Open planning will decide if the “threat” to grammar schools is real

As final year primary school children sit the last regulated 11 plus tests, and a new Education Bill emerges, the Belfast Telegraph have run two articles for and against continuing academic selection. Professor Tony Gallagher, one of the frustrated architects of a non-selective system describes the rocky road to reform but ends limply, omitting to offer a solution to deadlock, presumably not wishing to get drawn into a political catfight.

With the Executive meeting again we can only hope that some compromise can be agreed. Pupils, parents and teachers deserve no less.

Bob McCartney gives what may be an accurate political analysis but typically expresses it in wholly unnecessary lurid and polemical terms.

The present situation is an unholy mess but even worse could follow.

Digging himself deep into a hole in the manner he has seemed happiest with for most of his political life he is implacably against compromise, sees no merit in a revised curriculum, betrays no knowledge of the development of specialist schools rather than “bog standard “ comprehensives and seems to believe that children must be educated at a single centre for the whole of their lives from 11 to 18. Scenting DUP betrayal at the idea of choice at 14 rather than selection at 11, he rests content on his self-awarded laurels. McCartney seems to have scant concern for the children of the Shankill whence he came who don’t possess the particular skills of a budding QC.

Catriona Ruane is an all too easy hit.

Yesterday, I heard Nigel Dodds say that a solution is possible provided it’s accepted that selection remains the starting point. As a debate on the future of education none of this is good enough. The future of secondary schools is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians and the experts.

What’s needed urgently is open discussion and local information that people can understand – of the revised curriculum with the new Authority ( we only need one) and with the right to tweak the subjects. Open area planning for school change should be equally mandatory with sight of clear options for reshaping secondary schooling in each area, taking into account a period of falling rolls and proposed curriculum changes. Only then will parents be able to see for themselves whether a threat exists to schools they admire or find some different and attractive subjects suitable for their children’s development. In this process of open consultation, I suggest at least two “maps”of NI secondary schools should be produced; one taking account solely of the implication of falling rolls in all types of school in each area ; the other also demographic-based but allowing for faith difference. Both maps would suggest new synergies and relationships and would involve parents, councillors and the wider public.

Stormont at all levels needs to get on with it. There isn’t much time. The big money stops after 2011, when the need to make swingeing cuts will dominate the debate.

  • fair_deal

    “MacCartney seems to have scant concern for the children of the Shankill ”

    Abolishing the 11+ will do next to nothing to solve the educational issues of the Shankill or any other deprived community for that matter. Those that the education system fails show problems virtually from the moment they enter the classroom, long before the 11+ appears on the educational horizon and the vast majority with issues are not even entered for the exam.

  • malteser

    You’d think a journalist with Brian Walker’s experience would be able to spell McCartney’s name.

  • Brian Walker

    Of course problems are far more deep seated than can be tackled by an end to selection. But it would be perverse to make a dire situation worse by continuing it and indeed by making such a fetish of it. And not everyone is unrescuable after 11, with all respect to Jesuits. I’m sure Fair Deal remembers when the Shankill used to do better.

  • Brian Walker

    malteser (why?) whoops, thank you. Will correct.

  • “I’m sure Fair Deal remembers when the Shankill used to do better.”

    And was there academic selection when it was doing better?

  • willis

    Fair Deal

    ” Those that the education system fails show problems virtually from the moment they enter the classroom, long before the 11+ appears on the educational horizon and the vast majority with issues are not even entered for the exam.”

    Those that are failed by selection are the average kids who want to learn something useful but are lumped into classrooms with those “with issues”

  • Driftwood

    Why not bring back the ‘review’ where someone who fails the 11 plus is allowed to transfer from secondary to grammar if doing well enough, or is allowed a 1 year trial at grammars if the principal of a primary thinks they are capable. seemed to work well back in the day..

  • fair_deal

    BW

    “Of course problems are far more deep seated than can be tackled by an end to selection.”

    Then don’t over-simplify and present a belief in selection as being unfeeling.

    “But it would be perverse to make a dire situation worse by continuing it and indeed by making such a fetish of it.”

    It isn’t making it worse as it isn’t the cause. The charge of fetishism could be made to either side in this debate.

    “And not everyone is unrescuable after 11,”

    Yep that is why we should stop fixating on age 11 and after but 4-11 (and even earlier particularly in areas of need).

    willis

    “Those that are failed by selection are the average kids who want to learn something useful but are lumped into classrooms with those “with issues”

    Streaming at secondary level should resolve this.

  • fair_deal

    willis

    “Those that are failed by selection are the average kids who want to learn something useful but are lumped into classrooms with those “with issues”

    The logic of that argument would suggest the abolition of selection would have the bright and average kids being lumped with those with issues/

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    Let’s see folks. Tony Gallagher – well rewarded but not well respected Professor of Education, frustrated architect of a non-selective system stacked up against Robert McCartney ex-Shankill boy made good on merit. Seems like a fair enough fight.

    Then Brian Walker comes in attempting to sell the “educationalists” line. Who do you think you’re kidding Brian? It seems as if you are getting your info direct from the DENI or even the NIO.
    “Open area planning for school change should be equally mandatory with sight of clear options for reshaping secondary schooling in each area, taking into account a period of falling rolls and proposed curriculum changes.”

    The curricular changes warned about in McCartney’s Belfast Telegraph article are already enshrined in legislation. Have you even read the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 Brian?

    The establishment of ESA is merely the centralising of control in the hands of Gavin Boyd, the failed ex-chief executive of CCEA.

    No amount of effort spent on trying to sell the revised curriculum will change its core intent. Do you remember what a Trojan horse is Brian?
    Perhaps you should contact Robert McCartney for a remedial lesson on the Classics. I seem to remember you had a problem with maths too.

    if Nigel Dodds has a solution he should spell it out to the DUP electorate since it is clear that Mervyn Storey, Edwin Poots and Michelle McIlveen don’t know what is DUP policy even if the Shinners do.

  • willis

    Fair Deal

    “The logic of that argument would suggest the abolition of selection would have the bright and average kids being lumped with those with issues/”

    That is a very reasonable conclusion to form. Is that not the chief fear of those in favour of the 11+?

    I’m afraid that abolitionists like myself do have to deal with the question:

    What are you going to do with the yobs?

    However this does not negate the truth of my statement.

  • essentialist

    Jim Allister of the TUV seems to have caught the DUP out. A Statement released today spills the beans.

    DUP must come clean on transfer at 14 – Allister
    27 November 2008
    Statement by Traditional Unionist Leader Jim Allister MEP:

    “It’s time for the DUP to come clean on precisely where it stands on selection/election at 14.

    On 25th November 2008 in the Belfast Telegraph Mervyn Storey MLA emphatically declared there would be no compromise on academic selection at age 11. (Strangely though his statement does not appear on the DUP website.) Yet just a few days ago the DUP delivered to Sinn Fein, as part of their on-going negotiations, a paper which included the following telling statements:-

    “However none of these matters (issues set out earlier in the paper like whether in pupils interests to attend 3 schools rather than two, extra costs etc) are sufficiently concerning to force us to feel instinctively that agreement around transfer at 14 could not be found.”

    “…Fourteen could become the key decision point for the future…We would be flexible about the instrument for matching pupils at 14…The vast majority of the province could move to a transfer at 14 system…However was the executive to indicate clearly that 14 was the key point for making decisions about pupils’ futures and the key transfer stage, inevitably the broader system would reconfigure to accommodate that….Fourteen however would be promoted and supported as the key decision point….”

    So if a few days ago the DUP was offering to agree transfer at 14 – in a document remarkable also for its lack of mention of grammar schools – but Mervyn Storey is assuring us they won’t budge from 11, or academic selection, just where does the DUP stand? Who is fooling who? And who speaks for the DUP its spokesman, Mr Storey, or the backroom boys who drafted the paper of sops to Sinn Fein?

    Transfer at 14 would wreck our grammar schools. It works where that is the established system, as in the Dickson area, but where grammar schools are key to the educational system, then it would be their death knell.

    This duplicity over the transfer age, taken with the cave in over Ruane’s ESA (Education & Skills Authority), which looks like it was agreed as a trade off for PPS 21, alarms me as to the future of our grammar schools. The ESA is designed to bring a wholly centralised approach to education, driven forward by a chief executive whose progressivist ideology is antithetical to everything grammar schools stand for. There are two strands to education; curriculum and assessment The DUP seem unaware of the profound curricular implications of ESA given the chief executive’s dismissive attitude to the notions of truth and falsehood in the various disciplines.

    Under the ESA the voluntary grammar schools, in particular, will be subjugated. They would lose their autonomy, with the ESA becoming the employer of their teachers and driving their agenda of non-selective education.”

    Perhaps the DUP can provide an explanation for this or have they already capitulated and are busy trying to “sell the pass”?

  • DC

    I never ever understoond why the Unionists left the education slot, twice over, to Sinn Féin.

  • essentialist

    It seems that the TUV are not the only unionists unhappy with the state of play.
    http://uup.org/newsrooms/latestnews/education/dup-and-sinn-feinpolicyoneducationindistinguisable.php

    This is looking bad for the DUP as the run up to the European Elections kick off.

    Trot out Robbo I say. He’ll make it clear to the masses just like the Doc did – won’t he?.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Is there a clear argument against selection at 11? In removing the 11 plus what rationale is offered and what are the specific failings we are trying to alleviate? In comparing NI with the mainland I am always struck by the reduced number of NI parents who seek to place their children in private (public) schools. The impact of the private school vs state system on the mainland is huge with the 7% of private pupils dominating the top universities and the hierarchy of the leading professions eg judges in England being 78% private school.

    In NI to an extent this has been avoided. Obviously the middle classes still dominate the grammar schools though so it’s an imperfect system. Realistically though can any school system hope to make up for the external lifestyle factors that hold back those from poorer backgrounds? In that sense is the 11 plus the problem or merely an indicator of the reality that by age 11 the external factors have already crippled most of those from poorer backgrounds from reaching a higher standard of educational achievement? How will a more comprehensive system alter this?

  • willis

    PACE

    You have finally accepted that selection at 14 works. Well done!

  • Driftwood

    Is there any way of finding out how much money is paid directly on schools- infrastructure and Teachers- and how much on the education bureaucracy (eg DE, DEL, ELBs Quangoes, etc)?

  • Alan

    “Realistically though can any school system hope to make up for the external lifestyle factors that hold back those from poorer backgrounds? ”

    Depends on what you mean by “make up.” If you mean take the place of every single deficit, then the plain answer is no. The problem with selection is that it welcomes those external lifestyle factors and then further disadvantages children by establishing an artificial hurdle based on those factors again.

    The result is an education system that creates its own private slough of despond by failing 55% of our future. People have been trying to tackle the external lifestyle factors for generations, but they consistently fail because the education system keeps replicating the the same dismal outcome at the bottom of the educational scale.

    We have to tackle that key deficit, retaining selection blithely ignores it.

    It would be much easier to design an education system that could encourage ambition and aspiration, if we ended selection once and for all. Our grammars are good at producing fodder for the professions. They are not good at producing the risk taking individuals that we need to rebuild this battered economy.

    There is a real opportunity to be grasped by moving decisions on future choices to the age when those decisions need to be made – at age 14. Let’s have a junior high system that can accomodate all our children. Let’s have pupils banded within ability groups that they can aspire to move up through. Let’s devise special measures to ensure that high fliers receive the support to keep us on the top of the leader board. That would be a win-win position for everyone.

  • essentialist

    Willis,

    You are insane. Gallagher said it didn’t work and he’s a comprehensivist. He also said Wilfred Mulryne was more of a comprehensivisty than him.

    Aren’t you just a little upset that the great deceit proffered to the DUP has been revealed and spoiled your Christmas?

    Back to the drawing board Willis. Your friends are going to have to come up with a new transfer test at 11 after all. If that means scrapping the “revised curriculum” I say it’s well worth it.

    St Andrews was about academic selection at 11. What part of that do you not understand?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Whilst it’s evident that the current selection system produces poor outcomes for those at the bottom end of the scale a replication of the English experience doesn’t seem destined to improve that. NI produces better average outcomes than the mainland system yet it does also seem to be able to produce the worst students in the UK as well. The question though is whether selection is the cause of this outcome. I don’t see how a shift to 14 will make any difference whatsoever. The notion of despondency is overplayed I really do doubt that many 11 year olds spend years despondently pondering their ‘failure’ at the 11 plus.

    I suppose the question is whether a single school can effectively cater to the needs of all students regardless of aptitude levels. Can it provide the additional support to students who are less successful at the same time as providing sufficient stimulus to those most able students? I actually think it is possible but it would require a shift in resources and professional approach by the teaching ‘profession’ neither of which is likely to occur. In those circumstances the shortcut of selection with all its failings seems to me to still have a certain attraction.

  • Alan

    “The notion of despondency is overplayed I really do doubt that many 11 year olds spend years despondently pondering their ‘failure’ at the 11 plus.”

    No they try to get on with life, until the next exam gets in their way and they quail at the prospect. And that is precisely what I found working in working class areas of Belfast and elsewhere for over 15 years. there was a palpable lack of confidence and an avoidance of anything academic.

    Selection isn’t a short-cut, it’s a cul-de-sac. We can run special measures for bright pupils. We can educate them in different classes. But they don’t have to go to different schools. All kids through the same door, doesn’t mean all kids fail !

    We have to let our teachers teach.

  • fair_deal

    Willis

    “What are you going to do with the yobs?”

    Primarily I’d shift the focus to primary schools to stop them being/reducing ‘yobs’ in the first place. Introduce the likes of educational action zones. The funding formula needs addressed and resources applied by educational performance. You need to look beyond the school and have complementary work with parents. You need to attract male teachers back into primary schools too. Devolution of decision-making down to headmasters (not say you are but they need ten other people’s permission to do anything.) Reject the idea that there is no such thing as bad teachers and act accordingly.

    In secondary schools I’d go for streaming with those with the biggest issues prioritised with smaller class sizes etc. The present system does put far too much emphasis on academic over vocational so that needs to change.

    I’d also be a fan of welfare to work initiatives in tackling the broader negative cultural issues in communities.

    As for the administrative structures my axe would be very blunt by the end of it all and I wouldn’t shy away from shutting schools neither.

  • willis

    “It works where that is the established system, as in the Dickson area,”

    Well does it or doesn’t it?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    It might be a bit much to ascribe a general avoidance or dislike of tests to the impact of one particular test. I would have thought that a lifetime of not doing well at tests would have this impact and it is what I would expect of someone who had not been well served by the education system. To ascribe it solely to the 11 plus and then use it as rationale for removing that test is a nonsense.

    We can run special classes for more able pupils but the experience on the mainland is that this doesn’t happen. A degree of streaming is used but the general ethos and the evidence supports it is that leaving more able pupils in the class helps the less able to achieve more so the trend is to have broadly mixed ability classes. To actually provide for the more able we would need to invest additional resources to support their growth and again I would look at the English experience and say that this just hasn’t happened.

    As for let the teachers teach not sure what that actually means. The reality is that like any large organisation the teaching ‘profession’has a very wide range of ability. Some teachers are very good and some are very bad and a lot are mediocre. The issue should be how to skill up the teachers to raise the level of performance of teachers across the board. The evidence is that the single most important factor in the success of a pupil is the skill level of the teacher. If we could improve the skill level of teachers it might be more practical to have mixed ability classes but without this happening then the advantage of selection is that it allows for a class of pupils to be grouped around a modal ability level that a lower skill teacher can more adequately teach as a group. If you vary the range of ability you make the teachers task that much more difficult and the dismal failure of many teachers to manage this will become more evident.

  • Brian Walker

    Interesting to note that none of the passionate supporters of selection at 11 discusses my proposal for open planning to uncover all the kinks in a corporate eduction plan. Given that regulated selection is over (though unregulated follows at least for now,) some open planning exercise is surely necessary. Rather than dive back into localised first principles, it would be great to hear some realistic views about the way ahead, rather than quote so much point scoring.

  • Reader

    Brian Walker: Both maps
    You need more maps than that – right now we have separation by Faith, Language, Academic Selection, Age and Sex. And a bit of mixing too.
    A ‘two map’ proposal already presumes much of what you have in mind. Someone else’s two maps may be very different.

  • Essentialist

    Brian,

    Gavin Boyd is the education supremo – not you. Your Plan B should be put to him formally and his response communicated to Sluggerites.

    A little detail on what school next years P7 pupils will transfer to would be a good start.

  • willis

    DSD/FD

    “I suppose the question is whether a single school can effectively cater to the needs of all students regardless of aptitude levels. Can it provide the additional support to students who are less successful at the same time as providing sufficient stimulus to those most able students? I actually think it is possible but it would require a shift in resources and professional approach by the teaching ‘profession’ neither of which is likely to occur. In those circumstances the shortcut of selection with all its failings seems to me to still have a certain attraction.”

    “Primarily I’d shift the focus to primary schools to stop them being/reducing ‘yobs’ in the first place. Introduce the likes of educational action zones. The funding formula needs addressed and resources applied by educational performance. You need to look beyond the school and have complementary work with parents. You need to attract male teachers back into primary schools too. Devolution of decision-making down to headmasters (not say you are but they need ten other people’s permission to do anything.) Reject the idea that there is no such thing as bad teachers and act accordingly.”

    Two good, thoughful views which largely come to the same conclusion:

    Intervention at 11 is too late. We already have comprehensive education in NI at primary level, and we are currently quite happy to leave it alone. Is that wise?

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    Brian,

    Here’s what happens when you abandon academic selection and grammar schools.

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=404475&c=1

  • Brian Walker

    “Streaming at secondary level should resolve this” (sorting out less able/difficult children), says Fair Deal. I’m sure that’s right; setting and streaming are essential and they give the lie to sloganeering about “comprehensivisation.”
    Selection at 14 is no panacea. I see it rather as choice at 14, requiring no compulsory moves in 11-18 schools but providing greater flexibility for both 14+ and 16+.

    A switch in debate from selection to curriculum would be productive. I’m as quick as the next one to deplore a dumbed down curriculum ( see today
    on the decline of Science in England http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/nov/27/science-easier-exams) and I strongly disapprove of vanishing Classics.

    Over the next couple of years, we have a chance to examine in detail the curriculum content – and no Essentialist, no head of any authority is a dictator.

    With far more consultation, school governance will surely become a big issue. The present structure is archaic and public accountability is in flux, between two council systems and a new Assembly. But these aren’t reasons for despair.

  • willis

    Jim H

    It is a great link, but you are going to have to tease out the implications a bit better.

    If you read the two quoted success stories, you will find that they run counter to the arguement you are trying to make.

    “Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, went to the City of Norwich School – at that time a grammar school – at the age of 11. “In many ways, it was the making of me,” he said.

    But he does not have a “rose-tinted” view of grammar schools, and he has argued that those from better-off backgrounds often got preferential treatment.

    Professor Smith’s parents were, he said, from “solidly working-class backgrounds”.

    He recalls them being upset after a parents’ evening when his form master told them: “People like you don’t go to university.”

    Michael Arthur, vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, was educated at Burnt Mill School – a comprehensive in Harlow that was also attended by Bill Rammell, the former Higher Education Minister.”

  • willis

    “A switch in debate from selection to curriculum would be productive. I’m as quick as the next one to deplore a dumbed down curriculum ( see today
    on the decline of Science in England http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/nov/27/science-easier-exams) and I strongly disapprove of vanishing Classics.”

    Perhaps these two issues could be solved together.

    I remember having a chat with a Peterhouse Classicist who had got a job in Computer programming:

    “They love dead languages, so logical”

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    I am not actually wedded to the retention of the 11 plus but so far I have yet to hear a convincing argument to scrap it. Although I think Brian is right that it has been done effectively so now the debate moves onto curriculum matters instead. The entire structure of the ESA looks like a nightmare to me. Where is the accountability going to be? Perhaps I am old fashioned in this regard but I firmly believe that you have to give people power to make their own choices and decisions and then hold them rigorously accountable for the measured outcomes. I fail to see how that will happen within the new structure. Surely we should be looking to give broad power to headmasters and then holding them accountable for the outcomes of their schools. If they do well they get rewarded if not adios and somebody else gets a go. You want to encourage innovation and entrepreneurial activity amongst the leaders in the educational sector not create a Stalinist political bureaucracy. When a successful model is created encourage its dissipation throughout the system. It seems as if the entire momentum is in exactly the opposite direction here.

  • willis

    “Perhaps I am old fashioned in this regard but I firmly believe that you have to give people power to make their own choices and decisions and then hold them rigorously accountable for the measured outcomes.”

    Maybe Cat has been taking advice from the financial sector?

  • kensei

    Duncan

    I am not actually wedded to the retention of the 11 plus but so far I have yet to hear a convincing argument to scrap it.

    Inefficiency. Hypothetically, suppose at the boundary the mark difference between a C (secondary) and a B (grammar) is one mark. Are we really saying a difference of one mark makes one person capable of coping with grammar and the other not? That would clearly be absurd. SO what about 2, 3, 4? A case could still be made.

    There is an achievement gap between secondary and grammar. So Alice goes to secondary, when she was capable of coping with grammar. She correspondingly achieves less than she should have, fails to get A Levels, go to uni, where she might have otherwise have done so. That isn’t simply unfair on Alice, it represents a loss to society as a whole. Now, maybe Alice is lucky, and does these things, but on average we know the size of the gap.

    Before I even argue that it’s failing lower level students, I have already demonstrating the system is both unfair and inefficient. It doesn’t imply a comprehensive education. But it does imply change is required, and perhaps we aren’t asking the right questions. I posted a thread on the topic here:

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/outliers-and-the-eleven-plus/

    If we abandon our ideological preferences for a moment and start asking better/different questions, maybe we can slip past the zero sum debate and start reaching some kind of consensus.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Kensei,
    I liked your post on Outliers and will definitely get round to reading it. Although there is some valid criticism that Gladwell is quite well ensconced in the camp of Quackademics as Professor Peter Kelner refers to them. The notions about plane crashes and cultural characteristics seem to be wholly unreasonable and unprovable. But that’s an aside.

    Ok inefficiency. I am not sure that is sufficient. No test is going to be 100% perfect at sorting the grammar capable students from the (supposed) non capable and it is by necessity going to have an arbitrary line but does the fact that a test is imperfect at achieving its goal of sorting mean that the whole notion of sorting is rendered invalid? If we only did those things that we could do with 100% perfection we would never do anything. So I don’t think your argument is sufficient. Now the idea that sorting itself is invalid is a different question but you didn’t address that. What is the rationale for sorting in the first place? Equally it might be valid that sorting by way of streaming is better because it allows for progression by late bloomers and fluctuation. Whereas the current system fixes people in particular positions at an arbitrary age and possibly leads to differential educational outcomes as a consequence. Now that seems to me to be related to the issue of effectiveness of our sorting mechanism and how to alleviate it’s failings rather than a rationale for removing all sorting.

    I do agree with your points that a lot more questions should be asked and I agree with you that Alice gets screwed by one point on the 11 plus and her life changes but equally another kid does well and gets in and their life changes so anecdotal hypothetical’s don’t add much really. In that way Gladwell has a very valid argument that many factors relate to success and our need to individualise and personalise them do blind us to the randomness and arbitrariness of much of our social structure. It is really all part of the social meritocratic myth that maintains the pyramid structure of society. We should be asking a lot more questions about what we are trying to achieve with our educational system and then building our mechanism based on that but most of what I have heard are ideological arguments about an unachievable educational equality or ridiculous and unsupported assertions of the psychological impact of failing the 11 plus.

  • willis

    I finally got round to reading Bob’s article and to be fair, it was a lot better than I thought.

    He actually attempts to look at the mechanism of selection at 14 but either has not studied or simply ignores the lessons from Craigavon/Armagh.

    “Few parents, whatever their child’s ability, will want to move him from a neighbourhood school at age 14, if that school happens to be a grammar. Those at secondary moderns will therefore find places at the grammar schools difficult to secure.”

    Unlike Bob, the DUP know that Dickson works. It is part of their heartland and they have MLAs who came up through it.

    Bob’s concerns about the Revised Curriculum seem to make more sense. The make up of the new ESA is convoluted and unnecessarily complex.

    Unfortunately the only way to have a simple system is to get total agreement, not checks and balances.

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    With transfer at 11 the avowed (at last that’s cleared up) DUP and parental position and “unregulated” tests for academic selection available it is proper that the curriculum and assessment is carefully looked at urgently.

    The ESA will be and CCEA is responsible for examinations and assessment. The value to learners of these products requires examination too. the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) have taken on the issue but of course CCEA have not. It seems pupils are being shortchanged by teaching and an exams body intent on supplying prizes for all.

    Question: What would this year’s top science pupils would have got in 1965? Answer: 0%

    GCSE students flunk past papers in experiment that exposes decline in standards

    High-flying GCSE students set for an A or A* pass scored zero points in a mock science exam which included old O-level questions.

    The two-hour exam, devised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and named “The Five Decade Challenge”, included questions from past science papers spread over the past 43 years.

    The results published today showed the older the paper, the fewer marks the students scored. For instance, the average score for the 2005 paper questions was 35 per cent, compared to 15 per cent for the 1965 questions.

    Overall, the average score was 25 per cent but the RSC said some children scored no marks at all. The RSC called the test, taken by just over 1,300 of the country’s brightest 16-year-olds, the first hard evidence of a “catastrophic slippage” in exam standards.

    In a petition launched on the Downing Street website, the RSC says the current examination system was “failing a generation, which will be unequipped to address key issues facing society, whether as specialist scientists or members of a scientific community”.

    Too many teachers were “teaching to the test” because of the pressure of performance league tables, so students were missing out on background information to help them understand their subject. Despite taking into account syllabus changes which meant certain topics – such as enthalpy and bond energies – were not tackled until A-level, the results, it argued, provided conclusive proof that the papers had become easier. In particular, it added, today’s pupils lacked the maths skills necessary to tackle the calculations associated with equations.

    Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC, said: “The brightest pupils are not being trained in mathematical techniques, because they can get a grade A* pass without doing a single calculation. Conversely, the majority get at least a ‘good pass’ (grade C) by showing merely a superficial knowledge on a wide range of issues but no understanding of the fundamentals.

    “The fact highly-intelligent youngsters were unfamiliar with these types of questions, obtaining on average 35 per cent from recent papers and just 15 per cent from the 1960s, points to a systematic failure and misplaced priorities in the education system.”

    The top mark was 94 per cent. The average was 33 per cent for independent schools, 23 per cent for state schools, 27 per cent for boys and 23 per cent for girls. “Children are being asked questions that show our curriculum isn’t preparing them for the 21st century,” said Michael Gove, the shadow Education Secretary.

    A campaign to recruit 6,600 science teachers in the next two years is being launched today by the Training and Development Agency, which is responsible for teacher recruitment. It is exceeding its recruitment target for science teachers by two per cent this year.

    “The Schools minister thinks science should be made more ‘girl-friendly’. How so? By studding lab coats with pink rhinestones?”

    “Children are being asked questions that show our curriculum isn’t preparing them for the 21st century,”

    So once again the revised curriculum is exposed as unfit for purpose. Why the ready endorsement from all the educationalists (including many grammar heads) here in N. Ireland? Could it be that they were asleep (or lazy, or waiting and praying for retirement) when the Trojan horse was wheeled in?

    Time to move away from the transfer at 11 debate. Selection by testing at 11 is secured and here to stay. Now the curriculum must undergo the same scrutiny.

  • Essentialist

    “Over the next couple of years, we have a chance to examine in detail the curriculum content”

    So says Brian Walker, who also says

    “There isn’t much time. The big money stops after 2011, when the need to make swingeing cuts will dominate the debate.”

    So akin to sealing in a juicy sirloin Brian wants to seal in the ESA with its powers before anyone from a political background gets a chance to spot the E Coli 157 contaminating the entire “Trojan horse” offering.

  • willis

    Jim H

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/education/question-what-would-this-years-top-science-pupils-would-have-got-in-1965-answer-0-14084028.html

    “0%: What this year’s top science pupils would have got in 1965”

    Actually the winner got 94%

    http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases
    /2008/OnlineComp.asp

    http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/Campaigns/Education/ChemistryChallenge.asp

    And the winner went to a Grammar School.

    http://web.camphillboys.bham.sch.uk/ke/school_information/school_admissions

    I think this test was a good bit of PR for the RCS rather spoiled by the reporting.

    I don’t think this comment will do them any good.

    “The Schools minister thinks science should be made more ‘girl-friendly’. How so? By studding lab coats with pink rhinestones?”

  • kensei

    Duncan

    The notions about plane crashes and cultural characteristics seem to be wholly unreasonable and unprovable. But that’s an aside.

    He generalises and relies on a single factor in that case. But the argument itself is plausible, and in the example he gave of Korean Air, probably right.

    Ok inefficiency. I am not sure that is sufficient. No test is going to be 100% perfect at sorting the grammar capable students from the (supposed) non capable and it is by necessity going to have an arbitrary line but does the fact that a test is imperfect at achieving its goal of sorting mean that the whole notion of sorting is rendered invalid? If we only did those things that we could do with 100% perfection we would never do anything.

    If you could achieve roughly the same result by an exam with two boxes – goo enough, not good enough – and a lottery, is that not a much fairer way? Failures of a particular system necessitate change. What those changes are is up for debate. If it was the only problem with the 11+ system, perhaps we could solve it simply by improving tests or scoring – (though you might find my argument is recursive – at any point it is hard to argue that a 1 mark difference is significant. The test cannot find out what you want, but you could argue confidence levels.). But it isn’t the only problem.

    Second, you are already slipping into “defend the 11+”. There is a problem, and rather than try to come up with answers, you’re mind is set on finding ways to discredit the point and defend the 11+. Ideological blindness every bit as bad as those on the other side. You have never encountered an argument good enough against the 11+, because you’re not predisposed to. A bundle of failures, even major ones, are not enough. We need past it.

    I have heard are ideological arguments about an unachievable educational equality or ridiculous and unsupported assertions of the psychological impact of failing the 11 plus.

    Theoretically possible to get least equal probability of good education: the government simply puts enough money in until the next marginal pound is ineffective. Impractical, of course.

    But even if you can never reach the goal, it may still be worthwhile to have it, because it dictates the direction you want to go in and you can move incrementally closer to it.

    Second, are you arguing that failing the 11+ has no impact on no children? That strikes me as more implausible than want you are suggesting.

  • Ray

    DUP website has statement that they want selection at 11, but will discuss 14, but they are not convinced. Not the done deal the TUV and such like are trying to make out.

  • DC

    “If we abandon our ideological preferences for a moment and start asking better/different questions, maybe we can slip past the zero sum debate and start reaching some kind of consensus.”

    AND WE DO A HAVE WINNER ON THIS THREAD

    You have hit the nail on the head there. What we have is political ideology being used instead of sociology.

    Take Sinn Féin for example using equality as the reason, but this message is mixed up with political ideology, it isn’t sociology.

    Parents in the middle class bracket have found a prolific socialisation strategy that benefits their children, it is then replicated and thus this cycle is carried on down the line.

    Whereas in the lower socio-economic brackets these strategies are not in place and within Protestant communities, for example, you could argue the collapse of the coalface working opportunities coupled with the receding middle-class architecture linked to changing demographics (and therefore the collapse of a learning atmosphere too) is causing a slippage in academic achievements, particularly in boys.

    Let’s ditch the ideology and ditch Ruane while we are at it and get back on track with a proper debate on the future, if grammar schools create creative thinking is it not better to keep that up so as to lift communities up; not down.

    DSD raises the point about the best jobs, which account for around 7% of all jobs end up going to 80% of public school pupils; it goes to show then that there is a need to find a degree of elitism and high achievement so as to sustain communities and wealth, without which we could all end up with a lack of aspiration and educational inspiration.

    Grammars do produce creative thinking and good results probably linked in part to the successful socialisation of the pupils by their parents ability to make good judgement calls on their behalf; whereas in other social groups this is absent to a certain degree.

    The debate needs to happen on a wider front than on sectarian political ideology not helped by Sinn Féin pulling out language from its old constitutional war chest, that turns on its voters but causes unionists eyes to glaze over.

  • kensei

    DC

    You highlight my important point then proceed to explain how ideology is all SF’s fault and that ditching ideology leads us neatly to the successful 11+ system.

    This is you, today, right now:

    http://shawn-knight.net/photos/truckoffail.jpg

  • DC

    No I didn’t I tried to focus on sociology linking in to DSD’s point about 11 plus as an indicator of socialisation strategies as per middle class.

    Then I highlighted the pervasive usage of equality and status quo terms being bandied about by Sinn Féin to raise my concerns with political ideology.

    I also tried to show that in Britain, where the absence of grammars are now the norm in its stead is the fall back of extremely prolific private schools to plug that gap.

    Perhaps you need to sit down and realise while Sinn Féin raises some truths as to failures, their message, if to be warm to them, is littered with half-truths and big centralist ideologies. Through a glass darkly and all that.

  • kensei

    DC

    “Focus on sociology”? Sociology is waffle form anyway, and you are waffling about waffle.

    The 11+ does speak to equality issues. It is a valid argument. Not the whole argument and should be treated as such.

    SF are not the only throwing about useless arguments in this debate. “Best education system in the world”, anyone? The choice of education system is also not 11+ or English style comprehensive so that is a Straw Man.

    I couldn’t give any support to SF proposals; that’d because no one knows what the hell they are. There is a problem; we need to scope it out and find the right questions to ask, so we can come up with the right solutions or at least better ones. Open to debate. No kids, not at school, no ideological bone. Find the arguments for losing the 11+ convincing, arguments for potential replacements much less so.

    But more than SF are against the 11+, and it is more than their problem. Your truck of fail is still very full.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    You are all over the place now. I really am not wedded to the 11 plus so to accuse me of being ideologically committed to it is just a cheap swipe. I have asked for a solid argument to support changing from the current status quo anti that is all. You pointed out inefficiency but that does not go to the question of whether the principle of sorting at age 11 is appropriate or not merely the efficacy of the method used. I think you are right that we should be asking a lot more questions and that the debate is dominated by ideological concerns not empirical ones. I am struck by the fact that in NI we are actually quite lucky to have a system that while imperfect delivers a high standard of education to most pupils and at its upper end delivers a higher standard than the English system. It is also in my view a worthwhile social goal that grammar schools have restricted the growth of the private sector and the dominance of private school educated people in the higher socio economic positions. I view it as a disgrace that a tiny minority of pupils in private schools can expect to dominate the entry to the elite universities and in turn to dominate the professions and public life on the mainland. Admittedly other socio economic factors probably also play a large part in their success but I would not underestimate the impact of private schooling. I think NI has avoided a great deal of that pernicious social stratification and in part that is due to the grammar school system.

    However as I said I am not wedded to the 11 plus. So to get back to the point I think we should be asking whether the different outcomes that grammar schools achieve is dependent on the sorting involved in selection. Could these schools produce higher outcomes with a wider intake? Do the schools add value at a greater level? What purpose does sorting serve? Is it essential to our outcomes? It just seems that you need to think carefully about the rationale for sorting before you start getting in a tizzy of the effectiveness of your chosen system of sorting. Is that what we are trying to achieve? Do we want to scrap the 11 plus because we want a better sorting system? Or are we removing the process of sorting entirely? I am not sure I am clear on what the objective is here.

    I don’t suggest that failing the 11 plus has no practical impact, obviously it does because it alters the school that you attend and that is bound to have an impact. However the notion that people are psychologically scarred in a way that has lifelong impact is touted around and I find that a questionable assertion that is not backed up by any reference to evidence. In the grand scale of things I strongly suspect that failing the 11 plus has less psychological impact than a host of other experiences in ones life. It smacks of the usual educationalist suspects complaining that no one should have to experience failure of any kind in education. This is utter nonsense and is a pernicious and dangerous idea. Failure is something most of us will experience. In fact it is an essential part of the learning experience as it is where we will learn the most. The concern should be to alter the cultural significance of failure and how you approach it afterwards not to remove it from someone’s life.

  • DC

    “Focus on sociology”? Sociology is waffle form anyway, and you are waffling about waffle…Your truck of fail is still very full.”

    Truck off.

  • kensei

    Duncan

    You are all over the place now. I really am not wedded to the 11 plus so to accuse me of being ideologically committed to it is just a cheap swipe.

    Your first response is “defend the 11+”.

    I have asked for a solid argument to support changing from the current status quo anti that is all.

    And you give no idea what you would consider a “solid” argument — what are your criteria. I can never satisfy your demand, because I have no idea what it is you want. nd suspect you might then ask for impossible things.

    You pointed out inefficiency but that does not go to the question of whether the principle of sorting at age 11 is appropriate or not merely the efficacy of the method used.

    Actually, it does. If the pass mark is 10 and someone gets 9, is there sufficient distinction? Hard one to agree with. If the pass mark is 9, then are 8′ so different from nines. The method is always inefficient.

    On top of that, we have all the people that do not do the 11+. Are we saying there are nine in there that could succeed at Grammar school? Unlikely. We also know that the outcome vastly favours those higher up the class scale, and vastly favours those at the top end. Selection at 11 also puts in a divide that it difficult to cross if you land on the wrong side for whatever reason. And why 11 — it is entirely arbitrary. Problems are beginning to mount up here.

    So the case for failure of the current system is clear. Now, given the deadlock on the sides in this issue, we need to abandon thoughts of the current system altogether, and build from the ground up. What would an education system that solves those problems look like? Are there other problems we need to consider? What are the goals of our education system, and build from the ground up. We are much more likely to reach consensus, particularly if we demand supporting evidence for any position. That might lead to selection, or some selection, but you’d have to prove its efficiency on its own merits, and not on its relative value.

    I am struck by the fact that in NI we are actually quite lucky to have a system that while imperfect delivers a high standard of education to most pupils and at its upper end delivers a higher standard than the English system.

    At the upper end. And at the upper end only.

    It is also in my view a worthwhile social goal that grammar schools have restricted the growth of the private sector and the dominance of private school educated people in the higher socio economic positions

    There are many solutions to this problem, not just one.

    It just seems that you need to think carefully about the rationale for sorting before you start getting in a tizzy of the effectiveness of your chosen system of sorting.

    I think you need to go back further than that, to first principles.

    Is that what we are trying to achieve? Do we want to scrap the 11 plus because we want a better sorting system? Or are we removing the process of sorting entirely? I am not sure I am clear on what the objective is here.

    A worthwhile goal is define the objectives for the system. The system should follows the objectives, and not the other way round.

    Failure is something most of us will experience.

    It seems to me you are the one asserting without evidence here. Failure will be met, but when and how it is met matters. Consequences matter to how we think of failure. If every time you failed I cut off a finger, you might have some fear of it.

    In fact it is an essential part of the learning experience as it is where we will learn the most. The concern should be to alter the cultural significance of failure and how you approach it afterwards not to remove it from someone’s life.

    There is also no need to introduce it unnecessarily, either.

    DC

    Heh heh heh

  • Alan

    Duncan,

    Anyone who has put their children through the 11+ will tell you it is an horrendous experience. For the vast majority of us the case is already proven by experience. Burns pulled all of the evidence together. You are asking that we delay in order to repeat the same performance.

    That simple fact is, however, that that is not what is important.

    At it’s heart, selection is about rationing.

    Selection says that only a given number will receive. In a wholly arbitrary way, it separates those who can receive from those who must go elsewhere.

    That is wholly wrong in a society that can afford to teach all it’s young people well.

    Education should offer opportunity to the ambitious and to the eager, it should also meet the needs of those who, for reasons of disability, wealth, age or other circumstance, are not as well able. That is where we should be starting.

    We should not be starting with a system that discriminates against children by labeling and underfunding its failures ( remember voluntary contributions ?). Rather we should discriminate in favour of our children by designing a system that rations failure, rather than success.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Kensei,

    You are still wrapped up in the failure of the method of sorting and not the purpose of the sorting itself. You accuse me of being ideologically wedded to the 11 plus when you seem to be intellectually wedded to its removal. You give it away by stating that the method is always inadequate. Your assumption is that the sorting mechanism will always be imperfect so you should not sort. Ok it’s an argument but it seems weak. No human system is ever going to be perfect but I don’t see how that undermines the rationale for sorting itself. I think Alan gets much closer with the comment that it is about rationing. That seems a reasonable proposition to me. It does assume that Grammar schools are the better quality education that is being rationed. I don’t know if that is true or not. Do the schools account for the better results (you have to use some measure) or would those pupils have done better anyway and the school didn’t add much value. Don’t know but I am sure that can be answered with empirical data if it hasn’t been already. But if we accept the proposition that the grammar schools are the higher quality product being rationed then that does support a rationale for selection. Yes it’s inequitable but it is a reason. Equally it seems to me to be a reason that can be sensibly challenged on the basis of inequity. My response is that it’s not possible to provide a uniform quality of education in a large system and I would anticipate a bell curve of quality of education with winners and losers only they will be allocated on the basis of other factors so the removal of selection won’t actually end the inequity but it will at least make it less systemic I suppose, which is a valid political and social objective if an unrealistic and probably unobtainable one.

    I totally agree that the system should follow the objectives ‘form follows function’ after all. So what is the purpose of the NI education system? I am not sure I know the answer to that question.

  • Alan

    Duncan,

    Your flow of consciousness is a wearying form of analysis. I think your bell curve would actually be the norm were it not twisted into a double helix by selection.

    Rationing is an anachronism that exists from a time in which it was considered reasonable to advance 20% of the population and let the rest fair as best they could.

    There is no good reason for it now, it just needs to be got rid of. It’s like deciding to take off an old pair of boots : you know the difference when the deed is done.

  • kensei

    Duncan

    You are still wrapped up in the failure of the method of sorting and not the purpose of the sorting itself.

    No, Duncan, you have it back to front. We know that the current situation has significant failures. We need to change it. So rather than start with the current broken model as the basis, we lay out what we want to do and work from first principles.

    We do not take the current model and try to shoe horn it into our objectives, nor do we skew our objectives so the objectives fit the model, not the other way around.

    You accuse me of being ideologically wedded to the 11 plus when you seem to be intellectually wedded to its removal.

    I am convinced of the merits of the case that says the system has failed. What replaces it, and whether that for selection of some form at some time is entirely up for discussion in my mind. But I would like it done based on its own merits, not based on “we think it’s better than what England has”.

    If we start from first principles I think we’ll fidn that everyone will converge more easily than starting at huge distance and trying to move to the middle.

    You give it away by stating that the method is always inadequate.

    No, I was giving an illustrative example.

    Your assumption is that the sorting mechanism will always be imperfect so you should not sort. Ok it’s an argument but it seems weak.

    The sorting method will always be imperfect: that can be mathematically proved. You an get close though; but I would be argue we’d have to have a strong case before screwing one child.

    No human system is ever going to be perfect but I don’t see how that undermines the rationale for sorting itself.

    The consequences of the failures overwhelm the system itself. It isn’t the only argument by any means. It is a good one, though.

    Do the schools account for the better results (you have to use some measure) or would those pupils have done better anyway and the school didn’t add much value. Don’t know but I am sure that can be answered with empirical data if it hasn’t been already.

    That’s my point! How do you answer this question? You look at those in and around the boundary and see if there is a gap. I’m not 100% sure if the gap has been proven, but I’d lay a fairly sizeable bet it is there.

  • Driftwood

    All of this sort of skirts around what a lot of people suspect. That grammar schools are for the middle classes and some bright working class kids. If the middle classes cannot make it to a grammar, there is the Integrated safety net. Some schools are outside this bubble but it appears to be fairly general.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Sorry my thought process wearies you.

    The question has to be if we remove rationing then what happens instead? I am deeply suspicious that we end up with another form of rationing instead. So we remove the 11 plus but we end up with rationing by way of post code where the middle class parents fight to buy houses in the catchment area of the school they want to go to, or its even more direct and they simply pay for private school. Rationing is inequitable but it’s a reality of limited resources and its not going to disappear because the 11 plus is scrapped. In fact I think it becomes even more inequitable because it’s based on soft socio economic factors that are even harder to mitigate. Right now a very small number of kids from the lower socio economic groups ‘pass’ the 11 plus it’s not enough but it’s something. In a different system there is no prospect whatsoever that they will go to private school or get into the middle class catchment area school. They get to go to the local sink school instead and the 1-2% that might have got a shot at grammar school don’t even get that. I don’t see the improvement there.

    You can’t divorce the decision about whether to scrap the 11 plus from a discussion of what will come instead. The notion that its inequitable therefore if we scrap it the inequity will be removed is fanciful nonsense.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Kensei,

    So what are the first principles as you would see them?

  • kensei

    Duncan

    The 11+ is scrapped, what we have now is an unregulated mess. And yes, you can divorce the decision. You simply go into a holding pattern until the process is complete, and as a final check compare what you’ve come up with to what you have now. If you have done it right, this should be trivial.

  • Reader

    Alan: We should not be starting with a system that discriminates against children by labeling and underfunding its failures ( remember voluntary contributions ?).
    There’s nothing stopping the parents of Secondary school children from making voluntary contributions. Or better still, buying a few books to leave around the house.
    The middle classes hate the comprehensive system. But if they can’t buy their way into a pay school, or into the right post code, they still get on with supporting their childrens’ education.

  • kensei

    Duncan

    So what are the first principles as you would see them?

    That would surely be the first point of debate. It’d be a good exercise to see where the parties are, no?

  • Alan

    Point one –

    Let’s discuss what it will be replaced by, rather than scaremongering nonsense.

    The Post Code Lottery already exists – even with selection. The simplest way to overcome the post code lottery is to ban geographical criteria. Use an alphabetical system that changes every year as many schools already do – Sorted.

    Point Two –

    No-one is talking about comprehensive education. We are talking about education with children banded into ability groups with the opportunity to work their way up through the system.

    Finally,

    Voluntary contributions can add up to 50% of pupil focused funding going into Grammars. With close on 28% of kids in Secondary Colleges on free school meals, even “allowing” their parents to contribute will still leave a deficit.

    Face it, we have a system that doesn’t work. The replacement has to fit the society that we live in, not some educational Narnia. That is why we have to make the difficult decisions, end selection and move forward.

  • Essentialist

    Alan,

    I notice you have employed the word “rationing”. Did you pick that up from Tony Gallagher who used the illustration of rationing during the second World War as his rationale/excuse for ending academic selection during a speach at the Long Gallery in Stormont?

    Unless you can define a proven better system than the one in current use your nonsensical claim that it must be replaced is just empty rhetoric mindlessly repeated on behalf of people like Gallagher, Boyd and Mulryne.

    Read Tony Gallgher’s Belfast Telegraph piece from Tuesday and you’ll see that this “expert” has nothing of substance to say. The Belfast Telegraph cite the proposals from Mulryne as a GBA position but fail to interview or quote from him. In fact the paper reported earlier that the proposals (as yet unpublished) were from individuals.

    Your concern about voluntary contributions indicates that you are an insider with knowledge of school funding. Most parents have no information on how school funding is used. What exactly is “pupil focused funding”? The cost of trips to New York for Ashfield Boys? Donations to AQE from grammar schools?

    It’s up to you and others whining about an improved system to spell out the detail. Parents are tired and bored with incompetence. They are angry about the chaos brought about by the DENI and are not sold on the comprehensive school plan whether decided centrally or by area based planing

  • willis

    PACE

    My apologies, the lack of structure in your #12 post led me to believe that Jim Allister’s words were in fact yours. You also failed to clarify when I queried it, no matter, I can see you are under a lot of pressure.

    Back to Jimbo

    http://www.jimallister.org/default.asp?blogID=1286

    http://www.jimallister.org/default.asp?blogID=1290

    Jim does believe that selection at 14 can work in the Dickson area. William Young of BRA did an interesting article in friday’s Tele, unfortunately not yet online, which seemed to argue that whether the Dickson Plan worked or not was irrelevant because what was being proposed was something different again.

    I hadn’t realised that Gavin Boyd was not an educationalist but a manager in Cawood’s according to Jimbo. And lo it is true.

    http://www.ccea.org.uk/gavinboyd.htm

    Of course that was the great Thatcherite mantra.

    “Get businessmen in, they know how to run things properly”

  • Essentialist

    Willis,

    One must wonder where you come by your information on education matters.

    What has become clear though is that the orchestrated attempt to move debate towards selection at 14 has been stymied by a timely intervention by Jim Allister, the only politician outside the cozy Assembly arrangement.
    So far the DUP have been caught red handed swapping paper with Sinn Fein, negotiating in private over the education future of Northern Ireland and twisting like a DNA helix between 11 and 14.
    On the Inside Politics Show his weekend Martin McGuinness did not metion (s)election at 14 but TRANSFER at 14.

    As Allister has already cautioned it is impossible to negotiate when your opponent knows all your moves in advance. It is embarrassing that the DUP have readily provided Sinn Fein with their strategic position.It now seems obvious that they are one side of the coin.

    Those who value scientific evidence, equality of opportunity and legally based parental choice are on the other.

    Where are you Willis?

    And do keep up please this is not some remedial class.

  • willis

    Pace

    I can understand your frustration. This is not a clean debate on the merits of each or either system but rather an exercise in power politics.

    Sadly you seem at this point to have on your side Bob, Jimbo, and that part of the UUP still awake.

    You know where I am and if you don’t, it is because you have not been paying attention.

    We do appear to be sleepwalking towards an unregulated mess.

  • Essentialist

    There is no frustration nor ambiguity here. This “unregulated” mess is entirely of the DENI’s making. It does not become the responsibility of others just because of some media campaign.

    So you, Willis are among those who admit that the DUP have once again attempted to betray the electorate in their exercise of “power politics”

    The DUP have abandoned their St Andrews Agreement position of academic selection at 11 for academic selection at 14. Did they think it would go unnoticed?

    I wonder who will be next to announce a change in their position?

  • Essentialist

    Willis,

    Not all statements are written by those whose name is attached. Bear this in mind prior to your pontifications.

  • willis

    PACE

    “I wonder who will be next to announce a change in their position?”

    Among the major parties there is only the UUP left. The DUP very wisely moved Sammy on to his own ministry where he could do more damage, and replaced him with Mervyn Storey. Mervyn, unlike Sammy, had actually attended a non-Grammar school and so had a more realistic view of this “Best education system in the world”

    As the newly fashionable Keynes said:

    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Keynes

    It is a bit rich for you to lecture others on consistency.

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/a-secondary-schools-solution-is-achievable-so-dont-wait-for-the-politicians/P25/

  • essentialist

    Willis,

    Walked right into that one didn’t you?

    “Mervyn, unlike Sammy, had actually attended a non-Grammar school and so had a more realistic view of this “Best education system in the world””

    Perhaps that’s why Mervyn Storey, anxious to follow the DUP leadership, entered his child for the 11-plus this year.

    I will spell it out very, Very, very ,very slowly for you and others Willis.

    The 11-plus transfer test is only for those seeking places in a grammar school.

    Mervyn Storey seems to have understood that. What is your learning difficulty Willis? Perhaps you have not been pushing your brain button properly

    How are you getting on with your solution to the impending chaos?

  • willis

    PACE

    I would hardly have expected him to do anything else.

    As a parent if you want the best for your child you will encourage them to get the best education available at the time.

    As a politician you want to create a system which is best for everyone.

    I really would have thought you would have understood that.

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    Death Notice

    R.I.P.

    The education system in Northern Ireland suddenly deteriorated after struggling with a chronic illness and died on November 21st 2008.

    Insincere messages of concern have been issued by educationalists, politicians and media pundits everywhere.

    The coroner described the cause of death as neglect, particularly in the primary sector but was particularly critical of elderly guardians whom he said should have actly more prompltly to prevent the fulminating infection known as curricular reform to go unrecognised and untreated.

    Early word from the legal representatives of the family suggest that no inheritance will be forthcoming and that late changes to the will have been instrumental in leaving the estate destitute. Those relatives reassured by kind words mumbled during the illness and reliance upon the new will now find themselves without a plan B.

    Some feisty caring family members insist that close relatives will have to pay for the funeral expenses, loss of the estate and unfulfilled contracts. Close relatives will be notified of proceedings in due course.

  • willis

    Doctors said that it had actually been ill for a very long time but family members had only been concerned with the patient from the neck up and had not noticed the deterioration in the rest of the body.

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    It seems that your educational quacks only decided to pull back the covers when the parent consultant came into the room. Too little – too late.

    Perhaps too much well funded pseudo-science, neuromythology, and primary movement mumbo jumbo to distract them from the job in hand.

  • Essentialist

    Peter Weir of the DUP emphatically stated on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback today that the DUP firmly support academic selection at 11.

    The public must be spinning with the rapid rate of twisting and turning on the back of the BBC/Jim Allister revelation on their “private” position of academic selection at 14. After all it is the favoured position of the Catholic Church, the unions, the media, the Catholic Church, the unions, the media,the Catholic Church, the unions, the media,the Catholic Church, the unions, the media and the great and good although none of the aforementioned can explain why or provide evidence for their outlandish claims.

    Would it not be simpler if the DUP told the Shinners to get lost – Academic selection at 11 is not up for negotiation.

    Unless, of course, the DUP didn’t write the position paper in the first place but got someone else to do their homework,handed it in as their own but forgot to read it first.

    Never Never Never…

  • Robert McCartney QC

    It is disappointing that Brian Walker has foregone the opportunity to address my opinions on education in favour of cheap personal comments. It is my deep concern for the educational future of children in deprived areas like the Shankill that provokes its expression in strong not “lurid” language.

    Far from remaining in any hole or bunker, my opinion on the enriched or revised curriculum foisted upon the children of the Shankill was formed after extensive reading of the modern research. I recommend to Brian Walker the Clackmannonshire and Rose Reports which demonstrate the utter failure of the teaching to read methods employed under the Revised Curriculum. Similar conclusions were reached by Professor Jeanne Chall of Harvard University in an extensive report in the United States.

    Mr. Walker would also receive some enlightenment on the failures of the “Child Centred” methods advocated by “Progressives” in Northern Ireland by reading Professor Ravitch’s book “Left Back a Century of Failed School Reforms”, which reviews the failures of methods similar to those prescribed here. She states that “Poor children in classrooms where teachers ‘facilitated’ instead of ‘teaching’ were at a terrific disadvantage. If the school did not make an effort to educate then no one else did.” Almost all of the mistakes about to be made in Northern Ireland have already been made and recognised as such in both the U.S. as well as the U.K. In the U.S. the severest critics of “child centred” education were the black parents who wanted their children to ‘learn’ academic subjects and “to rise in American society not to remake it.” Brian Walker should do some research for himself instead of regurgitating opinions fed to him by others.

    ROBERT McCARTNEY Q.C.