All Catholic Grammars to pull out of the ‘Ruane Plan’…

On the front page of today’s Irish News is the story Sinn Fein’s Education Minister has fought long and hard to prevent from coming to pass:

All Catholic grammar schools are set to hold new entrance tests in place of the 11-plus after the executive failed to agree to proposals to ban academic selection. A total of 25 Catholic schools, including the Newry grammar that Caitriona Ruane sent one of her daughters to, are expected within days to match plans by six others who have already made their position public.

Simon Doyle writes:

Such a move would be devastating for the education minister who still hopes to introduce a non-selective system. Ms Ruane wanted to introduce her own new temporary transfer test to give schools time to prepare for a complete ban on academic selection, but needed legislation.

She had hoped to discuss details of her proposals at a meeting of the executive yesterday, but the issue did not make the agenda. The minister is now expected to revert to offering guidance to schools, given the urgency with which clarity on a new transfer system is required.

It is understood this guidance will not include an entrance test option, instead focusing purely on non-academic criteria.

As Doyle also points out, in educational terms this is viewed amongst educationalists as a regressive move:

The 25 remaining members of the Catholic Heads Association were understood to have been waiting for the outcome of yesterday’s executive meeting before making a decision. It is now expected they will follow the lead of Lumen Christi and use a test devised by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which sets grammar school entrance tests in England.

It will consist of two “standardised reasoning” papers to be taken probably this autumn. Such testing was scrapped in the north about 15 years ago amid criticisms that children spent their time learning exam tricks. [emphasis added]

So that would be ‘Game, Set and Match’ for whom precisely?

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  • willis

    That’s handy then. If you have got the money you can try two different sorts of exams.

  • Mark McGregor

    For those of us that are opposed to selective education and have children in the affected age bracket now a fight begins to ensure our childrens’ education and concentration on the revised cirriculum are not impacted on by primary schools stepping outside the cirriculum to prepare for a private test.

    They teach my son any of this unproductive crap during school hours and they’ll be facing a court.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good luck with that Mark.

  • GGN

    “They teach my son any of this unproductive crap during school hours and they’ll be facing a court.”

    Hmm, could a class action on behalf on ‘secondary’ school pupils on the basis of discrimantory inequality with Grammar schools citing, teacher quality, physical resources and discpiline and perhaps funding get anywhere?

    Could one or two really disappointed parents force a breakthrough?

  • Mack

    Academic selection is a bad fit for the modern world.

    She should now listen to what the people are saying though. She should increase funding to the more popular schools such that they can take in all who apply (this can be done progressively). She could also bestow Grammar school status on all schools.

    I’d also recommend that schools in the north drop restrictive A-Levels and instead teach a more progressive syllabus – such as the Irish Leaving Cert, The Scottish Highers or the French Baccalaureat.

  • Driftwood

    Do you think Oxford and Cambridge should ditch selection and just take in anyone who applies?

    Same with all medical schools.

  • wild turkey

    Mark and GGN

    I have a son in P4 and a daughter in P5. Please keep me in mind for any potential court action(s). Seriously. The intellectual underpinings of selection at 11 are flawed… and fraudulent.

    Privilege and wealth may be inherited characteristics. Intelligence is NOT. see below. apologies for the length but WTF.

    Before the introduction of comprehensive education in the 1960s and 1970s all children destined for state schools had to take the 11-plus. This creamed off a small minority into the grammar schools while the vast majority were labelled as failures. The 11-plus was based on the infamous intelligence quotient (IQ) test. Its supporters believed that IQ tests measured intelligence and that IQ is hereditary. They relied on the false assumption that a person’s intelligence is a fixed thing, like the amount of water in a bucket, which can be measured and graded accordingly.
    In Britain IQ tests were first popularised by Cyril Burt, an educational psychologist and one of those responsible for devising the 11-plus. Burt claimed his 40 years of research proved a child’s intelligence was mainly inherited from its parents and that social circumstances played only a minor role. His research formed the basis of education policy for half a century-from the 1920s until the 1970s. Yet only a year after his death in 1971, evidence began to emerge that Burt was a fraudster who had simply invented results to fit his theories about the hereditability of intelligence.
    Burt’s study stood out because he claimed to have found 53 pairs, more than twice the total of any previous attempt. Burt also showed an extremely high hereditability of 80 percent for IQ performance. It was no wonder that his work was eagerly seized upon by all those who shared his rigid hereditarian views.
    Things started to unravel soon after Burt’s death, when it was shown by respected US psychologist Leon Kamin that Burt’s figures constituted a statistical impossibility. ‘A liar and a fraud,’ was Kamin’s verdict.
    Kamin quickly realized that the studies conducted by Cyril Burt provided the backbone for the hereditarian argument involving IQ. Before he could take an informed position on the issue, he felt that he had to examine the work of Burt — he started with the largest of Burt’s studies published in 1966. Kamin, being an expert statistician and methodologist, immediately became skeptical about the data and findings being reported by Burt. In order to become fully knowledgeable about both sides of the debate, Kamin then looked at the quintessential studies for the environmental argument and found their data and findings to be much more coherent and theoretically sound. After further investigation of the history of the IQ debate, he was shocked to find that respected psychologists such as Yerkes and Brigham had put forth racial theories about IQ in the 1920s and concluded that the unsupported assumption that IQ was inherited led to unjust social policy in the 1920s. He also saw dangerous parallels to the 1920s in the 1970s with feeble data and unjustified claims being used as a rationale for denying programs and assistance to minorities.
    This charge was borne out when it was found that Burt’s two female ‘collaborators’, who supposedly collected and processed his data, had never worked with him and probably never existed! Eventually even Burt’s friend and official biographer, Leslie Hearnshaw, was forced to accept that the charges of fraud were justified.

  • Mack


    Interesting you should mention medical schools. I think medical schools should have to take in all students from the state who meet the minimum requirements in terms of grades. They are a closed shop keeping Doctors wages artificially high.


    Everyone must attend second-level, and you want a large number of those to be schooled well enough to attend third level if they want to and if economic circumstances indicate that they should.

    In the modern world we (Ireland, Republic at least) send over 50% of the population onto third level. In the future this may be higher still. The advantage to the economy is that better educated workers tend to be more productive, and that by producing an excess you keep wages down. This drives business growth and growth for the economy overall. This also gives us a comparitive advantage over lower cost competitors such as China where workers are less well educated on average.

    Selecting a subset of pupils, and separating them from the rest (such that they can not act as role models to the rest) hinders rather than helps that approach. In NI many school leavers leave at 16, there is little chance of them ever returning to education – should their chosen career not work out.

    I’m not suggesting you neglect your brightest pupils. The English education system is a disaster imo & I wouldn’t live in England if you paid me (current crises leaving England relatively unscathed not withstanding). They need to be encouraged within the school system.

    But, ruling out your weakest 50% based on performance in an exam at 11 (kids develop at different paces also remember! If you are parent or uncle, you will have seen this yourself, sometimes they just seem to undergo huge mental jumps) is a really stupid thing to do.

    At the end of the day, most jobs are not rocket science, but increasingly high value jobs do require skilled / educated workers. While only the brightest can do the top knowledge economy jobs, we still do need to educate the less bright. The 11+ served an industrial economy, it is out-dated in a high tech world.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s pretty much all there is left GGN… That’s what forced undersubscribed Grammars to take less able pupils.

    Not sure it will work though, since it would require an activist judge to take a robust position on educational policy, rather than on a point of legal principle.

  • Mark McGregor


    I’ll drop you an email if there is a need for legal action. I’m deadly serious about ensuring prepartion for private selective testing is kept out of primary schools if I can possibly make an impact.

    We’ll keep an eye on how things develop but it is one area that Ruane could impact on – I’m sure she has the authority to stipulate all primary schools wishing to continuwe receiving public funding stay within the set cirriculum and do not carry out preparation for extra-ciricular testing.

  • Mack

    Wild Turkey

    Privilege and wealth may be inherited characteristics. Intelligence is NOT. see below. apologies for the length but WTF.

    Eh, what? Completely backwards. Intelligence is inherited – otherwise (in absurdium) we’d see genius Chimps and humans with the so little brain power they couldn’t power their bodies.

    Although IQ tests measure abilities to perform in IQ tests not intelligence.

  • Stephen Dedalus

    How on earth can academic selection be banned? Is anybody else getting tired of Caitriona Ruane harping on about this unfair system without presenting any plausible alternative. This woman is a complete moron.

    “It is understood this guidance will not include an entrance test option, instead focusing purely on non-academic criteria”…… is this woman actually serious? What criterea? Favorite colour?

  • GGN


    I would also seek to sue the Catholic Church on the basis that they literaly educate some Catholics in good, well equiped schools with very good teachers and next door they educate other Catholics in much lesser circumstances.

    The Frocked have to ask themselves which school Jesus would visited first?

  • David Cather

    You can all huff and puff as much as you like about class action law-suits, the reality is that Academic selection is perfectly legal in Northern Ireland, thanks to the exemption gained by the DUP at St. Andrews, and if all the remaining Catholic Grammar schools announce their intention to use academic selection, then Ruane’s attempt to destroy the Grammar Schools is dead in the water. As, indeed, I suspect is her ministerial career.

  • Mack

    David Cather

    if all the remaining Catholic Grammar schools announce their intention to use academic selection, then Ruane’s attempt to destroy the Grammar Schools is dead in the water. As, indeed, I suspect is her ministerial career.

    And with it will go any chance of Nothern Ireland ever developing a sustainable, modern, vibrant commerical sector of it’s own.

    This in addition to the 30% of your brightest that you send overseas never to return!

  • Harry Flashman

    The 11+ was the best thing to happen to the Catholic population of Northern Ireland in the entire history of the state.

    Look at English comprehensive schools and hang your head in pity at the thought of bright young children who could get a decent education instead being doomed to such sink hole schools in the name of political dogma.

    Shame on anyone who would support such a dreadful policy.

  • Mack

    Harry Flashman

    I know you moved to England, but why do Northerners have an obession with the English system? It is poor, everyone knows that. There is a whole wide world out there.

    Answer me this, do you believe Northern Ireland has best education system in the world?

    Thought not.

  • Stephen Dedalus

    david cather has just hit the nail on the head. Game, set and match.

  • GGN

    “Game, set and match.”

    I think not. People will always struggle againist institutional inequality. It only has to be defeated once, it has to be defended always.

    “do you believe Northern Ireland has best education system in the world?”

    Some of it is, unfortunately most of it isnt.

    Everyone is entitled to the same QUALITY of education in my view.

    I myself it couldnt be pointed out went to a Grammar school, but I have no problem betraying my class and saying that it is unfair that everyone was exposed to the quality education I was PRIVILEDGED to recieve.

  • GGN

    “was NOT exposed”

  • Mack


    A lot of people can’t see the bigger picture on this. This can’t be true..

    “do you believe Northern Ireland has best education system in the world?”

    Some of it is, unfortunately most of it isnt.

    The job of an education system is to serve the state. It isn’t even a matter of equality. Either the Northern Irish system produces the well educated workers that gives your world beating, knowledge intensive economy the high-tech workers that it needs. Or you have the kind of system that tends to exist in the third-world were a small number of vested interests benefit, while the economy as a whole suffers.

    I’m a product of the NI Grammar school system, I live in the south. I’m confident my kids will get a better education here, than I recieved in the north. What I see here, all-round, at every level is just better.

    We have been keeping our eye on house prices in the north, we could get somewhere a lot bigger for less money than down here. This was, for me anyway, a litmus test. I can’t see NI ever evolving into a modern state where people can prosper. It’s so depressing that the battle was centred around protecting the interests of a priveleged minority rather than working together to produce something world-leading – without threatening what people had already. The lack of ambition is frightening, long term what hope is there for the place when this is the level of debate?

  • Harry Flashman

    “Answer me this, do you believe Northern Ireland has best education system in the world?”

    Well you clearly decided to answer your own question before giving me the chance which is a bit odd but nonetheless I have no idea whether Northern Ireland has the best education system in the world simply by virtue of the fact that no one has any idea where the best education system in the world is.

    However from my experience I can truthfully say that the education I received – free, gratis and for nothing – while growing up in a backwater like Northern Ireland in the dreadful 1970’s and ’80s was without doubt fantastic, and I can honestly say I have met no one who I feel got a better education than I did and I have traveled around the world a bit more than just England my friend.

    I shudder at the thought of the destruction of those fine schools at the whim of a tired, clapped out, dreary British Marxist agenda that even the English are sick of.

    Shame on those who would do such a thing.

  • Driftwood

    Well said Harry
    There are secondary schools in NI that are more like Young Offenders centres. It would be abusive to put decent kids in with them. The grammars are the equal of Englands top public schools. Lets keep them free of charge.

  • Mack


    There are secondary schools in NI that are more like Young Offenders centres

    What does that say about your prospects long-term, when 30% of your 18 year olds who do A-levels (i.e. a greater proportion of the total) go to college in Britain and never return?

    Do you think there is a dynamic in place that keeps your economy a basket case?

  • Driftwood

    I think the process of ’emigrating’ across the water is decreasing. We have lots of unemployed graduates here in NI and many, many others doing routine clerical work.
    The public sector bubble is what makes us a subsidised basket case. And the Southern economy is starting to look a bit wobbly so don’t be too cocky just yet. NI is looking not a bad place to weather the coming storm

  • DC

    The problem with academic / education systems is that there is rarely ever one right answer and many essentially contested areas in which debates throw up options with each having their own merits and strengths.

    The thing Caitriona Ruane has to learn is that this power-sharing system means that you can’t get it your own way, but there seems to be a media war in terms of republican ideology when it comes to schooling approaches which is built around this notion of abstract equality, hiding a much more painful and perhaps insensitive debate around the societal behaviour and family approaches to education; where, it would seem, that such a view only serves to stifle the opportunity to debate on those other options, perhaps two options – one maintaining selection the other planning ahead with changes.

    For example, if Ruane is so convinced in the strength of her proposals she should let both run and see whether she can lift up the basic foundations of a quality education through her system.

    But surely if choice is the key why in reality is there still two main proxy choices Catholic or non-Catholic schools, save of course that slither of a somewhat growing integrated sector inbetween. And despite all her bravado we are not even remotely near to that debate on properly addressing that form of apartheid!

  • Mack


    It’s not decreasing – see DENI stats, it’s increasing if anything.

    There is a recession in Ireland, but that obsfuscates the issue. Ireland has been able to attract and develop a lot of high tech, knowledge industries (Riverdeep, Iona, Elan, Google, Amazon, Ebay, Netscape, AOL, SUN, IBM, Yahoo, Facebook, Pfizer, Microsoft etc). The education system here played it’s part. But even that isn’t relevant. There are other countries.


    You had an opportunity here, to position NI for the future to help transition it into something better. The standard of the debate, on both sides, was appalling.

    My interest in this, was based on the outcome of this would determine whether I would consider moving back. I’m depressed by the result and much more so by the process. No party in the north came out of this well, they all seem like visionless dinasaors. And with this result / process – I thank God there isn’t a United Ireland and they aren’t my politicians!

    Believe me, my thinking when I lived there, and for sometime after I left was identical to the yours and Harry’s. Maybe travel broadens your mind somewhat (or makes you thankful for what you recieved), and while I did alright – the system doesn’t benefit the state / economy. Would I vote for imposing the NI system on a state such as Ireland? Definetely not..

  • Driftwood

    I agree totally about the politics here.

    But NI has been sucking on the British Treasury teat for so long now that we’re addicted to it.

    Arent there schools like Blackrock college that a lot of southern parents would admire in the same way as Methody or Lumen Christi?

  • Mick Fealty


    There will not be many dissenters from this opinion.

    “The standard of the debate, on both sides, was appalling.”

    As for the verities of the southern system, one thing it has managed is to make sure the education at the bottom of the system is relatively high compared to many of its European rivals. That’s something not to be sniffed at.

    Comparisons with Northern Ireland are hard to draw since the kind of comparative work required is rarely undertaken. But my understanding is that access to third level education shows much less signs of social mobility than that of Northern Ireland.

  • Mack


    According to this link 75% of those who complete the leaving cert at 18 (which itself is somethin like 95% of all pupils) go on to 3rd level in Ireland (with some others going to the UK, Europe, USA). It lists the worst schools in the country, where less than 40% of pupils go to college.

    There certainly are schools like Blackrock, and Clongoes which are held in very high esteem and grind schools in Dublin which have excellent reputations for getting pupils into their college & course of choice. As well as international schools where you can learn through other languages and the like. All this exists in a system which doesn’t select until 18 (pupils and their teachers can choose whether or not they sit honours or ordinary level in subjects. Both sets generally are taught together, and leaves weaker students with some self-esteem as they can still get good grades, but employeers / colleges will see that in that subject it was at ordinary level).

    While there are bad schools they’re nowhere near as bad as the bad schools in the north. My wife’s sister started teaching in a problem school in an unemployment blackspot down the country – from what I’ve heard it doesn’t seem as violent / disruptive as the Grammar I went to (admittedly during the NI troubles, in a spot with much higher unemployment again).

    By and large, by going to your local school you’ll do just fine.

  • eranu

    but mack, i think im right in saying that atleast some (maybe not all) of the good secondary schools in dublin charge fees. i know of one working class family in dublin that are forking out 1000s to send their kid to a ‘good school’ in south dublin. how can you possibly think this is better than the free grammar schools in NI?
    i went to a working class grammar in belfast and if my family had to pay theres no way i would have gone there. surely the opportunity for academic kids to push themselves as far as possible through their own hard work, regardless of money or class, is the best and most noble option? (if that doesnt sound too corny)

    the education debate needs to move away from grammar schools which produce good results for the academic side of things, to what alternative courses and qualifications that can be offered to kids that arent up to academic study. vocational courses and qualifications are the only type of thing ive heard. possibley some type of course designed by industry that would skill a kid up to go straight into a particular type of industry.

    if vocational and academic qualifications were percieved to be of equal value, then maybe an 11+ type test would be seen as a fork in the road type decider as regards a route to gaining eventual useful qualifications, rather than a success / fail type of thing.

    i think the 4.30 bell is about to ring. time to get my school bag and head home!

  • niall

    academic selection is actually great preparation for the real world.

    NI is a semi socialist state no more.

    Life is a competitive and discriminatory affair

  • Mack

    Mick Fealty

    But my understanding is that access to third level education shows much less signs of social mobility than that of Northern Ireland.

    I’ll dig out some hard figures for this, but I think this is not the case.

    Anecdotal – My wife was born in Northern Ireland to a northern mother and southern father. Neither went to college, they moved south when she was very young. Every single one of her northern cousins left school at 16. My wife and her sister on the other hand went on to third and fourth level education and work in professional jobs earning I would estimate between 3-5 times what their northern cousins earn. Every single one of my wifes school friends went on to college too, many of them were also the first in their families to do so. That is real social mobility.

    In my own line of work down here, I work mostly with well paid, highly qualified profesionals. Many of my collegues, often in senior positions are from working class parts of Dublin and the country. And many of them attended the ITs rather than the likes of Trinity or UCD.

    In recent years, those who chose to undertake a trade at 18 rather than go to college would have earned substantially more than those who took the third level route. Because the finish at 18 with a qualification, many tradesmen will now be in a position to apply for college positions and retrain. I imagine their NI counterparts would have left at 16, and going back to college would be less of an option.

  • Mack


    I live in south Dublin, and if you could point to a single bad school there I’ll eat my hat 😉

    Many working class families in the south may have been earning a lot more than you might think in recent years (good brickies earning €150,000 p.a. according to the book the builders) – sending your kids to a fee paying school is a real status symbol!

  • niall

    ……..and my folks were landless peasants of the north west who worked in the shirt factories.

    7 of us are postgraduates as are loads of people we know and yet the shrewd lads from our estate who have “made it” often left school at 18 knowing academic type jobs were not for them.

    what’s my point? academic selection is neceassary if not idyllic. I’m sorry if the real world hurts people feelings but how about just having a good attitude about things and cracking on?

    ultimately many of us who pass the 11 plus eventually hit a point were we are selected against and have to chose our careers accordingly.

  • Mack


    academic selection is neceassary if not idyllic

    Absolutely. However, it makes no sense to make a rather final decision about the future of an 11 year old child.

    How many other states in the world do it?

  • Happy Bunny

    Ms Ruane was shameful on Radio Ulster last night. She couldnt clarify anything and I have no doubt the Shinners were cringing when listening to her on air.

    Just heard that a fellow Shinner was convicted in the North Antrim Magistrate’s court today for police obstruction. I recall the thread on here in 2005 when all the Shinners were talking about police brutality etc!!

    Anyway the said representative is currently the DPP Chair of Moyle DPP – seems he may have to resign in the near future. Many of the DPP members will be delighted – this man’s blatant lies and dictator like behaviour has not gone down well – even with his own party colleagues!

    When will the Shinners clear out the dead wood in the party and stick with those who might have a bit of sense and actually have the good of the people at heart!?

  • niall


    “In my own line of work down here, I work mostly with well paid, highly qualified profesionals. Many of my collegues, often in senior positions are from working class parts of Dublin and the country. And many of them attended the ITs rather than the likes of Trinity or UCD”

    And the north is I can assure you the same. I am a well paid professional who came through Queen’s with loads of people from my background who are doing very well for ourselves all in all.

    So being a working class nordie and as it happens a nationalist I’d say the grammar system serves us well, hence the support our system will receive.

    Lets see this go to the polls on this issue out west of the bann? Provincial towns here get a lot of pride from our grammar schools, and no shame from our secondary schools either which where i live i’d have to say also have a great reputation.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Although IQ tests measure abilities to perform in IQ tests not intelligence. ‘


    Point taken.
    Of course, IQ tests do not measure intelligence, they measure ,amongst other things, the ability to take IQ tests.

  • willis

    Fascinating as yet another discussion on the merits of the 11+ undoubtedly is…

    Surely the big news is that the Catholic Grammars have finally had enough. Can the voters be far behind?

  • niall

    Willis – I think you are right there

  • Mack

    And the north is I can assure you the same

    Except it’s not. The NI economy is funded out of British (English to be blunt) taxes, you do not pay your own way. Because you are subsidised you can get away with uncompetitive practices – like RBS, the English tax payer bails you out. Eventually, I suspect the British tax payer will tire of this arrangement. In a country with exports goods and services worth $400 billion dollars, does a $10 billion subvention seem totally insignifant to you? Anyhoo, enjoy it while it lasts 😉

    Around 30% of your (our perhaps, seeing as I am a Nordie too) graduates leave to go to college, more leave after that again. With the 11+ nearly 40% of the population never even have a chance.

    When I was in primary school P6 and P7 were spent in their entirety studying for 11+. It was a waste of time.

    I won’t move back, because I’m not going to hand my children’s future over to a system that is effectively a lottery. Which is really were my interest in this issue ends, if you guys have made up your mind – I’ve made up mine. I wish you good luck, as I think you’ll need it…

  • cynic

    Some more extreme Unionists will be rubbing their hands together watching the Catholic education system ripped apart by internal squabbles and legal actions. Well done Sinn Fein!!!

    To those of you who also threaten that action, I have to say that whole I understand and respect your commitment to principles, using children as the political storm troopers won’t do them any good, whether you eventually win or (more likely) don’t. Think of other ways of changing things first – like persuading the Education Minister to see sense and do some politics

  • cynic

    “When I was in primary school P6 and P7 were spent in their entirety studying for 11+. It was a waste of time.”

    As you sit the 11+ at the start of P7 how did you manage that?

    Come on…tell us …… did you pass?

  • Mack

    Well Cynic, it was a long time ago. I got an A, back in the days when an M was a B or something bizarre like that..

  • Glencoppagagh

    “The grammars are the equal of Englands top public schools”
    What a load of rubbish. Have you actually looked at the results of some of these barely selective ‘grammar’ schools? Some of them will be lucky to get enough children to sit their entrance exam.

  • Driftwood

    Point taken, I was thinking of my own school. There are ‘grammars’ that are barely selective as you rightly point out.

  • niall


    I think the thread maybe got away a bit there at 17.

    I was responding to your comments about the make up of the people who took on leading roles within companies and stating that in my view the people I had come through the system with and were now taking more senior roles were from a similar demographic in my view.

    You then make the point that, the economies are not the same because of the financial support from what is is you want to be specific the city and docklands of London.

    While the point you make is something I too think is important it doesn’t quite follow in this instance?

    Since you raise it tho I would say that there are important things to consider;
    Much NI output is not calculated independent from the business as a whole which is simply a UK business?

    It is the very nature of the corporate and governance into which my generation has emerged that the public sector is huge for very understandable reasons.

    We realise it is not good but it is our starting position and far from a bad one. I certainly see it as no reflection on my abilities and accept that we will move on in the future. Necessity being the mother of invention.

    Would the republic have been so successful if the problems in the 80’s had not made the ambition a necessity.

    There is a “danger” of course that we continue to be supported to the same £ and stagnate accordingly.

    There are many tools of “parasite” economics which were well used in Dublin – regulation on the cheap, 98p shops, employee rights but not always – which were not open to us.

    We spent 30 years in a mess we are only emerging from.

    Keep the faith Mack, look North, good people, good education industry, good healthcare industry and hunger for the future!

  • Reader

    Mark McGregor: They teach my son any of this unproductive crap during school hours and they’ll be facing a court.
    No problem – there is an opt out now,and no doubt there will still be an opt out in the future.
    And if you do opt your child out of the test stream, and the teacher inadvertently teaches your child some forbidden knowledge, by all means complain that your child’s education was sub-optimal.
    That would be acting a bit like the pushy middle classes though, and teachers would surely expect a lot of cover from their union. Especially since there might be a suspicion your real objection was political.

  • Mick Fealty


    Please do. The comparative figures I have are probably well out of date (pre 1995)…

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    I wouldn’t get too cocky Mack. The south’s economy isn;t exactly something to write home about at the minute. Falling house prices and the reduction in building is cripling the economy further. In addition, the government appears to be doing precious little about it! Many of the companies are from the US and from what I hear several of the big pharma are thinking of shutting up shop.

  • Billyo

    Is it not tragic that some alleged parents are prepared to use their children as political cannon fodder in what is a last ditch attempt to defend Ruane’s failed partisan attempt to remove selection?

    It is sad that this petulant stamping of feet at not getting their own way will require that the feet to be stamped will be those of innocent children.

    I can just see the pictures of confused offspring being dragged to the (legal-aided) courts by ‘offended’ adults demanding their ‘rights’, with the associated cry ” I’m only doing this for the kids”. Despicable.

  • ggn


    On a personal note, I believe that all children are created equal and deserve equal oppurtunity in life.

    If that is stamping feet, so be it. Proud to do it.

    I am not a parent btw.

  • Glencoppagagh

    “I’m not going to hand my children’s future over to a system that is effectively a lottery”
    Indeed not Mac when you live in a country where you can buy it instead, or is it all nonsense that I read every year in the Dublin papers about fee-paying schools dominating university entrance.

  • Jen Erik

    “On a personal note, I believe that all children are created equal and deserve equal opportunity in life.”

    I think most people would agree. But you come back to the fact that there isn’t a consensus about the best way to achieve that.

    When you said, earlier in the thread:

    “Hmm, could a class action on behalf on ‘secondary’ school pupils on the basis of discrimantory inequality with Grammar schools citing, teacher quality, physical resources and discpiline and perhaps funding get anywhere?”

    – you did raise my hackles a bit. My mum was a secondary school teacher, and to assume she was therefore in some way second rate is just snobbery.
    I’ve two daughters at a grammar, and one at a secondary, and believe me, both schools have some great teachers, and some poor teachers.
    And actually, they’re both good schools. To sort of assume that every child who has failed the Transfer Test is written off, and sent to some terrible not-a-Grammar-therefore-Hellhole-sink-school, is just untrue. I’m sure some secondaries are sink schools, but so are some comprehensives.

    I agree with you about funding – I don’t know what the current arrangements are, but when my mum was teaching you got extra funding for sixth form students meaning the grammars were always better funded. That makes no sense to at all.

  • Harry Flashman

    In Derry I think the two Catholic girls’ secondary schools are the equal of Thornhill (in many ways actually better). If you want to see an experiment in the ‘touchy feely, all shall have prizes, no child’s feelings hurt’ attitude in schools have a look at Oakgrove, the integrated school which would no doubt be the ideal sought by abolitionists.

    It’s a joke.

    When I was at Trinity in the 1980’s I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of working class kids from the Republic, there were none from England, the highest concentration of working class students in Trinity by a huge margin were products of the Catholic grammar schools of Northern Ireland. Two Nobel prize winners in recent years were working class boys who had gone to one school alone.

    The thought that the jewel in the crown of Catholic society in Northern Ireland, the Catholic grammar schools, would be slaughtered on the altar of a failed socialist agenda simply beggars belief and is frankly an act of such ingratitude as to be positively shaming (and yes I have used the word “shame” now on three occasions quite deliberately because it is an accurate description of what is being proposed).

  • ggn

    Jen Erik,

    My father is a secondary teacher.

    I was sent to a Grammar school however, for the simple reason that the education on offer was and is infinitely better, despite the fact that both institutions are owned by the same church.

    That church has questions to answer in my book. I admitt that in a normal society I would not favour church control of education.

    I find that very unfair, and whilst I believe in taylored solutions in education, 11 is too young and two exams are are unfair, to be fundamentally restricting a childs chances in life.

    I think all schools should be of the quality of grammar schools, of course not exactly the same but of the same quality. Varying qualities of education is simply medieval.

  • willis

    Just out of interest Harry, When did you emigrate to Oz and when did Oakgrove open?

    What are the “hell hole” comprehensives like out there. They all seem pretty happy on the soaps.

  • Harry Flashman

    Willis, tell me what my personal circumstances remotely have to do with this debate and I’ll supply with you with your answers.

    I am getting sick, sore and fucking tired of people challenging my arguments on the basis of my personal circumstances and recently in some rather unpleasant and utterly unforgivable racist comments about members of my family.

    Debate the fucking issues people!

    If you can’t beat someone’s arguments on the basis of facts stop resorting to childish personal attacks. What the fuck has my personal circumstances got to do with this argument willis?

    Are you incapable of debating issues or something?

  • Mack

    Mick Fealty

    This report from suggested the UK had the lowest level of economic mobility of the 27 countries covered (Ireland wasn’t one of them)

    I know it’s a differnt concept (economic mobility covering specifically capacity to earn more than your parents relative to peers, where as social mobility is limited to the more abstract concept of class) – this report from Dail debates shows something of the structural changes in Irish society between 1970-2000

    Analysis of the levels of social mobility in Ireland has been undertaken in recent years most notably by the Economic and Social Research Institute. In a 2004 paper, entitled “Economic Change, Social Mobility and Meritocracy: Reflections on the Irish Experience”, the ESRI outlines the scale of change in the Irish class structure for men aged between 20 and 65 years. Over the period from 1973 to 2000, this has seen the professional and managerial class rise from 12.9% of population to 23.3% of population; the routine non-manual class rise from 8.3% to 14.1%; the self-employed class rise from 8.2% to 9.9%; the skilled manual class rise from 19.4% to 25.3%; the farming class fall from 20% to 8.2%; the semi-skilled and unskilled class fall from 24.1% to 16.6%; and the agricultural labourer class fall from 7.2% to 2.6%.

    The ERSI report showed marked improvements in absolute social mobility, but much less improvements in “relative” mobility (that is to say, opportunities remained for middle class and wealthy kids to do better too, much to the chagrin of socialists everywhere)..

    The following Dail debate shows the rise in third level participation rates between 1998 and 2004 (only counting those who participate within the state in the first instance, and the second table displaying the total from that county who participate on the island – i.e. those who go to England / Scotland are ‘lost’). You can see from the data there are significant rises during that time period.

    In 2004

    60% of 18 year olds from Donegal, go to college on the island. 60% of 18 years olds from Carlow go to college within Ireland (Republic).

    The equivalent figure for Donegals near neighbour, Northern Ireland? 36% went to college anywhere. As we know, many of those left, never to return.

  • Mack

    Sorry, left out NI link –

  • Mack


    Admittedly from 2003…

    TWO thirds of the top 100 schools are non fee-paying and based outside Dublin, the most extensive survey of school performance ever published reveals today.

    You would expect fee paying schools to do well of course. Because they are subject to market forces, they wouldn’t exist for long if they didn’t perform well!!!

    The point being though (see figures I presented to Mick) – Ireland’s other schools do a really good job.

    Don’t get too hung up on Ireland

    This is about you, and your childrens future (it will only be about my kids future, if you guys come up with something good). It’s also a limitmus test for your administration, this is the one key area where you have control to take on responsibility and do something world beating. You already have good grammars – now, why not go make the whole system world class?

  • Mack

    For those who are interested you can get the destination details for every school in Ireland (Republic) here

    One of the most succesful fee paying schools is a grind school the institute, it only takes pupils for the Leaving Cert. The standard of teaching and notes is supposedly excellent. I work with a guy from a working class background who attended there.

  • willis


    Easy Tiger!

    First off I have never been even slightly abusive of you or your family. I don’t know who was, I didn’t read the thread, etc etc. Indeed I have said that I esteem you as a wingnut.

    The point is a simple one. Integrated education in the Maiden City came a bit behind Belfast, where I live and which I am most familiar with. My suspicion was that due to your emigration you may only be casting aspersions on Oakgrove without any personal experience or indeed knowledge.

    No offence intended obv.

  • Harry Flashman

    “My suspicion was that due to your emigration you may only be casting aspersions on Oakgrove without any personal experience or indeed knowledge.”

    I have checked above and at least a half a dozen other posters cited personal experience when posting.

    I am the only poster whose bona fides you felt the need to check up, by doing so you joined the ever growing list of posters who feel the need (occasionally in a most offensive manner) to somehow attack me personally rather than address the points I make, I’m pissed off to the back teeth with it.

    Suffice for you to know that when I say I have in fact got extensive personal knowledge of both Oakgrove primary school and Oakgrove College over a period of ten years I am not lying. I feel no need to lie about issues on this forum.

    I hope this answers your impertinent question.

  • willis

    Hi Harry

    If the charge is impertinence I would like all my previous to be taken on the charge sheet. If you think you can just slag off a school without someone asking “Do you know what you are talking about?” you may have wandered onto the wrong blog.

    Still haven’t seen any evidence.

  • Dr Mike Hunt

    I for one applaud Ruane.

    I hope she stands up to the maintained ‘Catholic’ grammars, which are in themselves such disgusting things. One cannot teach without a “Catholic Teachers’ Certificate” leaving these taxpayer funded monstrosities able to discriminate against protestants. The Irish history taught there begins with the English invention of famine in 1844 which it tested on Ireland the following year, whist kids can be taken on Hunger strike glorification days off.

    These Catholic Grammars serve only to bunch middle class Catholics from a wide area together and serve as a breeding ground for Irish Republicanism.

    If Ruane’s prepared to do the decent thing and pull the plug then here here!

  • Mack

    Dr. MH

    The Irish history taught there begins with the English invention of famine in 1844 which it tested on Ireland the following year

    Eh? Irish history taught is schools is determined by syllabus defined by the appropriate agency. In my day it started much earlier (by almost 2,000 years) than this.

    Incidentally, on the famine, in the 1840’s the United Kingdom, of which Ireland and Scotland were constituent parts was the wealthiest nation on the planet. The panic of 1837, which was the bursting of a huge speculative bubblein the USA which had sucked in large amounts of capital from Europe – triggered a serious depression. Leaving Europe ill-prepared to cope with the continent wide potato blight of the mid-1840’s (the hungry 40s). But yet, it was the citizens of the United Kingdom – the richest country in the world – who suffered disproportionately. Within a short period nearly 4 million people had emigrated from the UK – Scotland (1.6 million) and Ireland (almost 2 million), and unfortunately a similarly large number of people died in Ireland (largely due to infectious diseases given the weak health of huge numbers due to malnutrition). This was a gargunatuan failure of governance in the UK. To pretend otherwise is simply disengenuous. You can trace back to this moment – the rise of the Fenians, the rise of Irish Republicanism in the USA, and the trauma of separating grand-parents from grand-chrildren via the rapid adoption of the English language.

    As such, I would say that the Irish famine, and the failure of government to deal with it properly directly contributed to Ireland’s departure in 1922. Those of a pro-Union sentiment can probably be greatful that things weren’t quite as bad in Scotland, or I have little doubt the UK would not exist at all today.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Still haven’t seen any evidence.”

    Evidence of what willis?

    I gave an opinion of something about which I have a good deal of knowledge, the same as other posters have given their opinions. I was not questioning Einstein’s theory of relativity, I was giving my opinion about an institution in my home town, normally it would be assumed that when discussing such matters a poster might actually know something about the subject.

    But no not me, apparently I and I alone have to prove that I have personal knowledge about such matters.

    What is so special about me that requires me to back up with chapter and verse my personal experience before I can be allowed to express an opinion?

    And why is it only me who should provide such a standard of proof?

  • D

    Eh? Irish history taught is schools is determined by syllabus defined by the appropriate agency.

    I think you’ll find that such events are Key Stage 3 (year 8-10) and consequentially have no external examination on them whatsoever. This therefore gives schools a carte blanche to teach whatever they like.

    And given Catholic schools are all prod free zones they certainly give a very partisan slant on such matters.

  • al

    As one of (i suspect) a minority of people on this thread who has actually attended a school sometime in the last half century i’d like to write in support of the 11+

    I did it coming up on 15 years ago now and found it to be neither stressful nor a defining moment in my life and those who tend to babble on about it scarring their little darlings for life need to get a grip.

    Secondly, in all schools whether they are grammar or secondary you’ll get streams/selections/tiers or whatever else they want to get called. The split between going to a grammar or secondary is just one part of this. I ended up passing the 11+ and went to a local grammar for 2 years before leaving to go to a school outside the state system. In the grammar school there were 3 distinct tiers based on ability and types of subjects the pupil was likely to be good at.

    Just getting rid of the 11+ and having a comprehensive style free-for-all might be “fairer” but I wonder when all these whining parents last decided their kids should also be friends with all the other kids they hang around with. Even the rabble and reprobates. Or is their a different compass for that.

    We all make choices and we all make selections. It’s entirely sensible and productive to place children in schools and classes that are more accurately suited for them.

  • Essentialist

    Harry Flashman,

    You may safely ignore Willis’ demand for evidence on anything. I provided the union rep with a link to Testing the Test, a publication written by Prof John Gardner, one of the principals of the Assessment Reform Group, in which the 11-plus was criticised for its easiness and loss of information. The culprits in undermining their own instrument were the DENI and CCEA, both of whom feared litigation by parents.
    Willis is well aware of both the limitations and benefits of high stakes tests but is more interested in protecting teachers from accountability measures of their performance.
    Take a look at for some background information.

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master


    Since you employ the term Game, Set and Match in the thread I thought that examining the record of Caitriona Ruane, the professional Irish tennis player would inform Sluggerites as to her glorious record.

    Caitriona Ruane played for Ireland in the 1980 Federation Cup
    (the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup) In two singles games and two doubles games her record was 0-4

    Game, Set and Match indeed!

  • Mack


    As one of (i suspect) a minority of people on this thread who has actually attended a school sometime in the last half century

    Steady on! I don’t think there’s m/any that
    old posting here!


    Well, at exam level (GCSE, A-Level), what your taught must match the exam syllabus.

    By the way, do you object to Irish history as it is taught in Ireland (Republic)? Or is any critiscm in relation to government policy in the United Kingdom regarded as treacherous?

    For example, would you substantively disagree that it was the mismangement of the Europe-wide potato blight in the UK that caused mass out-migration and death in Ireland and Scotland?

  • willis


    Good to have you back! The advice to avoid giving evidence is very wise. Have you been doing some coaching? I didn’t realise tennis was your game but I can see the Ruinator has benefited from your tips.

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    The coaching for the reform debacle has all come from “education experts” including Gavin Boyd, Tony Gallagher, Wilfred Mulyrne, Donal McKeown, Gilly Irwin, Carol McGuinness, Carmel Gallagher, Frank Bunting, Avril Hall-Callaghan et al. You can add your own names . Throw into the entourage are various poodles such as primary and post-primary prncipals and teachers from all sectors (most of whom make or made full use of the selective system) and you have a better perspective on Ruane’s team.
    You must be delighted, as a union man, that parents and children are thrown into chaos but your various members carry on with their cowardly claim not to know what’s going on.
    BTW if you have a solution other than a return to the 11-plus give us the benefit of your plan.
    The ball is in your court.

  • willis

    Plan = Dickson

    15 – 0