Education Minister is wasting Committee time..

Further to Pete’s post yesterday, it is worth noting Sammy Wilson’s (DUP Chair of the Education Committee) scathing remarks on the Minister’s performance yesterday:

The Minister was only willing to meet with the Committee for an hour, and she spent almost half of that time reading a pre prepared statement. She also read it in Irish, obviously trying to draw it out as long as possible so that she wouldn?t have to face the committee and answer the questions that they had.

As we’ve noted on Slugger before, Ms Ruane has landed the toughest and most complex brief of all her party colleagues. Possibly even of the whole Executive. But Slugger understands that relations within the department are strained. Apparently senior civil servants were not informed of the content of her one major announcement of her tenure in office so far: the timetable for the abolition of the 11+ examination and the raising of the transfer age to 14.

The removal of the Ministerial office from departmental headquarters in Bangor by her predecessor Martin McGuinness certainly hasn’t helped matters. Slugger understands that one recent request to speak to her private secretary ended up being routed to her constituency office. Such organisational malfunctions can only add to an already difficult job.

At the heel of the hunt, Ms Ruane’s often brittle response to criticism from political opponents cannot obscure the fact that, so far, she is simply not delivering the goods.

,

  • elanor

    I have not been moved to post on this site before but as a parent of a primary 5 school pupiul – i have to ask, why do our kids not count according to this so called Minister? i do not care what party she is from or about her personal squabbles, we just want answers. How will my chikd transfer? Is there going to be a new tier of schooling or not? Does she care that we are actually losing sleep over our kids future?

  • Billy Bunter

    Poor Sammy, Jeffery, Basil and Mervin don’t like having to play second fiddle to a Shinner and a female one at that. Given his loathing of the Irish language, Basil must be particularly peeved. Even on the selectively edited BBC footage the four of them came across as the ignorant class bullies doing their best to disrupt the class. Keep up the good work Caitriona, very soon you’ll have dragged them into the 20th century.

  • Do the PRM ministers still ’employ’ Mafia-style minders? Are any of these folks sometime ‘volunteers’?

    I recall an anecdote from the days when McGuinness was Education minister. A friend of a friend of mine was a senior civil servant in the Education department at the time. He gathered up some papers from his desk to go to a meeting, stepped out into the corridor – and was roughly shoved back inside by one of these thugs who guldered, “The Minister’s coming”!!

  • kensei

    This does not strike me as a good issue to screw up on. Regardless of the views within Nationalism on the 11+, limbo will not be liked especially by middle class parents who SF want to attract/retain.

    There has to be more going on behind the scenes, surely?

  • I think that Caitriona Ruane, alone, of all the ministers is doing the job she was appointed to do. I have yet to see any other minister provide ONE single worthwhile result of their eight months in office. And I think that the concerns of ‘senior civil servants’ are far outweighed by the priority of establishing an education system in the north which is truly child centric. However I know that there are vested interests at work, trying to maintain an unequal and unjust apartheid like education system, whereby the wealthy went to grammar schools and the rest had to make do with the crumbs from that particular table.

    As for reading a statement partly in Irish, Sammy should look at himself and his party’s attitude to Irish. It’s no longer the leprechaun language now Sammy, wee boy, it’s the language of at least one minister. It’s tireseome listening to the bigoted bleating of the likes of Sammy Wilson and co whose educational agenda is backward looking and regresssive.

  • gordon

    How can you possibly think Ruane is doing a good job?

    She has failed to bring proposals that can bring consenus.

    Her attitude was terrible yesterday. She was rude and arrogant, and she only embarassed herself.

    Its unusual to members from all other parties unite in the criticism of one Minister.
    Time for her to hop back over the border and stay there.

  • OILibhear Chromaill,

    Surely the “unjust apartheid like education system” to which you refer, is in actual fact the division of our children into State and Roman Catholic schools.

    Please for a moment take off those green tinted glasses. Before you give any more lectures to unionists on the Irish language, you may wish to consider the future of our divided schooling and take advantage of the Irish Catholic Bishops recent determination that:

    “In some areas where historically there were large numbers of parents
    who wanted a Catholic school, circumstances may have changed and
    an existing Catholic school may no longer be viable as a Catholic
    school. In such a situation an evaluation will have to be made, in
    consultation with parents and teachers, about the future of such a
    school. However, such evaluation should take into account not only
    financial and numerical criteria but also a concern for those who are
    needy or disadvantaged. In certain circumstances it may be considered
    desirable to enter into new patronage arrangements, provided these
    arrangements respect the rights of Catholic parents, in particular in
    relation to the religious instruction of their children within the school
    curriculum (cf. Art. 13.3, The United Nations International Covenant on
    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966).”

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Oili,

    That is a hostage to fortune by the DUP. A little less grandstanding on the matter would allow them a fairer hearing when he has a straight point to make.

    But fillibustering the committee for an hour and then walking out before anyone can ask questions is not good. There is a deal to be had in education. But the necessary work has to be done. I’d say she cannot get the proper policy development done, if she doesn’t have a working relationship with her Civil Servants.

    As elanor refreshingly points out, this is not about party bun fights, it’s about real people and their children. Whilst I don’t believe the minister should allow herself to be rushed into anything precipitive, the perception is that nothing happening – internally or externally – is damaging.

    – Mick

  • I don’t think the minister should be rushed into anything, particularly the regressive agenda being proposed by the DUP.

    And I don’t see how the Minister hanging around for a fruitless argument with an Education Committee which is no more than a platform for MLA Wilson is going to help ‘real people and their children’. Let the minister get on with her work – and I have no doubt progress will be made.

    it would also be a help if everytime a DUP spokesperson opened their mouth on education, they wouldn’t take the opportunity to attack the Irish Medium Education sector. It really does expose that party’s bigoted and blinkered view on education. Irish Medium Education as I’ve argued on other threads offers the best value for money in the entire NI education spectrum.

    the figures provided to unionist MPs regarding the amoung of capitation per student illustrate this.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Well said Mick. It was McGuinness that actually announced the 11-plus was going. Fine – but can anyone point to any real progress since then.

    Ruane looks severely out of her depth and unable to handle her critics. Whether she like Sammy and Basil or not, these are the people – unfortunately for her, but hey, that’s mandatory coalition – that she’s going to have to get on board.

    Can she?

    Not on current form, no. I think she should hand over the reins to someone with the ability and political savvy to hammer out a deal. She may have been plucked from obscurity by the British establishment years ago for advancement within Sinn Fein, but being a ‘wet’ doesn’t make her any more able to do the political job.

  • joeCanuck

    she is simply not delivering the goods

    Mick,
    Does that highlight another major failing of the beast we have created?
    How do you get rid of a Minister who isn’t up to the job. Under “normal” democracy, the Prime Minister or President simply fires them. What can we do?

  • Do they actually have translators on call for when a minister or MLA happens to speak Irish, or do non-Irish speakers just have to make do?

  • lib2016

    This is the second time Sinn Fein have selected the education ministry so one can take it that by now they have got their policy outlines sorted out and are engaged in working out the details.

    The opposition make no pretence that they intend to do other than oppose for the sake of it and obviously Sinn Fein have decided to take them on in an area where they feel they can win. The issue of keeping the ‘eleven-plus’ gave us all a good idea of where unionism stands – isolated and out of date as usual.

    It’s going to be the same old thing – unionists will charge fearlessly into battle with every progressive and/or professional educational body and then whinge that republicans have won so unionist proposals should be nodded through in the name of fairness.

    Wrong, lads. The grandparents may back the grammar schools but the concerned parents won’t let dogma and prejudice blight their children’s lives. Comprehensives it will be, integrated where the parents demand it. Sinn Fein have out-manoeuvred you again.

  • Mick Fealty

    Make do Abdul.

    Oili,

    That’s fine in theory, except, the Minister is supposed to be answerable to the Committee. If the policy outlines are solid and the ground work is down, why run away?

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    On a point of accuracy – she spoke for 27 mins and then did take questions. There’s enough in the real story without adding fictional bits.

    I have a child getting closer to transfer age and while not concerned about the direction things seem to be heading I’d like some real clarity. I can’t imagine how fruastrated those with children transfering in the next few years must feel.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed. My bad (again).

  • Turgon

    I wonder if a deal is actually happening by default. From what I hear from other posters on previous occassions on which we have debated this the grammer schools are taking more and more children with less high marks at the 11 plus.

    Ruane has only stopped funding the 11 plus. As such I suspect the grammer’s will have their own 11 plus; they will not fill all their places because there are too few children and so will take children with lower grades. The secondaries would be hit harder than the grammers as the falling number of children will be sent proportionally more to the grammers. Essentially we could end up with comprehensive schooling by default.

    Clearly this would be a drawn out affair and children’s education might well suffer. It would, however, avoid Ruane having to do anything much and would avoid a compromise having to be agreed. And keeping the process afloat seems more important to the politicians than actually making decisions let alone ones which might help people.

    I fear Elanor’s very valid question will remain unanswered and we will be completely unable to get rid of a person (Ruane) who is quite clearly not up to the job. I could point out that there is only one realistic solution which is to renegotiate the whole agreement and start again but since this is an education thread I will stop at that.

  • joeCanuck

    Anybody know the answer to my question (#11)?

  • Turgon

    joe,
    I fear my suggestion is about the only option. I could say I told you so but that would not be very constructive.

  • mark fartlighter

    Whilst I will have to reserve judgement on Caitríona’s overall performance as I dont yet know enough I feel it is a difficult brief with difficult problems.

    There seems to be a lack of clarity around the 11+ of course.

    But the fact that the minister is so detested amongst unionists is surely a sign that she is doing a good job.

    What sort of socialist would she be if the right winger liked her? It is impossible.

    Lets face it, she is an Irish language activistist, a woman, a socialist, a republican etc. Of course people like Sammy Wilson are going to hate her, if he didnt she would not be true to herself, her job or her electorate.

  • Moe

    I’m still of the belief that Ruane and co are trying to make so much unrest about the future of the Education system that it will lead to further bargaining power. Get the country wanting academic selection saved at any cost – and the Shinners can start to name their price. Only through such horse-trading can mandatory coalition work.

  • Hogan

    Why do nationalists/republican commentators on here continually fail to recognise that the 11+ issue does not divide neatly along sectarian lines?

    I am a nationalist, and a strong supporter of academic selection. Neither the sdlp or sf have consulted the nationalist electorate on this one and continue to refuse to do so because they know what the answer will be, look at the Belfast Tele polls 2 years ago and it will tell you that the pro-selection opinion is not anywhere near exclusively unionist.

    Unfortunately any move away from their current positions would necessitate a breaking of the strangle-hold the teaching unions have on our two nationalist parties when it comes to education policy so don’t be holding your breath.

    As for Ruane’s performance… i would describe it as a farce if it weren’t over such a tragic subject.

  • Mick Fealty

    mf,

    “Of course people like Sammy Wilson are going to hate her, if he didn’t she would not be true to herself, her job or her electorate.”

    If you actually believe that to be true, then what do make of the cordial relations between the FM and DFM?

    This zero sum formula may have worked pre SAA, but there are real people’s interests at stake here.

  • wild turkey

    Elanor

    Dead on. I have children in P3 and P4, and am the school board of govs. Nobody; parents, students, principals, teachers, teaching assistants has a clue what the future, the rapidly approaching future, holds. Surely there must be a number of clear options that could be put out for consideration, debate, whatever…but nada.

    The way the transfer has been handled to date is starting to vaguely remind me of the Channel 4 nanny with platitudes, practices and policies which were based on qualifications which were, uh, non-existant. I believe the show has since been cancelled. As Mick sez above there are real people’s interests at stake here.

    oh well, at least the kids school has a healthy eating initiative which thankfully does not include:-

    waffle in the morning
    waffle in the evening
    waffle at supertime

  • fair_deal

    I must admit I didn’t expect CR to crash and burn in the quite the manner she has.

    As regards her civil servants in the Dept, if my experience of them is anything to go by, in the words of that great Braveheart quote, “They couldn’t agree on the colour of shite if their life depended on it”

  • mark farlighter

    Mick,

    Seriously, when Sammy Wilson’s turn comes round to be education minister and when he is trying to bring back the 11+ and is getting sued left right and centre for refusing to fund Irish medium schools do you think things will be more cordial – no chance, as you said real issues.

    Very removed from OFM DFM.

  • kensei

    “I fear Elanor’s very valid question will remain unanswered and we will be completely unable to get rid of a person (Ruane) who is quite clearly not up to the job.”

    Let’s nip this one in the bud. First up, it’s not just SF minsters that could be said to be underperforming, indeed you could level it at the whole Assembly. Second, it is exceedingly unlikely that a single minster, however bad, would be removed by a Government without some serious gaffe or a general reshuffle as a pretext. Third, there is nothing stopping any party in power from reshuffling their positions if they so chose. It is also likely that if there was agreement in the Assembly a wider reshuffle could take place.
    Fourth, there is still time to present proposals. You’d expect this must happen at some point, and probably simply doing it would improve her standing a bit. Fifth, if there was an election and the DUP were concerned, they could select the ministry and remove Ruane. SF could slip if it does really badly, and another Nationalist party could take it.

    So, way out on this one Turgon.

  • Turgon

    So kensei the options are: SF remove her and install someone competent, there is a reshuffle which everyone agrees on, we wait for a new election.

    Of course exactly the same argument applies to any other minister e.g. McGimpsey.

    Kind of proves why the whole thing is a disaster does not it.

  • kensei

    “So kensei the options are: SF remove her and install someone competent, there is a reshuffle which everyone agrees on, we wait for a new election.”

    Options at Westminster or the Dáil: Government removes her at their whim or their is a new election.

    “Kind of proves why the whole thing is a disaster does not it. ”

    What’s the difference, exactly? It’s not exactly like the Westminster cabinet is setting the world alight. Hain hung on until he absolutely had to go.

  • wild turkey

    ‘As regards her civil servants in the Dept, if my experience of them is anything to go by, in the words of that great Braveheart quote, “They couldn’t agree on the colour of shite if their life depended on it” ‘

    Ah Fair Deal…but they would have a full consultation exercise regarding the issue to,uh, hand. And perhaps throw in a conference at the Stormont or Culloden Hotels.

    with respect to accountability, neither their lives or careers depend on it. meanwhile we, civic society, are treated like the proverbial mushroom.

  • Elanor

    A number of you reinforce my point by going on about whether a Minister should speak Irish, or should have a translator provided etc. Do you realise what parents are thinking? i couldn’t give a damn if she speaks irish or Chinese or English. the language isn’t costing me a wink of sleep.

    What is the future for my child, in a mere 20 months time? This is serious and if this Education Minister doesn’t have answers to share with the public then somebody, somehow needs to replcae her.

  • If my understanding is correct (and it may not be) her speech in Gaelic is related to there not being any answers.

    IIRC (and I stand to be corrected) if an MLA makes a speech in Gaelic on the assembly floor they must also repeat it in English. Am I right? If so does the same apply to Ministerial meetings?

    If it does she’s wasting valuable time during which she could be questioned (potentially to avoid providing the answers your looking for which she doesn’t have?) and if it doesn’t, then wasted half an hour leaving her committee none the wiser.

    Leaving the language issue aside Ruane has proven herself incompetent. In the spirit of the current atmosphere of everything being done in duplicate (or quadruplicate) along sectarian lines, perhaps SF could agree to replace her if the DUP agree to replace Poots at DCAL. With any luck at least one of the positions would be filled by someone with a modicum of ability.

  • lámh dearg

    Mark, Oili, Billy B

    This isn’t about hating Sinn Fein or bad relationships between Ministers and committees.
    It’s not about baiting the other side.

    It’s about doing her job.

    She has every right to speak in Irish, oppose selection and put forward her party policy but the bottom line is that she has to deliver an education system that works. The current system may be divisive and unequal and may need reform, that’s fine and as the elected and appointed Minister of Education she has the right to lead on that reform.

    But the current system functions.

    She HAS NOT proposed an alternative, she has spoken of visions and ideals but she has not described to parents or schools how any of her vision will be put into practice.

    We all need to know NOW what is happening, parents need to know how to support their children, primary school teachers need to know what to teach their pupils, how to prepare them for their imminent futures, secondary school governors and principals have to know how they will receive or select their intake.

    And all this needs to be known NOW, not next year or six months from now.

    And she cannot tell us.

    She cannot do her job.

  • DK

    Well said Elanor. I have a kid at Hazelwood p2 and we got a letter from the headmistress essentially noting the abolishment of the 11+ and then criticising Ruane for not having and details.

    Ruane should go – surely Sinn Fein have someone with a clue who can replace her? They could, er, promote her to Unionist Outreach Officer maybe?

  • willowfield

    OILibhear Chromaill

    I think that Caitriona Ruane, alone, of all the ministers is doing the job she was appointed to do. I have yet to see any other minister provide ONE single worthwhile result of their eight months in office. And I think that the concerns of ‘senior civil servants’ are far outweighed by the priority of establishing an education system in the north which is truly child centric.

    And what is the policy? It isn’t worked out, yet the current system is to be abolished in two years’ time. That is bad practice at best.

    However I know that there are vested interests at work, trying to maintain an unequal and unjust apartheid like education system, whereby the wealthy went to grammar schools and the rest had to make do with the crumbs from that particular table.

    The apartheid nature of the system is primarily the state-sponsored and funded sectarian segregation. And, by abolishing the 11+, Ms Ruane is actually exacerbating the advantage of the wealthy by removing opportunity from the children of poor families who do not live near grammar schools nor have siblings attending them.

    LIB2016

    Comprehensives it will be, integrated where the parents demand it. Sinn Fein have out-manoeuvred you again.

    There are currently no plans for comprehensives. None that have been publicly stated, at least.

  • Concerned parent

    Personally I hope Ms Ruane takes her time and comes to the right decision rather than rushing into one to please these unionist begrudgers who obviously can’t bear to see a female nationalist heading a Ministry.

  • “unionist begrudgers who obviously can’t bear to see a female nationalist heading a Ministry”

    I’m sorry but fuck off and ask yourself why Margaret Ritchie isn’t prompting the same level of “begrudgery”. I won’t claim to speak for all unionists but maybe, just maybe, is it because she’s not making as much of a complete and utter balls of her charge as Ruane is?

    Her being a nationalist should have no baring on her ability to do her job. It’s disgusting and cheap and just wrong that you’d try and defend such blatant incompetence by dismissing those who point it out as unionist begrudgers who object to her gender and it won’t wash.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Beano,
    Best just not to rise to it. They can’t help being sectarian bigots, it’s the way they have been brought up.

  • Smithsonian

    Let’s face it Ruane is hopelessly out of her depth.

    She is hoping that somebody else will come up with ideas which she can then reluctantly adopt whilst warning that they will fail and fail they will because of a lack of consensus.

    Perhaps SF will be able to trade Education for progress on Police and Justice or maybe an Irish Language act but for the children, parents, teachers, schools and just about everybody else tough luck, you are irrelevant in the bigger game.

    As far as I can see, CR has displayed little vision, no imagination, weak leadership and poor critical thinking. She has no credibility and no long term future.

  • fun and games

    Smithsonisn, I would disagree with you re Caitriona Ruane not having a vision – I think thats part of the problem – she has a very clear idea where she wants to go but no real plan to put it into reality, and no grasp of the political realtiy that she is simply not going to build consenus for her plans.

  • Crataegus

    If I found myself in this position I would step aside, health or family or some such. It is a poison challis; a job for a genius or a hopeless optimist. I think she has handled this badly, has done damage, and the office would be better served if another were appointed. That person, if they were wise would set a realistic timetable.

    It is not a reflection on her overall ability. Her attributes would perhaps be of more value elsewhere. This just may not be the job for her. I do get the feeling that no one is sure what exactly to do, the killer in this is in the detail. It is one thing to say remove selection quite another to deliver and ensure that standards improve. It is also a political minefield, not least because it has been badly handled.

    She is not the only Minister who should fall on their sword.

  • Smithsonian

    Crat
    Nicely put.

    Catriona should attempt to find away out for herself. Perhaps she is banking on the big boys shorting out a deal.

    What she proposing is unworkable in the time scale she envisions and of course it may also be wrong.

  • lib2016

    The state system is a liability. A modern society depends on producing large numbers of graduates which simply isn’t happening. Far too many don’t even get started on the ladder and of those who do finish second level not enough go onto third level.

    Sinn Fein have had the courage and the vision to go in and take the difficult decisions which will build a prosperous society for all our children. In ten years time we will be part of a prosperous Celtic Tiger, albeit a semidetached part if that’s what the electorate decide, while unionists will be still gurning about the ‘good old days’ when they could could put little Johnny down for the right school and assure his future before he opened a book.

    Loyalists and nationalists alike know that they were the ‘good old days’ for a very narrow and restricted part of society. That has to change and the more unionists display their resistance to change the more they convince the rest of us that they have little to offer the future.