Hearts and Minds: speaking of vacuums…

After last week’s tense interrogation of the First Minister, one could be forgiven for expecting the Deputy First Minister to proffer his case to the fierce scrutiny of Noel Thompson. But no, no sign of Martin. Or Gerry for that matter. Maybe next week, when they’ve figured a way to sell their flip flop over that letter? However, the subject of politically induced policy vacuums (or should that be abysses? – ed) did come up when Bishop Donal McKeown was highly critical of an impending de-regulation of the education system by the Minister (about 3 minutes in):

“There is a widespread recognition, not just from us but across the community that the current system cannot work through indefinitely into the future. Changes have to be undertaken, but they can only take place under a legislative framework and the present time we are working in a legislative vacuum. The panic that is coming from some of the schools as well as the fear that’s come form some of the parents and child is coming from that uncertainty.

“And that acceptance on the part of some people that, yes, de-regulation may actually be an acceptable position. We are saying de-regulation is not an acceptable position and our leaders are being paid to find some workable solution that will build on he best that we have and prepare for the future and prepare all our children.”

, ,

  • borderline

    Oh Dear, Education is working. Nor Policing, Environment, or Industrial Development. Or..

    And I would have thought that Northern Ireland, with it’s agreed constitutional position, would be fully functioning by now. After all, what we all agreed was that NI is an integral part of the UK, and SF would administer UK law and NI would move forward with the blessing of Her Majesty’s Government in cementing….

    GTF. Tiocfaidh ár lá.

  • [aside]Women are not getting a fair crack of the whip:

    Allister leads women into battle in Brussels

    “Ex-prisoners represent less than 2% of the population but are to get a handout which equates to £300 each, while women, who make up 51% of the population, get what equates to 32p each.”

    The price of peace 🙁

  • Why the displacement activity?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Tiocfaidh ár lá.

    Posted by borderline”[/i]

    does that mean ‘prepare the way’?

  • UMH,

    I’m going to start chopping your smart Alec remarks if you don’t start taking this seriously!

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]I’m going to start chopping your smart Alec remarks if you don’t start taking this seriously!

    Posted by Mick”[/i]

    hi mick, feel free to, but please do the honour of telling me what ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ posted by borderline means. Was I wrong in saying it meant ‘prepare the way’ ?

  • Pete Baker

    Interesting to note that it is almost exactly two years ago that the potential vacuum on this issue was identified.

    Two years of failure to address that vacuum de-regulation by default too.

  • Ann

    that the current system cannot work through indefinitely into the future

    But is it intended to go on indefinitely. It was my understanding that selection was to be phased out over a few years and that the grammar schools, particularly the RC grammar schools, were to go against the minister and set their own exams for entry.

    So under these terms wouldn’t de-regulation be better than something set out under a legislative framework? Won’t de-regulation allow for selection by certain schools, which certainly seems preferable to plan B, which is selection by geography or family membership of certain schools.

    If the minister was to regulate and impose plan B wouldn’t that be much worse all round?

    Isn’t de-regulation actually a workable soloution whereas something imposed may be much more restrictive and not so child friendly.

    I must admit I wasn’t for the SF position in the beginning, but by default it does look like it could work?

  • UMH for goodness sake, Google it! It’s got its English language Wikipedia page!! What’s wrong with you man/woman/man?

  • Ri Na Deise

    Eh, if I wanted to flog say, I duno, carpets. Would I be able to just put a big sneaky ad up here like yer man Ron Towns just did for some book? 🙂

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin


    At the moment de-regulation is the only game in town. If there is no political resolution that’s exactly where we are headed.

    The most obvious problem with it is that by the removal of a default entrance procedure from all primary pupils you consolidate the take over of the Grammars by affluent middle class parents.

    Any comprehensive alternatives you might hope to bring in will be severely curtailed at the top end of the academic scale.

    At the moment we have just under half Northern Ireland’s Grammar’s poised to go their own way under the current arrangements. Now we have a senior Catholic bishop flagging up major concerns from parents and teachers.

    If default (i.e. unplanned) de-regulation does go ahead we might reasonably surmise that many more could join them.

    In which case what progressive ends would this de-regulation achieve?

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry Ann, that was me. I was just changing the books and updating the ‘bookstore’…

  • Essentialist

    Apologies for cross posting from Fair Deal’s thread but the positioning of the four main churches is important.

    A letter in the Belfast Telegraph raises concern over the claims made by the clerics.


    “It seems that the press conference held by the churches on transfer on 14 may have had more to do with politics than academic research.


    Perhaps the clerics missed the section that unequivocally states:

    “The most widely cited study of the Craigavon two tier system concluded in 1998 that, while the system has been a success, the evidence did not suggest that it provided a better alternative to the 11+ system used throughout the rest of Northern Ireland. In particular, the study concluded that evidence did not suggest that the two-tier system provides a better educational experience for less able pupils than the 11+ system”

    This Assembly Research Report was published in February 2008. So is tranfer at 14 now a matter of faith over evidence?

  • Essentialist

    Transparency is the key issue on post-primary transfer arrangements at 11 – not the unregulated situation brought about by the British Government’s endorsement of Matin McGuinness’ diktat on the 11-plus transfer test.

    If the “educationalists ” had been serious in their efforts to put right concerns about the test a solution could have been found. Instead the diktat became law in ending the 11-plus without a regulated replacement – an entitlement in law via the St Andrew’s Agreement.

    If the Minister wants to solve the impasse she should simply propose regulations to reintroduce the 11-plus by another name.

    No doubt she would achieve cross community support for continuation of an objective high stakes test. Unfortunately she and others have painted them selves into a sticky corner. While she waits for the paint to dry thousnads of young pupils are shortchanged.