“Vagueness blocks discussion and disagreement..”

Northern Ireland Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has released for consultation a policy document entitled “Every School a Good School” – available here [pdf file]. The minister describes it as “a new, pupil centred policy with equality and improvement at its heart”, but it’s interesting to compare it with the UK government “Better Schools for All” White Paper from 2005 announced by then Schools’ Minister, Ruth Kelly, MP, with the line – “We’ve got to make sure that every single school is a good school, serving its pupils well and meeting the demands of the parents .” Both papers share a focus on what’s described as an individual child-centric approach to education and on strengthening parental and community involvement. But one has an additional emphasis on ensuring “that choice is more widely available to all within an increasingly specialist system, not just to those who can pay for it”. I’ll let you work out which one that quote is from. Btw, I found an interesting reference in looking around for this post.. and I thought I’d share

The most obvious slogans are those stated as mottoes. (Indeed, the word slogan, comes from the Gaelic meaning “battle cry.”) Here is an example, during the late 1980’s and early ’90’s public school officials in Philadelphia used the rallying cry: “Every school a good school!” This is a possibly inspiring motto, but it obscures important questions. Must every school be equally good in the same way? And whose ideas of “good” are to count? These are centrally important options, but discussion of them is stifled by the slogan’s systematic ambiguity. Vagueness blocks discussion and disagreement. The slogan achieves initial breadth of consensus by temporarily postponing quarrels about both means and ends. But the cost of this initially broad consensus is great. The shallow depth of consensus on means and ends is obscured and upon attempts at implementation the consensus is likely to break down.

Adds According to the BBC report – “The government is concerned that failing schools appear to be “rewarded” for their faults by getting extra money and support. It has published a list of sanctions which will kick in if improvements do not happen within 18 months. These include sacking the management team and closing down the school.” [Isn’t it the Education Minister’s new proposal? – Ed]

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  • “The shallow depth of consensus on means and ends is obscured and upon attempts at implementation the consensus is likely to break down.”

    Isn’t that the very foundation on which our “democracy”, as presently constituted, is built? It sounds like a description that could easily be applied to the Good Friday Agreement itself.

  • harry

    Caitríona Ruane was at the 50th anniversary of St joseph’s High school Newry celebrations last friday.

    in her speech she said St. Joseph’s was “a GOOD school”

    if that is the case, why does she not try teaching in it for a week and see if she still agrees with that statement at the end of it.

  • The Raven

    “Adds According to the BBC report – “The government is concerned that failing schools appear to be “rewarded” for their faults (SNIP) These include sacking the management team and closing down the school.”

    Well. Won’t that instill confidence in parents, pupils, teachers and the general community? Action this day, eh? If it’s broke, sure we’ll not fix it, we’ll close it.

    There ARE shite management teams out there, as with any organisation. But what do the above actions achieve, other than depriving an area of a valuable resource?

    Of course, won’t closing down a poorly-performing school in – say, a Neighbourhood Renewal area – push all the blame on to the “management team”, instead of looking at, and dealing with, the real environmental factors in play here….?

    But of course, there was me whinging about virtually no new or useful policy coming from the present administration. Why, this does the trick! What on earth could I be complaining about….?

    This is truly an example of go-get-’em policy that I’ve just been GAGGING to hear, from our parties, and their long history of ground-breaking strategy.

  • Seniorhas

    I notice in the document that every reference about where we are is “the north of Ireland”. I presume that this is a ministerial dictat! Has she forgotten where most of the money comes from?