Escalation in school legal threats

The Education Minister had previously warned grammar schools that they faced potential legal problems if they created their own tests. Today she went further and threatened primary schools with legal action from the Department if they helped prepare children for the independent test. If there is one thing she knows its…

  • joeCanuck

    Very funny, Fair Deal.

    But seriously, is this just the normal right wing political party bullying showing its head above the parapet?

  • Steve

    Umm Joe I think the SF fancy themselves as left wing

  • joeCanuck

    Steve, I know they do. But they always seem show fascist tendencies.

    (Submit codeword is “sure”)

  • DC

    When making changes you’ve got to bring people with you and if you cant do that then change is impossible, especially at public sector / schools level where everyone’s own reasoned argument holds a basis of rationale needing unpicked, or left alone – outcome dependent on actually have a debate in the first place!

    These schools, principals, pupil-parent demands cannot be repudiated at ministerial level by threats alone. It would be good work to get a chance to hear the strategic argument linked to the roll-out of this vision in advance to win hearts and minds, so to speak.

    The one thing, big thing, that has surprised me the most is the subservience of the Catholic grammar schools whose pupils score the best and whose small ‘c’ conservatism works in its favour, of course not all the schools. Academic results show that these schools do actually work well yet the very such schools are prepared to give way to Sinn Fein as gurus of academia whenever Martina Anderson has gone on TV and said spelling isn’t important, not even as an MLA! Wake up and find your mettle, please. Having militated a way into power SF’s Ruane now militates against those who remain unconvinced, but this is due to a lack of clarity on the actual way forward.

    In the meantime, without this schools are resorting to what they know best – tests.

  • PeaceandJustice

    It’s a bit like a comedy ‘Cat on the road to Ruin’ where the Cat says in her RoI brogue, “Don’t test me now, you wouldn’t like it when I’m angry .. you’re all very naughty .. be good .. do as I say”

    She probably wishes she was back in Central or South America doing some ‘charity’ work.

  • Driftwood

    State (secular)grammar schools are open to people whatever their background. Prod, Catholic, Atheist, Muslim, Jedi Knight. Expect a huge number of “Roman Catholic” parents making their journey that way. Maybe a good thing for proper integration.
    Ruane could be the ill wind that finally brings together children whose parents just want a decent education for them.
    But the governors of faith (Roman Catholic) grammars must be shitting themselves.
    Code word here is ‘income’ Hmmmm
    So it goes…

  • DC

    Thing is, when I listen to Ruane, honestly, when she talks about elitism as a bad word it leaves me thinking whether SF isn’t driven on by the politics of envy.

    Best thing is to try and accommodate these schools in a changed system with a measure that allows schools to determine and deduce the quality of the children’s education. These ‘grammar’ schools are just changing with a change that has snubbed their demands, which will have some genuine parental demands pressuring for that choice.

    I don’t disagree with her arguments for change but how about having enough confidence in her change alone. If she is so certain things are better her way then over time it should work well and will prove that the quality of education has gone up, thus reducing the needs for separate testing.

    I don’t think she believes it really will push up quality and so instead of tackling the quality of primary school education, she removes the testing and to me it smacks of trying to remove envy by using the politics of envy dressed up as equality.

  • Big Maggie

    Looks like it’s game, set and match for Caitríona. Well, tennis is the only language she understands isn’t it? What a joke of an education minister, but she’s a BAD joke.

  • But what about number 62,280?

    There is something very, very odd about the NI “grammar school” system.

    As I read the figures, the “grammar schools” cater for (last year) 62,279 students, just over 42% of the post-primary age group (no: it’s not correct to refer to that as “secondary”). However, the numbers for the whole of that sector of schooling are declining at about one-and-a-quarter percent each year. Since the “grammar schools” capacity is virtually the same year-on-year, they are either systematically diluting their intake, or the “brightest and best” of NI’s 11+ students are improving at precisely the same rate as the whole post-primary popuation is declining. Which is either a bodge-up or a statistical freak.

    Furthermore, we have concrete evidence (Maurin & McNally) that:

    grammar school reforms have a strong impact on educational outcomes;
    ¶ as well as consequences for gender differences in educational outcomes;
    the selective system is a contributory factor to observed inequalities between socio-economic groups with regard to later educational outcomes;
    widening access to the more academic track has generated positive net effects; but also
    illustrates the high price that pupils pay for being excluded from the academic track, even when they are some way down the ability distribution within their birth cohort.

    Maurin & McNally had a devastating (if linguistically-challenged) punchline:

    selection into the more academic track really has a causal impact – the improvement in educational outcomes is not simply an artefact of the selection process.

    Remember that this research is investigating the long-term effects of two significant changes:

    1. The “open enrolment” reforms of 1989, which created a 15% increase in grammar-school enrolments. This — surprise, surprise! — was subsequently balanced by a parallel up-tick in 16+ and 18+ attainment.
    2. The end of gender apartheid at 11+, making illegal the more severe testing régime for girls, lest “slower maturing” boys be disadvantaged. In other words, an end to cooking the books to ensure less able boys got on board at the expense of more able girls.

    So, all the arguments are with the Minister, Caitríona Ruane, here. All that’s against her is political prejudice, class interest and gender chauvinism. But — hey! — why change what’s the the norm in our little corner of heaven?

  • T. Ruth

    Matrnia is rhigt-it deosnt mater if yuo can spel or not. Howiver Cartoina Raune is an iodit and it is wel konwn in Bagnor Cuotny Don taht she has nevr visetid Rahtgeal Hous to spek wtih her officails.Nevr.Nevr. Not onse.Kan yuo iamgin if yuo dnidt ivr go to wrk do yuo tnhik yuo wood get piad. The pepl of Bagnor tink she is a laffnig stck.She wud be fnuny if edjictaion was not sch a ceirous tihng for thos of us taht wnat to go to uinivresity. How dose she isnturct her offisls? How do tehy gve her avdise? How can a mnisetr such as tihs be in charege of our eudcaiton sistem.I fele I will hav to go to pirosn if i wnat to git porprely eudacted-tehn I cood tlak porper lik Grery Klely and Grery Amads.

    T.Ruth

  • DC

    “gender chauvinism”

    Gender chauvinism, well with the current results girls are out performing boys and the top results are dominated by girls.

    But, listen people have looked at Britain where changes have happened and the outcome is extremely debatable re comprehensives.

    I think the minister is removing ‘displacement’ (as she would have us believe) through testing as a means to equal out pathways, fair enough – will it affect quality of education – who knows; but, it is after all a democracy built with a governance system of ways and means – consensus is one.

    You still need to bring people with you, has she? Why not?

  • Glencoppagagh

    Driftwood
    Most of the RC selectives are going to survive much as they are. They are mostly big enough to offer the minimum required number of GCSE subjects in academic subjects only (watch out for Latin making a comeback). This should deter the less able from applying or having a very unhappy experience if they do get in.

    Malcolm
    You’re right if you’re suggesting there are too many pupils at grammar schools. It’s ludicrous that some of them are setting an admission test when they currently admit almost everyone who applies. Some of them will have to go. The trouble is people don’t generally realise how bad their results are. RBAI’s GCSE results managed to creep into one of the national league tables this year and I was shocked at how poor they were.

  • pacman

    Brushing up on your Ulster-Scots I see, T.Ruth? If the academy ever gets off the ground, then Martina Anderson may be proved right. Perish the thought.

    Ruane is an ass and a terrible Minister but “Expect a huge number of “Roman Catholic” parents making their journey that way” – not any time soon Driftwood – as a said parent, I prefer to give my children the best opportunity in their education and it won’t be served in state schooling.

  • DC @ 10:12 AM:

    I feel I do not understand much of that. We have agreed to use English as a common language, haven’t we?

    Are you accepting that there are gender biases in our education system? If so, what would you propose to do to diminish them? Where interventions have been aimed at increasing the attainment of under-achieving males, they seem to be working, if slowly. Where they have been aimed at hobbling females, count me out. Bear in mind that many of the measures (reducing continuous assessment and coursework because females allegedly have longer attention spans, and can defer success; increasing the emphasis on one-off arbitrary testing because males don’t suffer dysmenorrhoea) have been in part gender-based and gender-biased.

    The UK experience of comprehensives can be put down to one thing: monoculture (you might prefer the more pungent term, “ghetto”). A school with a privileged catchment-area does well; one with a socially-deprived intake does not: neither is, in any proper sense, a “comprehensive”. Why else does house-price reflect just that? Short of a belief in the inalienable right to pass élitist privilege on to the next generation, and so keep the lower orders in their proper place, why do we want to perpetuate such apartheid?

    Your last two paragraphs leave me totally baffled. Yet, we do know what happens if we remove or relax 11+ testing: attainment — at least that which is measured by public examination, which is all that officialdom can recognise — improves (see the Maurin & McNally article I cite above: it is specific to the NI experience).

  • ulsterfan

    This is all talk at the moment.
    How can she get Executive approval when the Executive does not meet.
    If Sf do not get their way on P&J;do they hold up education reform.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Malcolm,

    “The end of gender apartheid at 11+, making illegal the more severe testing régime for girls, lest “slower maturing” boys be disadvantaged. In other words, an end to cooking the books to ensure less able boys got on board at the expense of more able girls.”

    The reason girls outperform boys at GCSE, etc is that formal exams have been reduced whilst course work has been upped. Girls are prepared to work consistently so they do better rather than boys who prefer the big bang of exams. Or to put it another way, girls are just girly swots ;0)

    My favourite line that Katrina has used recently was that she wasn’t going stand over an “apartheid education system”. But she supports Catholic and Irish Medium Schools? Belter.

    Codeword – “wickedwitch”.
    Well, it should have been…

  • barnshee

    This is in some ways at least a phony war

    1 The numbers entering post primary are falling- to keep bums on seats the grammars are taking down the spectrum-with a consequent decline in standards ( particularly of behaviour).

    2 Grammars set a test/entrance exam/call it what you will for all first years – they are then “setted” (1a 1b 1c 1d ) The only things that will change are that 1d will be joined by 1e and probably 1f, that behavior standards will decline further as the spides arrive and academic standards will decline over time. Cat of course will be long gone.

    Incidentally having aminister who both looks and sounds liker a member of the Travelling Community is NOT a good idea.

  • Congal Claen

    Barnshee,

    Agreed. Bar the last sentence obviously.

    The one good thing that will come out of this is that Grammar schools will once again become truly selecting. I subbed in a Grammar a few years ago having subbed in it about 10 years prior to that. Standards had definitely fallen. As indeed had behaviour as Barnshee pointed out.

  • neil

    Incidentally having aminister who both looks and sounds liker a member of the Travelling Community is NOT a good idea.

    Leave the feckin travellers alone. At least if it was a traveller up there we might get an explanation. They might take advice from people who have a background/knowledge in the education sector, and they’d almost certainly save you a few quid.

    It’s not her brogue that’s bothers me (in terms of her speech, she bothers me in ways other than her speech) it’s the softly softly voice. Her main qualification in terms of being minister for education is being able to tell a timid six year old girl off without scaring her.

  • DC

    “Why else does house-price reflect just that? Short of a belief in the inalienable right to pass élitist privilege on to the next generation, and so keep the lower orders in their proper place, why do we want to perpetuate such apartheid?”

    Rather than being pompous with your “English language” balls, especially after reading your own highfalutin Cloud Number 9 view, explain to me on what basis should we judge achievement or quality of education, or indeed why cant there be a multi-tier approach to education. Wherein results and choices speak for themselves?

    Ultimately, if you are so convinced that Minister Ruane has it so right let her roll-out run then but let those schools that want to run tests to enter to do so as well. It is after all a minority, the majority should be, if correct as per Ruane, sufficient in ethos to attract more pupils in the long run? No?

    Life, real life that is the parents and pupils will go with what suits them.

    As for gender imbalance, those girls put in the work then they put in the work and the onus is to change the approaches to education in certain social spheres where it isn’t at the level of those ‘privileged’, according to you.

    I just find it hard that different approaches to education cannont be accommodated, that’s all. I think the spotlight on removing tests defeats the wider bigger argument of educational underperformance at primary school level – if based on social deprivation as you suggest is where perhaps more money, energies and teachers should be invested.

    I don’t agree with snap-shot on-the-spot testing such as 11plus and would prefer academic performance to be measured more longterm and more subtly; however, if schools want to use that academic testing for those parents that want it, it is the parents choice to choose those schools, fair enough? Geddit?

  • Mack

    From Malcolm Redfellow’s comment :

    “As I read the figures, the “grammar schools” cater for (last year) 62,279 students, just over 42% of the post-primary age group”

    Why don’t they expand the grammar sector to cover everyone who wants to attend (without academic selection)? Academic selection might impart some advantages to our Grammar schools, but surely the culture, ethos, quality of the teachers, curriculum, ptas etc play a much bigger part in their success?

    Let the market decide without any elitist tests to hinder the choices of participants. If more pupils want to attend a Grammar school than it can currently accomodate, provide the Grammars with the funding they need to meet the demand. Close the less popular schools down, to fund the Grammar expansion. Don’t guarantee jobs to any teachers let go – let them apply to the Grammar’s to see if they cut the mustard there.

  • Congal Claen

    Mack,

    Some of the worst teachers are in the Grammar schools. Why wouldn’t they have to apply for the jobs?

    Grammar schools excel because of peer competition. Not teachers.

  • Mack

    “Mack, Some of the worst teachers are in the Grammar schools. Why wouldn’t they have to apply for the jobs?”

    Congal Claen, because they are already in them. Providing a mechanism to sack underperforming teachers would be useful too (but it’s really separate from sorting out selection).

    “Grammar schools excel because of peer competition. Not teachers. ” – In the absence of concrete evidence (do you have any?) I’d hestitate trying to actually isolate (and make use of) the variables, beyond selection itself, that help Grammars outperform Secondary schools. Except to say that they do, and that it would be useful to extend that quality of education to the broader population. Retaining a shadow secondary system would ensure that
    1. Grammar attendees made a choice to be there (peer competition should still exist)
    2. There is somewhere to send distruptive kids, or those who show both lack of motivation and fail (more subtle selection)

  • Tazia Doll

    “She probably wishes she was back in Central or South America doing some ‘charity’ work. ”

    When SF were still refusing to recognize, that maybe they were missing a few people, I called somebody in the jungle, to go visit them, which she did.

    FARC are Pol Pot types, they are very sick puppies.