A secondary schools solution is achievable, so don’t wait for the politicians.

If justice and policing are the big headache for the deadlocked Executive, the future of secondary schools is the running sore. But behind the political paralysis, there are growing signs already noted by Pete, Fair Deal and others that key interest groups are moving ahead with their own solution. At first glance, the breakaway of at least six Catholic schools to join the rebellion of 30 mainly Protestant ones seems like a significant victory for retaining academic selection at 11. This is misleading. This 1798-like back-to-back unity is more a sign of frustration with political incompetence and clinging to nurse for fear of something worse. Yet this is one case where the politicians are not wholly to blame. As much as anything else, the split has been among the education experts. But now there are signs at last that Protestants and Catholic educationists together are beginning to grip the problem ahead of the politicians for the good of the whole community. If they can pull it off, it will be a great victory for the real people of Northern Ireland. But why disturb a system that has produced “the best A level results in the United Kingdom?” There are pressing reasons why. First, continuing falling numbers in the age group means the number of vacant places in secondary schools will increase from 50,000+ to more than 60,000+ in six years. This adds tens of millions to the additional £1.5 billion for the cost of duplication identified by Deloittes.

Secondly, the fundamental problem is the curriculum. Selection is the brake on developing it. The present structure is already failing to educate children for the goal of creating a modern high-skilled economy. Unionists are worried about the impact of the brain drain to GB and beyond . The excellent analysis made by Jim Clarke of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools paints the picture vividly. We have too many of the wrong sorts of graduate. More than 23% of graduates are in non-graduate jobs. The world of education has to catch up.

Over the summer, the Irish News’s Education correspondent Simon Doyle ran a series of reports which punctured some illusions about high performance. Overall, there are signs that Protestants are achieving less than Catholics. Only one of the breakaway Association of Quality Education grammar schools made it into the top 10 of A level results, a table now dominated by Catholic schools.

Why is this? Perhaps because although many Catholic children are now in the state sector, Catholic schools operate more as a group and the Protestant-dominated ones act more individually? The fact is that the performance of some mainly Protestant grammars, still thought of as “ the backbone of Ulster” is declining along with roll numbers, as they fail to offer the right range of courses needed to create the modern skill-based economy and threaten in some cases to opt out of an education system their forebears created. Not exactly the happiest of outcomes. This surely cannot go on.

In the political and educational confusion, parents are understandably dismayed. Nor are they helped by the templates for a solution. In the absence of any political and educational leadership great top-down reports like Bain on the consequences of falling school rolls and Costello on strategy are indigestible and intimidating. These great tomes urgently need to be turned into working proposals everyone can understand. What people want to know is: how is the choice of schools in my area going to affect my child’s prospects in life?

Bain set the demographic standards for school numbers ; Costello describes the range of available subjects and the structures needed to support it. Local planning to implement them has as usual been carried out in secret. As a response to such political and educational confusion, this is unacceptable.

In the three years grace now talked about before reform, the education authorities should adapt a process used for the abortive Melchett schools plan in the seventies – to lay out area maps showing how each school might be affected by change. I suggest two new versions of this. One, a schools map of NI broken down by council area solely according to demography, the shrinking population, without any regard to school type or faith. And two, a more refined version allowing for selection by faith. Each map would indicate in which premises students would find the courses of their choice.

And the immediate result? At first, the vested interests would start screaming.. But the exercises would quickly expose the opportunities for a more flexible schools structure and provide the bottom-up basis for outcomes that have always been top-down. Only when you can see what’s available can you make a choice or argue for changes in what’s on offer. Real consultation along these lines would be an untidy process. But dealing in specifics would profitably widen the debate and reduce the element of fear.

How then to deal of the bogey of academic selection? What I take it most people want is high educational standards for all, not selection at 11 for its own sake. It is not true that in all cases “ academic “ equals “high standards.” In my own case, I was lousy at Maths and should have been allowed to stay with useful “vocational” maths; I was “academic” in Arts subjects. There are thousands like me who do not fall neatly into one educational basket or the other. What matters most is whether the courses are rigorous and stretching and stimulate real interest. However in the Costello entitlement framework of courses available, the academic/ vocational divide is not as rigid as some people fear. The first 16 subjects are all academic; the other 11 are add-ons.

With an accountable process for developing the character of each school, there are realistic hopes that the freeze over 11 would quickly begin to melt. Secondary schools as now would be free to develop setting and streaming and offer specialisms like technology or stay with mixed ability. Educationally failing schools could become “ academies “ and receive special treatment with perhaps private investment on the English model. With clearer choices available to parents, there might be fewer grammar schools dominated by academic streams but these would flourish unencumbered by a long non-academic “tail”.

One suggested advance gaining favour is for a further choice of courses or schools to take place at age 14 on the argument, selection at 11 bad, choice at 14 good, when a student has a better idea of his or her aptitudes.

At 11, more intensive consultation between children parents and primary and secondary heads of the basis of reasonably robust pupil profile for each child should bed a new transfer system down. Transfers by family association and area would continue.

No doubt some schools will close – they would anyway – and the ethos of quite a few others will change for the better over time. This adds up to the biggest revolution in secondary education since the late 1940s. For parents and the wider public, it is an awful lot to take in. In default of political leadership it is now up to the educationists to get their act together. Further delay will only make matters worse. The issue goes to the heart of of economic social and political divisions, but it is far from insoluble.

A handful of schools may be located in the “wrong” place, like Foyle and Londonderry College which is about to move to the east bank of the Foyle. Or Belfast Inst, currently at the heart of the AQE breakaway. Its natural catchment is Sandy Row, Divis St and the lower Shankill. If such a change of intake is too radical for this generation,. Inst might have to move or go independent. Already it is no longer over-subscribed by the academic elite. Nobody can believe that a go-it-alone selection test is anything more than a counsel of desperation. As a means of deciding how to spend public money, “informal” selection is of doubtful social justice and perhaps legality. Everyone is agreed it should not last long. Whatever excuses are made in the short term, the message Sir Kenneth Bloomfield should adopt in the medium term is that no school should be allowed to become the totemic symbol of opposition to reasoned constructive change. So please let’s have an agreed plan, school heads, Protestant, Catholic and integrated, controlled or maintained. Live up to your own highest ideals for using your intelligence.

  • Mack

    Great post Brian. One thing we hear mentioned a lot is the demographic decline, birth rates appear to have bottomed out in Northern Ireland in 2002-2003 and have been rising since then. I hope ministers will take this into account if when planning closures.

    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/qtr_report/qtr1_2008.pdf

  • fair_deal

    “First, continuing falling numbers in the age group means the number of vacant places in secondary schools will increase from 50,000+ to more than 60,000+ in six years. This adds tens of millions to the additional £1.5 billion for the cost of duplication identified by Deloittes.”

    So close both secondary and grammar schools to take account of this decline no fundamental issues for selection in this. It surely has more ramifications for the multitude of sectors we accept.

    “How then to deal of the bogey of academic selection? What I take it most people want is high educational standards for all, not selection at 11 for its own sake. It is not true that in all cases “ academic “ equals “high standards.” In my own case, I was lousy at Maths and should have been allowed to stay with useful “vocational” maths; I was “academic” in Arts subjects.”

    The personal is not evidence. I could argue that the 11plus worked for me and my family – upperwardly mobile working class so it should be kept because of my personal experience.

    You singularly ignore the two problems with the claimed ‘choice’ the defacto selection by postcode that will end up as part of a system and/or the ‘pupil profiles’ process being wide open to undue influence of parents. Studies have persistently shown the ability of the middle classes to get better service from public bodies, middle class parental lobbying will no doubt do the same with profiles.

    There is of course another option but one that would have all the vested interests screaming. Abolish the school boards and radically reduce the Department of Education and devolve powers truly down to the schools who can sort out their own entrance criteria, give every parent a school voucher with those from a deprived background a voucher of higher financial worth to make them attractive to the newly independent schools. I guarantee you’ll end up with no end of choice then

  • Driftwood

    A new super quango is on its way!
    http://www.esani.org.uk/

    Ostensibly to replace lots of other quangoes like the ELB’s etc.
    And sort out education once and for all, in partnership with other key stakeholders like DE, DEL etc etc.

    Lots of consultations, strategic outlook, a new vision for all our young people, cont.page 94.

    Is this the first breeze of the wind of change I feel sweeping across the educational bureacracy?

  • IJP

    With the exception of Mack‘s wise note of caution on demographics, this is an outstanding analysis of the issue, Brian. Thanks.

    In my view, the solution is to make “secondary” schools so good (and so relevant), that academic “selection” becomes redundant. Schools like Priory College in Holywood offer an excellent example of mixing a solid academic grounding with skills directly linked to the needs of a modern economy.

    Frankly, the grammar schools can keep churning out lawyers, doctors and accountants, but in the end there are only so many of those we need in NI. That is why it is entirely contradictory to defend anything approaching the status quo while professing concern about the “brain drain”.

    The issue is not how well-educated our school leavers are, it is how well-educated our workforce is. It is actually one of the worst-educated in the UK. That is why fundamental reform is necessary without delay.

  • willis

    Well done Brian!

    Google “skills shortages northern ireland” and the first page will be dominated by engineering and manufacturing.

    That is where the shortages hurt. So where did the technical colleges go?

  • Brian Walker

    Mick, thanks for the demographic update..
    fairdeal, you say “The personal is not evidence”. Your point is a wee bit heavy duty, isn’t it? It depends what one is trying say; I was making a general point and illustrating it personally. Overall, we are where we are. You know vouchers aren’t a runner. The Conservatives who once flirted with them have balked. A superquango, Driftwood? Maybe, but one board may be better than five. I think the accountability hiatus over the RPA could be quite a problem.
    IJP, on equalising standards, I see that expenditure per head at around 3k per pupil varies little per sector, so I hope that’s at least that’s an indication of intention.

    We need more vision at the top and less on the back foot.

  • The floating voters (or ‘middle classes’) do not care what their local schools are like as long as they can get their child into a reasonable school, even if it is far from home. Hence, good schools get better because: they can attract better staff without having to pay them extra, they can raise more money at raffles thanks to richer parents, they have better access to local politicians because the politicians want to keep their votes, and last, but not least, they can cherrypick students to complete the virtuous circle.

    A simple, and perhaps drastic solution, is to force schools to accept all applications from all students and to simply select those who live closest to the school. Schools that are really bad will, hopefully, die a death through lack of applications.

    Under this plan, good schools would effectively have to provide their education to a broad spectrum from the local community, giving the school the chance to prove they actually are good teachers and not merely selecting the students that make them look good.

    Many children suffer because their parents cannot, or will not, take a sufficient interest in their child’s education. But this new rule will fix this by forcing all the middle class kids to share the classroom with the poorer kids. Therefore, the middle class parents will be more evenly spread throughout all locals schools and will pressure to improve standards at all local schools. Following on from this, we may even someday elect a government that gives a damn about education!

    We need to make sure that the school, and particularly its management, see themselves as sellers of a product desperate to provide a decent service. Put the power in the hands of the parents, giving every child the right to attend a reasonable local school.

    And the targets needs to be given an overhaul. Scrap the mindnumblingly simplistic 5+ GCSEs including English and Maths. Instead, there should be three (or more) targets with the school management being paid according to which targets they did worse on. 75% of students should get 2Cs and 2Ds, 50% should get 3D and 3Cs, and 25% should get 2Bs and 4Cs. The bonuses for the school management should be based solely on which of the three targets the school failed on the the greatest degree. This is a no-nonsense way to force all schools to raise achievement at all levels.

    This system would ensure that all kids at all levels of ability and regardless of location, would be given a reasonable education.

    One cannot achieve these desirable goals via wishy washy policy documents and ‘eye-catching’ budgetting for shiny new schools. We need to rig the market in the manner I have described. This will hit school management and politicians where it hurts, in their pocket and in their ballot box.

  • Jenn Erik

    Aaron – I’d worry that would end up as selection by parental income. My children’s education is probably my top priority, and I’d move house to get them into a ‘better’ school.
    I taught for a year in a sink school in London, and my experience was that the parents who could move away did.

    And while I’m not sure who ‘school management’ is – the Head?, the problem I’d see with that model would be that good Heads would have no incentive to take up posts in deprived areas, or to take up posts in failing schools.
    I know in the school I worked at in London, we were paid more, rather than less, presumably because it was difficult to attract teachers to work in failing inner city schools.

  • latcheeco

    Brian,
    Isn’t it also true that NI also has the worst results at the other end of the scale but noone ever talks about those children. The trend seems to be now to follow the industry demand for better trained school leavers instead of better educated. I know you can’t eat books but I’m not sure this trend will serve a society as well as everybody seems to think.
    Aaron ,
    The 11+ system is an archaic outrage but I disagree with your faith in middle class parents’ levelling abilities. In my experience the top usually comes down to meet the bottom, not the other way around.

  • latcheeco

    Aaron,
    Personal hobbyhorse Aaron but once people start talking about “delivering products” and “stakeholders” in discussions on teaching children I think its time to turn the light out.

  • Brian Walker

    Iatcheeco and others, we all have our pet theories about education. As I see it, there’s good chance of pulling off decent reform now because of the lack of population pressure.Reform centres on the curriculum and teaching quality; we shouldn’t get impaled on selection at 11. The need for reform is obvious, as some grammar schools are declining and the curriculum needs to be broadened to educate pupils properly. I’m arguing that changes should be made transparently, involving the sort of debates reflected in this thread. I suspect that the better performing grammars will be little affected, except for a few whose catchment areas have changed radically since their foundation. Agonies over transfer at 11 are bound to continue for years, until the reputation of other schools improves. Reform will take at least one school generation and in a way will never end. Schools are dynamic institutions. Reputations don’t stand still; I’ve seen many shifts in my lifetime. I just can’t see a long term future for a definitive academic selection test at 11.

  • ciaran

    Aaron,”This system would ensure that all kids at all levels of ability and regardless of location, would be given a reasonable education”
    What about the kids who would like a good( as oppossed to reasonable) education. Your choice of words indicates something like a dumbing down in the level of education.Am I wrong?

  • Aaron M

    Some fair points there. My system is a bit simplistic indeed. Jenn Erik’s points are particularly interesting to me. Perhaps catchment areas with lower exam results should be given priority access to the best schools, via subsidized school transport?

    ciaran,
    I don’t think we’re going to get good education for everyone overnight. We need to constantly increase the level of education for everyone. That’s why there should be targets for Bs and As as well as the current targets for Cs.

    Nowadays, there are many kids who are given an unreasonably bad education. In some schools, nobody even cares if the discipline gets out of hand.

    Every child should be in a safe quiet classroom. Every child should get an equal chance of getting the best score they can get. Schools shouldn’t put any more, or any less, effort into turning Bs into As than in turning Ds into Cs.

    Brian has a good point about ‘pet theories’. I’m trying to avoid getting into the nitty gritty of managing a clasroom and how to teach, even experienced teachers should beware of their own personal prejudices of what they think works for them. I’m trying (and maybe failing) to take a step back myself and see how to incentivize ‘the system’ to teach everyone to a good standard.

    Either way, a ‘good’ school should be forced to spread its talent across society. Only then can it prove its talent.

  • kensei

    Vouchers? Effectively it’s a subsidy on private education. The cost of private education would more than likely simply increase by the value of the subsidy. It might be possible to produce a market in education, with people competing on price, but if you want even a mid level education, there is no way that voucher is going to be enough. That stuffs poor parents, and is effectively a back door tax increase on middle class ones.

    If the objection to comprehensive education is that the parents can game the system, then how about this? Run the 11+ but rather than schooling taking the top bands, they must take a quarter from each band, thus ensuring truly comprehensive ability mix.

  • willis

    “We have too many of the wrong sorts of graduate. More than 23% of graduates are in non-graduate jobs.”

    I think the figure in the article was 17%

    I kind of agree with this, however:

    Does an actor need a degree? a journalist? a musician?

    There is no doubt that 3+ years of undergraduate study will probably enhance any of the above jobs, but is it essential?

  • Essentialist

    Brian,

    Spill the beans and tell us where you came by your “analysis? Was it through Wilfred Mulryne or Tony Gallagher or did Sir Ken give it to you.? There are certain key words which appear constantly in written contributions from these two.

    You are correct about one thing – that the revised curriculum is the problem moving forward. Remember it was described by Carmel Gallagher of CCEA as the “Trojan horse” to deliver the end of the selective system.

    I ask you the same question posed by Jim Fitzpatrick of Caitriona Ruane. One which she refused to answer.

    Which of the alternatives to the 11-plus transfer test is better – including the pupil profile.

    It is refreshing to note that you are willing to admit that the “edcationalists” have got this all wrong. Just remember that Gavin Boyd Chief Exec of the proposed ESA was the chief exec of CCEA.

    Start performing an examination of the evidence Brian instead of parroting the views of the special interests.

    Anyone interested could have found out about the increase in the birth rate from 2002. The tired repetition of the empty desks numbers which remains conveniently static reveals the laziness of the DENIs argument.

    BTW Simon Doyle published media league tables not performance tables- a very important distinction. I’m surprised that you would cite media league tables for evidence based support for anything -unless you are merely repeating someone else’s propaganda. A little fact checking with the DENI will clear this up for you and others.

  • willis

    paceni@btinternet.com

    “There are certain key words which appear constantly in written contributions from these two.”

    Do tell.

    I counted 3 but what is an expert between friends?

  • Parent

    I am answering as a parent of two children who will go through whatever system our politicians (when they decide to do something) come up with!
    I’m afraid Brian your post comes across to me as someone who is a bit sour-grapes from their own education experience – there are so many ‘education’ documents around at the moment that I’m afraid I don’t really believe any of them!!
    For me it comes down to my kids, and a couple of questions:
    1. We live in a fairly remote part of N Ireland with no post primary schools in the direct area. If we go down the ‘drawing a map and putting people into schools in their area’ what choice do my children have? Why can’t my kids go to a school which is a long way from where they live, if it offers the type of activities they want?
    2. What happens if the school my kids want to go to is oversubscribed? What is the fairest way of selecting who goes to the school? Geography doesn’t work (everyone just moves house), church/community doesn’t work (we are not in a community with a post primary school nearby) and lottery can’t be a serious way of selecting the right pupils for the right schools. I guess I will have to say academic selection is the FAIREST way to select in this situation.

    Finally, as an engineering graduate, I would suggest that a Physics and Maths A’level is what you need. There are more engineering jobs than graduates available and not enough people doing these subjects at A level. It appears to me that the reason that nobody wants to do these subjects is BECAUSE OF the revised curriculum, which is coming up with ridiculous GCSE and A levels that are distracting pupils from the subjects Ireland and the UK need!

  • Driftwood

    Parent
    I agree with most of what you say.
    But the revised curriculum (despite its many faults)is not totally to blame.
    FE Colleges and Universities are innundated with people wanting to study Politics, Philosophy, Sociology, Media Studies,Applied Hairdressing, History, Literature etc.

    Physics, Chemistry, Engineering departments cannot attract enough students (apart from Medical) because they are seen as academically ‘difficult’. Geology has disappeared from most Universities-too difficult.

    The legacy of New Labour. Bring standards down, equality and prizes for all. No ‘failures’.
    So it goes…

  • Essentialist

    Willis,

    In N.I. educationalist terms an expert is someone who agrees with Boyd, Mulryne or Gallagher.

    Name someone of educational status who doesn’t fawn to their vague, impractical opaque positions apart from ex Victims Commissioner Sir Ken who wishes to control intake into his “Lilly in a cesspool” school in the centre of Belfast via a social selection mechanism.

    Your studied avoidance of serious issues such as the Irish News Doyle’s media league tables posing as performance tables suggests that your role on Slugger is as a dis tractor.

  • Essentialist

    As a measure of the posters here professing concern for the education system in N.Ireland please explain in detail the difference between a pupil with an A grade, a B grade and a C grade in the 11-plus transfer test. Recognising any inherent measurement flaws identify a substitute instrument which improves upon the 11-plus.

    Constant repetition of “the sky is falling” scenarios unless comprehensives are imposed does nothing to explain away the dangerous revised curriculum which will cripple the school system beyond repair.

  • Brian Walker

    Essentialist and parent. Please don’t play the tiresome old game of assuming I’m a poor sap who’s at the mercy of some cunning devil. I think my own thoughts for better or worse. To go back to fundamentals.There is enough evidence to suggest that academic selection at 11 seriously disadvantages large numbers of children for life. In the medium term it will not survive, even in NI. Abolishing it however will not create an educational Nirvana. I do not argue that comprehensivisation in England was well handled but I do say we can learn from their mistakes, as they are doing, to be fair. School transfer will remain an anxious even anguished process until or unless the blessed day arrives when all schools are acceptable at entry level and kids can move around purely for curriculum choice.

    In England, many Conservatives hanker after the return of the grammar and direct grant schools
    (aside from the couple of authorities where they survive) but do not dare to bring them back. Tony Blair’s and now Brown’s plan is ultimately to make every school “special” i.e. rhetoric for trying to equal up standards using an increasingly flexible national curriculum where the schools themselves have wider discretion and can shape their own character.

    For NI, I see no reason why a pupil profile taken seriously for transfer, plus the ability to set and stream in secondary school from the first year should be regarded with fear and loathing.

    As regards rural areas, the Bain ratios
    are more generous. If you value local access you might support speeding up the the gradual erosion of the sectarian divide through integrated schools or Catholic attendance at state schools.
    What are Protestants afraid of? At age 14, the student would be able to make a case to travel to a more distant school if his/her range of subjects isn’t catered for locally. At 11 incidentally it’s my own view that there’s much to be said for kids not travelling too far from home.

    In NI, the fact is there are falling rolls at present though this may change. This is therefore a good time to make changes to schools to provide a wider range of subjects post 14 and 16. The academic core remains. Myself, I would enhance the core for the grammar streams. I deplore the decline of full science and classics and I back more language learning. This is by no means incompatible with more “applied” subjects like engineering. Rigour should apply to all subjects. And No Parent, my own academic experience wasn’t too bad. It was just like many people I was better at some subjects than others. I failed maths but managed to matriculate for university by taking Biology in one year.

    Finally it would be great if NI people could cut down on the pessimism, negativity and conspiracy. Educational reform really could be win:win but it needs clarity and leadership.

  • willis

    Parent

    Do agree on the Skills gap in Engineering. The Revised Curriculum may make it worse but you can hardly blame it for the state we are currently in.

    I wonder what Engineering Employers think is the problem?

    http://www.semta.org.uk/about_us/media_centre/news/new_report_shows_skills_gaps.aspx

  • willis

    “Finally it would be great if NI people could cut down on the pessimism, negativity and conspiracy. Educational reform really could be win:win but it needs clarity and leadership.”

    Indeed, we have great schools and great teachers but possibly the most woeful Minister I can ever remember.

    So tell me Brian, how would you have coped in the ROI where you need to pass Maths in your Leaving Cert? I think you just had bad teachers.

  • Essentialist

    “Finally it would be great if NI people could cut down on the pessimism, negativity and conspiracy. Educational reform really could be win:win but it needs clarity and leadership.”

    Critics have also highlighted that UNESCO’s insistence on child-centred approaches owes more to evangelism than the outcomes of carefully designed large-scale studies. For example, no high quality study has established that inclusive education is best delivered though child-centred pedagogy. More worrying, carefully designed studies have demonstrated that such curricula are particularly damaging to the poor. In Left Back, published in 2000, Diane Ravitch quotes Donald Myers who was charged with evaluating the impact of child-centred curricula in the USA. Myers shares Ravitch’s concerns about “educationalists”:

    “The time has come in American education,” he declared, “when teachers should stage a walkout when education evangelists” propose innovations that have not been validated by careful research over a long period of time. Instead of being paid and applauded, these hucksters should be sent packing and “should be thankful they are not jailed as would representatives of a pharmaceutical house for dispensing a drug before it has been tested.”

    What if the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein were to take Myers’ advice and ignore our local “educationalists”? What do high quality studies that have been “validated by careful research over a long period of time” have to say? The reforms proposed for Northern Ireland schools are addressed in two highly regarded studies – one centred on assessment, the other on curriculum – and both draw the same unequivocal conclusion which should interest the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein: the poor will lose out dramatically if Sinn Fein have their way! This has already been hinted at in research on the early years “Enriched Curriculum” in Northern Ireland, where a “Matthew Effect” was identified; in progressive curricula the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    “Project Follow Through” is arguably the largest and most sophisticated educational project ever undertaken to discover, once and for all, the type of curriculum that maximizes the academic achievement of the poor. To give a sense of the scale of this study, it lasted 20 years, cost a billion dollars to fund, and involved 79,000 children from 180 low-income communities living in poverty. The conclusion was that the curriculum which helps children out of poverty is a traditional curriculum in which the teacher determines what is to be taught and children work in learning environments which are orderly and highly structured. (The reader can find details of this study by googling the words Project Follow Through.) The Revised Curriculum currently being implemented in Northern Ireland (the one the Minister is demanding that all primary school children must follow) was shown to be damaging to the development of the numeracy and literacy skills of disadvantaged children.

    Richard Nadler noted that poor children taught by traditional methods, when compared to those following more progressive curricula, were “first in reading, first in math, first in spelling, and first in language. No other model came close.” No Northern Ireland “educationalist” seems to have directed the Catholic Church or Sinn Fein to this project, despite its strong association with the American Civil Rights movement.

    Now Brian since you “don’t play the tiresome old game of assuming I’m a poor sap who’s at the mercy of some cunning devil.” Spend some effort and go back to fundamentals – carry out some investigations of the claims made above.

    You could start with Will Haire and ask him how his DENI handled the evidence.

  • willis

    paceni@btinternet.com

    “The conclusion was that the curriculum which helps children out of poverty is a traditional curriculum in which the teacher determines what is to be taught and children work in learning environments which are orderly and highly structured.”

    Just remind us of your position with regard to teachers at Movilla trying to ensure an orderly learning environment.

  • Essentialist

    Sub judice Willis and again entirely irrelevant. Please stay on post subject. Your unwillingness / inability to answer the question will not earn you a prize on this forum – this isn’t a revised curriculum themes-based environment – yet.

  • Essentialist

    Brian,

    I have re-read your introduction to this thread and must conclude that Gertrude Stein had it right ( with apologies to Sinclair Lewis) that Brian Walker is the typical newspaperman and everything he says is newspaper. The difference between a thinker and a newspaperman is that a thinker enters right into things, a newspaperman is superficial.

    Please do your best with post 25 on page 1. Your secondary schools solution must take account of the evidence. This won’t involve any maths Brian so do give it a go.

  • willis

    paceni@btinternet.com

    Clearly your legal advice is better than that of the Belfast telegraph, which still has a least one of your posts visible.

    No matter. As I said on another thread, I agree with your quote about order and structure. I even agree with it enough to support teachers who have to insist on their right to teach in an ordered way as this creates an ideal learning environment for children.

    The parents of well behaved pupils understand this which is why they are supportive of teachers.

    This is of course very relevant to any debate about selection. Many parents would be prepared to accept and end to selection at 11 as long as they knew that disruptive pupils and parents would be dealt with vigorously. The 11+ achieves this but at the cost of pushing the problem into the High schools.

  • Essentialist

    The proposal for (s)election at 14 came from Wilfred Mulryne, John Young and Kevin Donaghy, Uel McCrea, Martin Bowen and Ivan Arbuthnot while colleagues were unaware that talks had been taking place.
    This self styled group of soon to be or former principals stressed that they acted as individuals, rather than as representatives of their various organisations.

    Poachers turned gamekeepers. Funny that Tony Gallagher described Mulryne as more of a comprehensivist than he was.

  • willis

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/education/school-plan-for-selection-at-14-13961641.html

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/education/selection-at-14–dismissed-by-grammars-13966741.html

    It is interesting that once Grammar heads no longer have to be responsible to the parents of their particular school they can “come out” as favouring a fairer system.

    Keep posting the anti 11+ links, PACE.

    Do I detect an ambivalence in your approach?

    Pro 11+ rhetoric
    Anti 11+ evidence.

  • Essentialist

    Wrong once again Willis.

    As evidenced in your citation from the Belfast Telegraph regarding a few self-appointed, self serving principals:

    “they acted as individuals, rather than as representatives of their various organisations.”

    They even hid their intention from colleagues in the knowledge that their views were not representative.

    On the issue of academic selection I have never made an anti 11-plus statement since as has been consistently made clear there is no superior instrument on offer.

    Brian Walker claims his own view suggesting;

    “At 11, more intensive consultation between children parents and primary and secondary heads of the basis of reasonably robust pupil profile for each child should bed a new transfer system down.”

    Perhaps he missed the response from Direct Rule Minister Angela Smith to a PQ from Iris Robinson in 2005 – yes Willis 2005.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/vo050912/text/50912w63.htm

    “The Pupil Profile is not an alternative to the 11-plus transfer tests: its purpose is to provide a holistic picture of a pupil’s progress, aptitudes, interests and aspirations, that will help to inform choices throughout a pupil’s education.”

    Look at her answer on the validity and reliability of the Pupil Profile;

    “CCEA will ensure that the Pupil Profile will meet standards of validity and reliability by benchmarking them against the Assessment Reform Group’s principles for effective teacher assessment.”

    The Assessment Reform Group is influenced by Prof John Gardner of QUB and author of the Testing the Test paper used to undermine the 11-plus.

    It has swopped assessment of learning for assessment for learning. Hence the complete loss of useful information particularly to parents.

    Smith’s reassurance is meaningless in light of the German experience with Pupil Profiles.

    It really is a pity that anti-selectionists cannot accept the public will on this matter. Perhaps they think they know better. Unfortunately they have created chaos in pursuit of their expensive, incomprehensible, abstract ideological dreams

  • Essentialist

    Brian Walker,

    You have been unusually silent on matters raised via your thread. If your assessment is indeed your own I’m sure Michael Gove would be interested in your cynical characterisation of the Academies programme particularly as an election manifesto slogan;

    “Educationally failing schools could become “ academies “ and receive special treatment with perhaps private investment on the English model.”

    Do have a chat with him since he knows all about abandoning grammar schools.

    Parents in England are virtually fighting with each other in a scramble for grammar school places where available not to establish academies.

    In Northern Ireland there are 63,000 such places and your contribution is to suggest getting rid of the opportunity to attend such a school. Have you lost your marbles old boy?

    Your silence is worth an explanation.

  • willis

    PACE

    “Wrong once again Willis.

    As evidenced in your citation from the Belfast Telegraph regarding a few self-appointed, self serving principals: ”

    “they acted as individuals, rather than as representatives of their various organisations.”

    Did you actually read my post? If so which part of:

    “It is interesting that once Grammar heads no longer have to be responsible to the parents of their particular school they can “come out” as favouring a fairer system.”

    Is inconsistent with the facts?

    “On the issue of academic selection I have never made an anti 11-plus statement since as has been consistently made clear there is no superior instrument on offer.”

    “It really is a pity that anti-selectionists cannot accept the public will on this matter.”

    What exactly is the public will on the 11+?

    http://www.deni.gov.uk/22-ppa-rcbra1.pdf

    You know the answer

    Q1. Should the current Transfer Test (11+) be abolished?

    Household Survey

    Parents

    Yes 58%
    No 31%

    The most comprehensive survey of parents views found that nearly twice as many wanted rid of the 11+.

    On the issue of being self-appointed, when do you hold elections in PACE?

  • Brian Walker

    essentialist. what me, silent in this thread? I have already made three comments on what is by now a whiskery post. You are bursting with detailed knowledge and frustration and are clearly trying to provoke me into a detailed exchange. I have said my piece but I would add:

    You badly distort reform as the blanket imposition of comprehensivisation (what a dirty word!).

    You exaggerate the gap between grammars and your bogey of comprehensivisation which is really a wider curriculum choice with a strong academic core, or solely academic, depending on aptitude.

    You are far too pessimistic about non-selection at 11, a robust pupil profile, consultation between primary and secondary heads and an appeal system.

    Wide curriculum choice should not cause this tirade. Academic stream and mainly academic schools would obviously survive.

    I explicitly call for and describe a system of consultation on the future shape of secondary schools based on actual proposals not theory or fear. That will determine the people’s will.

    My comments on this thread are now closed.

  • Essentialist

    AS has been pointed out to you on numerous occasions Willis you must pay attention to the details.

    “The most comprehensive survey of parents views found that nearly twice as many wanted rid of the 11+.”

    Now re-read the question. Take your time Willis. It asked: Q1. Should the current Transfer Test (11+) be abolished?

    current Transfer Test

    Yes – current Transfer Test

    Parents such as myself voted for the current Transfer Test to end and be replaced by an improved version. Not surprisingly the anti-selection Martin McGuinness’ DENI misinterpreted the answers – hence the current debacle. Please don’t interpret for parents – stick to the trade union approach and claim to speak for all with one voice. It is convincing and impressive.

  • Essentialist

    With apologies to Sluggerites for repetition.

    Gertrude Stein had it right ( with apologies to Sinclair Lewis) that Brian Walker is the typical newspaperman and everything he says is newspaper.

    The difference between a thinker and a newspaperman is that a thinker enters right into things, a newspaperman is superficial.

    By the Way I heard this said on the BBC Nolan Live Show just last night when Robert mcCartney accused Stephen Nolan of the same trait.

    At least Stephen Nolan was at his post this morning working away with his BBC Radio Ulster audience.

    You my friend have demonstrated the petulance of a spoiled child unable to have their way and have thrown your rattle out of the forth estate pram.
    Parents have not so easily abandoned their children in the fight to retain academic education

    Of note, you failed entirely to address the evidence.

    AS John Larkin the putative Attorney General might put it ” res ipsa loquitur”

  • willis

    “I have never made an anti 11-plus statement”

    “Parents such as myself voted for the current Transfer Test to end”

    Yeah Yeah

  • Essentialist

    Willis,

    You must be a friend of that fair-minded INTO (Irish National Teachers Organisation)spokesperson, Frank Bunting who accused me of the same trait when I told him during a BBC interview that I was working class. Individuals can be difficult can’t they?

    Yeah Yeah.

  • willis

    Well as another Trade Unionist said

    “If you can’t ride two horses you shouldn’t be in the circus”

  • Essentialist

    And a Times newspaper columnist Matthew Parris wrote last year…

    “Repenting of his virtue, the older brother may cry ‘Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!’, adding that having considered the lilies of the field who toil not neither do they spin, and realising that tomorrow is another day and that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, he has decided henceforward to live for the moment, sufficient unto the day being the evil thereof. He forgets that if he makes his bed he must lie in it, and we may be sure our sins will find us out.

    Which way to turn? No man can serve two masters — on the other hand if you can’t ride two horses you shouldn’t be in the circus. Should he call a day a day? Or should he refuse to change horses in mid-stream, stick to his guns, and stay in it for the long haul? In despair he may sell all that he hath, and give to the poor — and then discover that ‘the poor you have always with you…’

    Perhaps he was unlucky. Well, lightning never strikes the same place twice (or does bad luck comes in threes?). He should know that when one door shuts, another opens (or does opportunity never knock twice?) Comforting himself with the thought that the darkest hour is just before dawn, he shudders at the news that there’s nothing so bad it can’t be made worse.

    Let us leave him to his fate, and consider whether manners maketh man or whether, on the contrary, fine words butter no parsnips. Or whether handsome is as handsome does, you can’t judge a book by its cover, appearances are deceptive and beauty is only skin-deep — or whether, by contrast, you can judge a man by his shoes, tidy dress shows a tidy mind, cleanliness is next to godliness and the style is the man?

    Or whether talk is cheap and a lie is halfway round the world before the truth can get its boots on, or whether, on the contrary, there’s no smoke without a fire; whether sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us — or whether to lose our reputation is to lose the better part of ourselves; whether we should concentrate on the wood lest we fail to see it for the trees — or, rather, always read the small print, because the devil is in the detail?

    And should we let sleeping dogs lie? After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you can’t win ’em all, and one should let well enough alone. Counsels of perfection can make the best the enemy of the good. Yet if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing well and you shouldn’t spoil the ship for a ha’pennyworth of tar. Ah well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it — except that procrastination is the thief of time and you should never put off until the morrow what you can do today.

    One thing’s for sure. Honesty is the best policy. Cheats never prosper. Unless, that is, the Devil looks after his own.

    The proverb-maker’s job puts me in mind of that sour description of a newspaper leader-writer’s function: to wait in safety until the battle is over, then come down from the hills and bayonet the wounded.

    Having just lost one of the Generals Willis one can only contemplate who will be next?

    Do you actually get the drift on why parents are not fooled by the DENI and “educationalist” clap trap?

  • Essentialist

    So the Executive approve the establishment of the ESA while no replacement for the 11-plus or transfer at 11 has been proposed or agreed.

    Now with the head of ESA being none other than Gavin Boyd, the former chief executive of CCEA, and an avowed anti-selectionist, an imposed Pupil Profile will be sold as a replacement for the 11-plus.
    Unfortunately for Boyd et al, CCEA’s Evaluation Report on the Pupil Profile shows that parents don’t like it.

    Back to the drawing board Gavin.