Education Committee fails to agree..

Not only is there no political consensus on Northern Ireland Education Minister Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane’s proposals “as they currently stand”, but there’s no consensus between the political parties on the Assembly’s Education Committee on their response. As the BBC reports

A series of meetings was held in private to allow frank discussion but the chairman has admitted that it was difficult to find areas of agreement. Instead, each of the five political parties has produced its own individual response.

  • Rory

    Why then is the Minister constantly being barracked for her failure to seek a concensus where none exists?

  • Traditional_Unionist

    and round and round we go.

    whos got the magic roundabout picture?….

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Does every dull BBC report have to end up as a duller thread here?

  • Essentialist

    Bob Osbourne of the University of Ulster acknowledges that the goal of ending of academic selection will not improve life chances of those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is remarkable that he chooses to fail to criticise the Minister for Education for her failure to admit this fact. Nor did Professor Osbourne pass judgement on Professors Gallagher and Smith for their obsessive focus on academic selection as the root of all ill in the Northern Ireland school system. The research volumes published in 2000 have consumed inordinate public resources leading only to removal of choice and a statutory change in the curriculum from a subject based approach to a themes based, child-centred, value free, constructivist system. This new approach, described by curriculum “expert” Carmel Gallagher as a “Trojan horse” is to be tested through Caitriona Ruane’s new 11-plus test commissioned from CCEA. CCEA employed Ms Gallagher and produced both the pupil profile and the revised curriculum.

    To cite Osbourne’s telling admission again for the benefit of all ideologically hidebound educationalists, he stated:
    “it is most unlikely that ending academic selection will be a key factor, in itself, in tackling the huge problems of underachievement and the wastage of talent that blights young lives, holds back communities and acts as a brake on the capacity to transform the economy towards high-value-added, well-paid jobs.”

    This joke will continue for as long as the public are prepared to put up with a fake government messing with their children’s lives. Now that’s not dull

  • DC

    Apparently, Ruane’s 3-year interim selection test removes the science component from it adversely affecting dyslexic children who are left with just English and maths as the main testing criteria.

    Equality in action.

  • graduate

    If this is what we’re paying them for it’s time to give them final notice. This is an absolute disgrace. Has any party managed to produce a coherent, sensible, understandable policy on education and the necessary reform of the education system? Or are they all just concentrating on dissing each other’s point of view?
    I’m in favour of academic selection but feel that the current system has outlived its usefulness. it shouldn’t be done away with until a replacement is in situ though, after all we didn’t scrap ‘O’ levels before the GCSE was ready to roll out so why are we doing it now with 11plus?
    All children need to be challenged and stretched in order to achieve their potential but SF’s ideas seem to belong to the very pc view that all children must be winners- news for you guys- Life ain’t like that. There will always be winners nad losers. We need competeion to achieve our potential and I think we’re the better for having to struggle for some things, we don’t value that which comes too easily.
    Sorting out the school estate and dealing with falling roles need to be taken into the equation here. Simply scrapping the 11plus will not stopm the rot within education. Let’s have some real thinking on this not the usual crap from hte parties- our children deserve MUCH better

  • willis

    Just to set a bit of context…..

    So what would work?

    – Do as the primary principals have urged and rebalance the funding between primary and post-primary education in favour of primary schools and then rebalance it again in favour of those primary schools with the highest levels of deprivation. As a House of Commons report suggested, schools in the most deprived areas of Belfast do less well than similar schools in other UK cities.

    – End the public subsidy to private fee-paying preparatory schools attached to grammar schools. Individuals and families are entitled to buy private education but not with subsidies from taxpayers. The subsidy could be withdrawn over the next three years. Arguments by opponents that this will flood the state-funded sector suggest that parents do not really value what they are getting and with falling rolls, there is unlikely to be major expenditure pressure. While the sums involved are relatively small in public-expenditure terms why on earth do we aim these subsidies at the better-off?

    Are you as happy with this bit of his article?

  • willis

    Oh and I see you conveniently missed out his conclusion.

    “Selection should go but only as a part of a radical policy to tackle disadvantage and underachievement. Our societal cohesion and economic well-being require it.”

    No wonder you didn’t provide a link – Naughty!

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Graduate, if you’re going to bang on about the benefits of academic selection, could you at least get your spellings right, FFS.

    This thread is still boring. Could the eds try and stop some of this shit: “To cite Osbourne’s telling admission again…” which makes this place so long-winded and repetitive.

    Sluggerotoole: Never knowingly concise.

  • willis

    b-j R

    Will you FFS stop cursing the darkness and light a candle.

  • Reader

    willis: End the public subsidy to private fee-paying preparatory schools attached to grammar schools.
    Why? Is it cheaper for the state to subsidise fee paying places, or to pay in full for the same children? If the first, as it surely is, then doesn’t that allow money to be diverted to schools in deprived areas?
    Alternatively, if that’s the expensive way to educate children, I’m with you.
    Here’s your chance to win me over to one aspect of your case with a couple of simple, referenced, facts. Go for it…

  • willis


    I’m agnostic on it I’m afraid. The point in quoting those two sections of the article was that there had been a very selective reading of the article, without quoting it.

    If you end the subsidy, you create private fee-paying primary schools, something which I believe Essentialist opposes.

    As far as I am concerned the problem with literacy and numeracy lies in primary schools and requires high levels of targeted effort to change the culture of failure. It also requires that the primary-secondary funding gap is closed.

  • Essentialist

    Now hold on just a minute. The Education Committee were unable to agree the Minister’s proposals to end academic selection.
    Boring or not that is the focus of debate. The responsibility of the proposer is to support their argument with facts, evidence and a method for delivering the change. Others may disagree but have the same burden.
    Bob Osbourne is not unknown in education circles and has popped in and out of the selection debate from time to time.
    I think that the other issues he introduced are important but in a different context.
    Note how the Irish News sub eds attempt to influence the reader.
    “Radical changes needed as academic selection is ended By Simon Doyle Education Correspondent

    If academic selection is ended, there must be far-reaching changes in the education system, writes Bob Osborne of the University of Ulster

    Is it really difficulty to spot the difference?

    Osbourne’s view on ending selection is at odds with the evidence he cites from the Sutton Trust which is unequivocal. Can’t have it both ways it seems unless you’re an academic or educationalist. Ruane’s daughter attends a grammar school, Tony Gallagher’s girls, Michael Wardlow’s son etc etc

    Public subsidy should no more be given to prep schools than to faith based schools. The overall cost to the public purse for home to school transport for those attending Catholic grammars is enormous.
    Equity in funding for primaries and secondaries is a nonsense concept. There is no clear link between expenditure and outcome in primary schools. The demand for money for schools is insatiable but the vast majority is spent on teachers salary and perks. Try reading a few LMS outturn statements if you want boring.
    Oh and talking about convenient omissions Osbourne fails to mention the disaster that was the Numeracy and Literacy Strategy.
    For a verdict read the NIAO
    and PAC
    I won’t bother quoting from them.

  • Essentialist

    The link to the Public Accounts Committee report is at

  • willis

    I can understand why you do not want to quote from them.

    The recommendations include reducing the disparity between grammar and secondary schools. Pg33
    Abolishing selection will certainly do that.

  • Essentialist

    Let’s see Willis. The grammar schools attain 98+% of pupils gaining 5 A*-C grades at GCSE and the secondaries are about half of that. You suggest moving down the attainment ladder by getting rid of selection. No wonder you have no answer to the problems. The British PAC were reporting on the waste of £40 million on a failed strategy employed by Northern Ireland’s DENI.

    Perhaps a more telling quote would have been:

    “15. In England, schools are now required by law to teach reading through “synthetic phonics”the way in which sounds are represented by letters. The Department told us that the use of phonics programmes are and always have been an important component of its approach to the teaching of literacy and that it is very interested in the debate on synthetic phonics.[24] As part of a review of the overall Strategy the Department intends to examine the mix of methods schools use to teach literacy in order to assess the relative effectiveness of different approaches.[25] ”

    Teacher training schools here use “linguistic phonics” a proven inferior method to teach phonics in schools. Why is it that local educationalists think that a local approach which denies children of their right to be taught by proven methods is acceptable?

    Phonics has about the same meaning as equality. The importance is which sort you adopt.

  • willis

    It was not I who made the suggestion to equalise but rather the NI Audit Office in their report. You posted a link to their report so you can hardly blame me for quoting it.

    I am glad that you recognise that the rest of the UK can do things better in phonics and the point is well made. As I have said before the rest of the UK have very largely got away from selection at 11 and are focussing on improving the performance of all pupils.

  • Essentialist

    reducing the disparity can only happen if there is improvement in the secondary school performance. All post-primaries inherit the shortcomings of the poor primary curriculum teaching but educationalists will not solve the problem by seeking the end of selection.

    Perhaps you can campaign with your MLA or MP for the leglislative introduction of synthetic phonics in primary school teaching?

  • willis

    “Perhaps you can campaign with your MLA or MP for the leglislative introduction of synthetic phonics in primary school teaching?”

    You are having a laugh surely?

    5 parties – 5 approaches to selection. More show boating than ever seen on the Mississippi. The Education Committee is the last place I would go for wisdom and common sense.

  • Essentialist

    They don’t need wisdom Willis. They merely have to follow the best scientific evidence, produced within the UK, on what works for children, including those disadvantaged pupils whom they claim to be concerned for.

    The unaccountable educationalists have grown used to playing with any constructivist initiative they can get their hands on knowing that the politicans will fight over it like a piece of *hit. Remember synthetic phonics has nothing to do with academic selection.

  • willis

    Now I can see what you are trying to do there, its very clever but I’m not falling for it. Coupling the DUP with the idea of scientific evidence.

    What is Sir Ken and Sammy’s position on synthetic phonics? Never mind the science, everyone ignores that.

    1. Will this help disadvantaged children and give them a better chance to compete for scarce jobs with Inst’s finest? You can see the flaw immediatly.

    2. Are Sinn Fein in favour of it? If so it must be wrong and opposed strenuously.

    Repeat after me – The earth is 6000 years old, there is no man-made Global warming.

    That’s science passed, now maths and english…..

  • Essentialist

    Northern Ireland’s children have been in an educational “limbo” for years. Having pointed out the shortcomings of the political parties contribution it seems that you now wish to denigrate scientific evidence also. The DUP have nothing to say about synthetic phonics but nor do the other parties. This is the core issue since it seems the DENI, CCEA and the ETI have nothing to say about the right of children to be taught using synthetic phonics, a proven method.

    The CCEA seem to have linked the revised curriculum and acceptance of its doctrine as a form of baptism into education salvation. While the public, parents and pupils have expressed their desire to retain academic selection the leaders of this unelected quango have nailed their tenets to the outside of their Trojan horse.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in CCC 1257:

    “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation…The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism…”

    I hardly need to spell out the links.

    Who will save the children denied the traditional baptism into effective numeracy and literacy teaching leading to educational salvation?

  • Essentialist


    It seems that right on cue the issue of education is moth balled by the simultaneous departure of the politicans and educationalists. Meanwhile parents and pupils are left to stew until the froth is blown up again in September. Little wonder there is no resolution to this problem.