“There will be fear, there will be chaos..”

As the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, prepares to produce detailed policies guidelines, and with all Catholic grammars reported to be set on ignoring any such guidelines, on the Politics Show today, Michelle Marken, a former head of a Catholic secondary school, on the default deregulation of post-primary transfer ahead. The lesson for today, once again, nature abhors a vacuum..

Jim Fitzpatrick has more here.

After their five-month standoff ended in December, the DUP and Sinn Fein promised to get down to business on all unresolved issues. Martin McGuinness said agreement on education would be a “top priority” for 2009.

“There is a challenge to the DUP and Sinn Fein to find a way forward on education to ensure that all of our children can reach their full potential,” the deputy first minister said.

Well, January isn’t over and already one well-intentioned resolution has bitten the dust.

By allowing the education minister to resubmit her proposals on education to the Executive this week, in the certain knowledge that they would be knocked down, Sinn Fein was signalling the end of any attempt to reach agreement. Let the blame game begin.

Many, in politics and outside it have blamed the minister. Regardless of the arguments for or against academic selection, there is widespread criticism of her handling of the issue.

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  • Pete,

    People can criticise until the cows come home but until there are “teeth” in the constitution, power sharing is going to continue to look very discreditable.

    When I watched this interview, the comment which really hit home was that children could now be sitting two or three different entrance exams in different schools. They should be continuing to sit the 11 plus until there is an alternative in place. It is now very appropriate to refer back to what happened a couple of months ago.

    Last November, when it was clear that there was a political stalemate, the assembly passed a resolution urging the minister to re-introduce the 11+ for a 3 year period pending the agreement of an alternative. She refused to accept that proposal and was consequently in breach of the Pledge of Office for ministers.

    This is not just a political scandal about Ruane. It is about the Pledge of Office which was inserted into the GFA and also the integrity of the Power Sharing system. For more detail about the legal point I am making, please read the piece I wrote on the CPNI website.

  • Jim Henson – Muppett Master

    Having commissioned a test from CCEA the Minister poured petrol on the rising flames of parental disquiet by announcing its withdrawal today.
    CCEA have refused to reveal the specification of the test they are having developed and state that it is not in the public interest to reveal the specification while hiding behind various clauses of the FOIA 2000.

    One thing is clear; CCEA granted the contract to the provider without a tendering process.

    The real reason for refusing to provide specification details is that to do so would provide an instant answer to what type of test, if one was outlined, was to be produced.
    Remember that Ruane claimed that the revised curriculum was not amenable to testing so any test would undermine her claim. On the other hand the Catholic schools claimed that they wanted the Minister’s test and were only offering their NFER intelligence test as an interim measure.
    The AQE (who aren’t sure if they have access to a test or not) want the benefit of an unregulated system in order to extract profit from confused, anxious and gullible parents.

    Not one of the groups can tell a straight story.

    The basic problem is this; what is the equivalence between the tests? Will one school accept another’s test? Best leave it up to the schools to determine their admission criteria and then parents can decide.

    The minister’s withdrawal of her test can be interpreted as an admission of failure on her part and a tacit endorsement of an unregulated apartheid transfer system.

  • Essentialist

    Take a look at the PACE blog.


    It is clear that the warnings on the failures of the educationalists, churches and politicians were streets ahead of the others.