Ruane puts educational cart before the horse?

As has been mentioned here on Slugger before, Catriona Ruane has probably got the toughest job in the Executive. She has to work out a political deal with political opponents that will also satisfy her own party and the wider base. The trouble is, that whilst she has undoubtedly reaped some capital from her confirmation that the 11+ would be abolished, it seems she may also have put the political cart before the policy horse. As Pete notes below, the Bain report specifically asks for a timetable, before action is taken. Consider Ed Balls proposed legislation to provide education for all up 18. However controversial the legislation, the timelines are clear. No change for 17 years olds until 2013, and none for 18 year olds until 2015. Contrast that with Northern Ireland and the complete non appearance of any timetable at all..Slugger understands it is causing utter chaos in some schools, where parents are questioning a new curriculum that is predicated on non selective education where the majority choice is for selective education. Unwilling to engage in, never mind seek to win, a political fight in Stormont, the Minister may be set (intentionally or not) to engage in political warfare through the body of the schools themselves.

  • sms

    maybe mick you could supply us with a list of schools that are in utter chaos ( strong words) because of the ending of 11+

  • Garibaldy

    It used to be we had constructive ambiguity in NI in the 1990s. Now we have destructive ambiguity.

  • nmc

    As a nationalist I find myself in the confusing situation of agreeing with Unionist politicians when it comes to our softly spoken minister for education.

    IMHO the woman’s a disaster area, her performance with the oversight committee last week was a disgrace, and her performance to date has been pretty shaky. I have a strong feeling that her best qualification for the post she holds is that tiny voice, which certainly won’t frighten the kids.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry. I was a little heavy on the green ink. ‘Tension’ is probably a more apposite term. In any case they are being asked questions raised by the Minister’s statements to date to which she still declines to answer.

    It’s not as though there could not be an answer. But the principle Bain lays out is sound and unprejudiced advice, aimed at preventing any such chaos.

  • the ship’s cat

    Just an observation, from Ruane’s interview at the weekend on BBC1 – ‘if you would just let me finish’ is getting a bit tedious because parents of primary school pupils are all waiting for her to start!

  • slug

    The minister’s statement is now online at DENI’s website.

    See here.

    The statement is not a reassuring document. It is long on waffle and short on detail.

    Right down to the punctuation error on the last line: apparently the minister wants a system “with equality for all our children at it’s (sic) core.” Says it all, really.

  • joeCanuck

    The Minister reminds me of a supervisor I once inherited when I accepted a new post. He was undoubtedly smart but all he ever wanted to do was produce the perfect plan, and never actually did anything. Being in a bureaucracy it took me quite a while to get him moved to where he could do least harm.
    The Minister seems to be like that and she seems to have convinced herself that when she does produce this master(ful) plan, people will be so amazed at the brilliance of it that they will be falling over themselves to implement it.

  • steve48

    I think it is likely that she will produce nothing more than rhetoric about equality for all our children (including any from the south) and how it will be for local areas to come up with their own solutions re transfer at 11 or 14. When the whole thing goes to hell in a hand cart she will blame it on unionist intransigence.

  • feismother

    < >

    Indeed, but that about sums up her performance all round.

    I’m a governor in a secondary school, we don’t know what’s going to be happening and the primary schools don’t know either. Parents ask questions and none of us involved can answer them.

  • ulsterfan

    If she does not provide full details of post primary education and is prepared to let the matter drift indefinitely she should be brought to the Assembly and answer a motion of no confidence .
    That should concentrate her mind .

  • joeCanuck

    If that’s possible under the procedures, then it should be done, ulsterfan. The sooner the better by the sounds of it. To paraphrase, it looks more and more like she never had the run of herself.

  • sms

    You all have no sense of political manoeuvring . She waits until the 11+ is stone dead (which it isn’t yet)and then she introduces the new arrangements in the assembly.There will be an almighty row with plenty of name calling and faked anger but also with many concessions. result, 11+ gone.. Mission accomplished

  • Chris Donnelly

    “Slugger understands it is causing utter chaos in some schools, where parents are questioning a new curriculum that is predicated on non selective education where the majority choice is for selective education. Unwilling to engage in, never mind seek to win, a political fight in Stormont, the Minister may be set (intentionally or not) to engage in political warfare through the body of the schools themselves.”


    Funny, but having canvassed the opinions of three school Principals in the past week, I was somewhat surprised to find that their experience to date tallies with my own- namely, that there is little by way of pressure from parents (as of yet) at the educational coalface- and I’m currently teaching Primary Five.

    Certainly, the Minister’s political opponents at Stormont have been cranking up the pressure (as is their job), but within the education system I’ve yet to see real evidence that we’ve reached a crisis point, perhaps due to the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, we’re not at year zero with this one, as both the Catholic sector and the state/ protestant sector have been moving ahead (at differing speeds) with proposals for effectively removing selection at eleven in a number of local areas across the north.

    Now that’s not to deny that the uncertainty that has existed for many years is not still there. The Minister’s formal decision to call time on the 11 Plus in a specified timeframe has started the clock ticking and people are naturally anxious (and will become more so) to see the fleshing out of proposals as soon as possible.

    The ‘Revised’ Curriculum is more to do with emphasising skills, a broader approach to learning through new (or at least newly amalgamated) curricular areas- like PDMU/ TSPC- and a more focused approach to assessment than simply launching a non-selective route to Key stage three.

    Of course, were there to remain a testing procedure at the end of Key Stage two facilitating selection, it would be extremely likely that many schools would be loathe to jettison the tried and tested practice of narrowing the curriculum focus for the 12-18 months preceding the test to cover literacy and numeracy (and, perhaps, science, though that may not survive.)

    I think your wide of the mark on the suggestion that the Minister is unwilling to engage in a political fight at Stormont, though that seems likely (unsurprisingly) to break down rigidly on political/ sectarian lines.

    In which case, the Minister would be better employed seeking to advance her education plans with the schools, in my opinion, developing agreed local plans to minimise the power of the political veto held by the DUP and even pressurising the latter into agreeing some compromise resolution.

    Already, it is clear that the Governing Bodies Association have failed to attract any of the Catholic grammars, a considerable blow for their efforts to broaden the base (and funding pool) for any Common Entrance Exam.

  • Mick Fealty


    That would come under “a politician’s pragmatic need to achieve temporal aims”, as Paulie has put on another thread. Part of the trouble arises from the fact that the nature of the mission is not clear, and the Minister’s cryptic clues are not helping any of us make it any clearer.

    So are you suggesting that the aim is not so much to get rid of the 11+ but to use its prospective abolition to enforce a range of concessions that confirm in some areas a movement that is already in play towards a comprehensive model, at the same time allowing others to stick with selection?

    Certainly abolition of the 11+ appears not to be the problem. The GBA’s response to the Burns report was clear enough:

    We can still move forward to abolish the present 11 plus, unanimously judged as a flawed mechanism for determining educational direction. It is not acceptable that decisions should be based on the results of two high pressure tests where a child’s performance can also be enhanced by coaching.

    The other problem is where does the pressure come from, since pro selection Unionists have a veto in the Executive and the Assembly? But perhaps I’m just being one of those ‘blind who will not see’.


    I would not rule anything out as far as that is concerned. Whatever the Cardinal may or may not have said, the Catholic grammars are going to want something rather more concrete than is currently being shown either to the Committee or the public in order to decisively break from the status quo.

  • Hogan

    Revised curriculum?

    They’ll be in the sand-pit until they’re 15!