely as possible without driving the middle classes away from the state sector

    As regards the religious divide the 6th form colleges would be dangerous for the catholic secondary schools, if they all go “comprehensive” for want of a better word, the catholic middle classes would think nothing of abandoning their own schools and sending their children to a private sixth form college

  • Suilven

    ‘The economics show that N. Ireland (i.e. the N.I economy) could only support 1-2 private Grammar schools, and that’s at a push!! ‘

    I found this a bizarre statement. Edinburgh alone, with less than a third of NI’s population, supports 12 private fee-paying schools. Indeed, 24% of secondary-age kids there are educated privately, outside the state comprehensives.

    A lot of it has to do with the type of education parents had, and if it was academic and they feel they benefited from it, they’ll pay through the nose to propagate to the next generation if they have to.

  • Suilven

    Insider,

    Also, where did this wild claim come from?

    ‘Remember, there is 7.4 times more spent on the Grammar School sector in N.I., than the secondary sector (i.e. on a per pupil basis). ‘

    That’s not what the direct-rule minister, Maria Eagle had to say in 2006 – according to her, grammar schools have cost about 10% less per pupil in recurrent central funding over the last 10 years.

  • Insider

    Lamh Dearg & Suilven

    I’ll answer your points:

    Lamh Dearg – I agree totally with your point re. Sixth Form colleges, but we’re not talking about that – are we?? We’re talking about secondary education as a whole here!, and the mass of our children who have gone through the primary sector, and what we do with them from 11 onwards until they are 15, or 16. Once you reach the sixth form stage, the entries to Sixth form colleges have already got a batch of GCSE’s under their belts, and are then at a different stage of their education and lives – How they got/get to that stage is the big question we’re debating!! The selection at 11 or 14 issue has long since passed for them, and probably long forgotten! In the context of your argument, we could discuss private funding for University and other third level education? – should this be ‘private’ etc. etc.? – Frankly your point has nothing to do with the secondary level education argument! – We could say that 90% of University Students now pay Student fees – Yes, so what: What has this got to do with what we’re discussing?

    ‘In the UK 7% attend fee paying schools’ – this statistic is more applicable, although you’re including here schools which aren’t totally private, and receive central government funding for capital expenditure. However, even accepting your 7% figure – it’s hardly high?: Is it?? What about the other 93% – any view about their education, or should we just ignore them??

    Suilven – Your point re. Edinburgh is just plain silly. If N. Ireland had say 1 fully private secondary level school (which I’ve said is about all the N. Ireland economy could afford) and that was say Campbell College, in South Belfast, then there would be a higher percentage of South Belfast residents sending their children to Private schools because that is where the School is!! I.e. apart from Boarders there would be few people commuting their Kids from Fermanagh every day because that wouldn’t be practical! In terms of your financing point, I’ve actually just answered your point on another thread started by Mick F. with the totally rubbish title that ‘Grammars are less expensive than secondaries’!! – I re-post my answer here again viz.:

    Mick

    Your initial point to this thread was that funding per pupil for the secondary sector is more than the Grammar sector. However, if you look at the parliamentary answer this excludes capital funding, which frankly covers well over 90% of expenditure, and capital funding for the Grammar sector is several times higher than the secondary sector. The answer you quote is only for revenue figures i.e. heat, light, salaries etc. – hardly a representative analysis!! If you take the overall TOTAL investment figures (i.e. including capital spending) then the spending per pupil for the Grammar sector is 7.4 times higher than the spending per pupil in the secondary sector.

  • Suilven

    Insider,

    >Your point re. Edinburgh is just plain silly.

    Why? I chose Edinburgh very deliberately as it’s the only place I’ve experienced similar degree of zeal amongst parents for academic education as NI.

    >If N. Ireland had say 1 fully private secondary level school (which I’ve said is about all the N. Ireland economy could afford)

    Again, why? As my link showed, spend per pupil in grammar schools is a bit over £3k per annum. Factor in, say £1-2k additional capital charges and the average annual school fee would still be way below the average fee in Edinburgh’s 12 schools. As I said in my original post, when parents are wedded to a particular kind of education, they’ll pay through the nose for it.

    >and that was say Campbell College, in South Belfast, then there would be a higher percentage of South Belfast residents sending their children to Private schools because that is where the School is!! I.e. apart from Boarders there would be few people commuting their Kids from Fermanagh every day because that wouldn’t be practical!

    So what’s different? Only about 10% of Edinburgh private schoolkids board. Ergo, the other 90% must live in Edinburgh or its hinterland (NB Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee, Perth all have their own private schools). Do you really think Scotland and NI are so different economically that NI could only support 1 private school while Scotland supports 30+?

  • Insider

    Suilven

    You’re comparing Apples with Pears here!: Re. Edinburgh etc. – I see you’ve now broadened the argument to include Schools in Dundee, Perth etc. If you’re doing this, then I’m quite sure that the Schools you’re referring to are NOT PRIVATE SCHOOLS, in the true meaning of that definition i.e. in the same way that Winchester, Eton and Harrow are private schools.

    Scottish funding for education is structured entirely differently from the rest of the UK, and I’m quite sure that the schools you’re referring to get a substantial amount of Scottish central government funding. You sometimes get this mistaken view in N. Ireland that because Parents of Students at say Methody, and similar schools, pay a small fee each year, this then covers all of Methody’s running costs and Capital investment program, whereas we all know that this is nonsense. I say again, that these people who talk about grammar schools going private (& I mean really private here!!), have no concept of the costs that are involved – both capital & revenue.

    If a N. Ireland grammar were to go fully private, then they would have to charge several £‘000 per term to allow for the capital, revenue, and future investment requirements of such a school. It’s alright saying that N. Ireland’s middle class parents will cough up with this level of dosh – However, I’d believe it when it happens – as they say, ‘Talk is cheap’!

    Of course, the NI Ministry of Education could do some sort of deal to allow some grammar’s to have some ‘private autonomy’, and continue some central Government funding – then of course a lot of the current Grammars could go ‘private’ as they would call it! – But the fact remains they would still require a heavy chunk of taxpayers money (both capital and revenue) to be viable. This then would be approx. similar to the Scottish model you’re referring to – & these Schools would not be Private in the truest sense of the word. However, the NI Ministry of Education have already made it clear that this is not on! – Although, as with all these things, this situation could change.

    In any case, what is this funding argument/discussion all about? – I thought the main thrust of these threads is to debate the best education for our children, and what is best for the future well-being of N. Ireland. In any case, as Gerry Burns (he of the Burns report!) said earlier this week the Grammars are already going Comprehensive – Methody, and many other Grammars are now taking all 11+ grades in, including C’s, D’s etc., because of the falling birth rate: NB Methody couldn’t fill all it’s places this year. As a teacher said to me, if you can add 2+2, and get somewhere between 3&1;/2 & 4&1;/2, then you can get into a Grammar nowadays! – It’s already happening, so learn to live with it!!

  • Suilven

    Insider,

    >If you’re doing this, then I’m quite sure that the Schools you’re referring to are NOT PRIVATE SCHOOLS, in the true meaning of that definition i.e. in the same way that Winchester, Eton and Harrow are private schools.

    Oh yes they are. Here’s the list – do please read:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_independent_schools_in_Scotland

    As you see, the fees are really quite eye-watering in a lot of cases.

    >Scottish funding for education is structured entirely differently from the rest of the UK, and I’m quite sure that the schools you’re referring to get a substantial amount of Scottish central government funding.

    I’m pretty sure none of these schools receive a penny from the government. All funding is through fees or bequests. The only controversial point is that (I believe) most of them are registered as charities for tax reasons.

    >the Grammars are already going Comprehensive – Methody, and many other Grammars are now taking all 11+ grades in, including C’s, D’s etc., because of the falling birth rate: NB Methody couldn’t fill all it’s (sic) places this year.

    I’d be really interested in hearing the numbers of grade D’s being accepted to grammar schools, if you have them to hand.