Prod and Catholic agreement on selection – an essential short-term move

Under the circumstances of political deadlock, the report that the AQE and the Catholic grammar schools are seeking agreement on a single transfer test is surely to be welcomed. However much some might like it, integration and the abolition of selection are not going to happen any time soon, by the will of the people I guess, as well as the parties. The way ahead now is to make progress on the basis of facts and analysis rather than any kind of dogma. But unless some sense of future direction is supplied from now on, nothing more will get done. Most agree that selection for selection’s sake is not a good in itself. Many would recognise that the curriculum needs to be strengthened at the vocational end to improve performance at the long tail of the system. As a basis for discussion, detailed area plans should be drawn up by the department to implement the demographic conclusions of Bain and the curriculum range of Costello. Parents, and politicians as well as educationalists could then see for themselves what the prospects are for schools amalgamation, integration and transfers at 14, area by area, and school by school. The debate would be complex but it would throw up many creative challenges that would cut across the apparently fixed positions. Unless everyone involved argues on the basis of analysis and evidence, the deadlock will remain entrenched forever and a large minority of our children will continue to be poorly served.

  • joeCanuck

    Brian you misspelled a few things. I’ve taken the liberty of correcting them.

    Unless everyone involved argues on the basis of analysis and evidence, the deadlock will remain entrenched forever for the next few years and a large minority of our children will continue to be poorly served.

  • Silverline

    More pressure on Sinn Fein

  • PACE Parent

    Once again Brain you entirely misrepresent the facts of the matter. The Catholic grammars were always represented and included in the AQE. They chose to plow their own furrow on testing and created divisions (some will claim deliberately and disingenuously) resulting first in the NFER intelligence test being proposed as a solution and more recently another NFER product testing numeracy and literacy.

    The issue is quite a simple one. Is there to be a continuation of grammar schools in Northern Ireland with entrance based on a test of attainment, regulated or otherwise? The Minister and her advisers talk around this issue but her continued refusal to accept the principle only disguises the reality that neither she nor her myriad of advisers have come up with a workable or politically solution. The obligation to come up with an acceptable testing arrangement rests with the DENI not AQE.

    You claim to do your own thinking on this subject. For the benefit of Sluggeites please explain this statement “Most agree that selection for selection’s sake is not a good in itself”
    Please outline your admission criteria for a grammar school.

  • Brian Walker

    PACE Parent, your tone suggests your opinion is self-evidently right and everyone else is an idiot. This attitude bedevils NI debate and may damage what you seek to protect. Selection is indeed a problem. It remains a fair question if one to be debated without heat. The challenge is easy enough to take up. First, the present and future academic range of each school should become clearer. Many NI schools are in transition so fresh choices can be made. Many other schools will keep their present character. That’s why I recommend area plans for public discussion. These would offer new choices in some cases and defuse anxiety in others. Change in academic content would I’m confident be far less than many fear. Second, primary and secondary teacher guidance in the choice of secondary school is essential, based on a robust pupil profile. The English habit of denying this is disingenuous. Third, setting and streaming in secondary schools is essential. Fourth, in some schools choice at 14 could replace selection at 11. Family connections and catchment areas would remain in play. The one completely unsatisfactory option is to leave things exactly as they are in the medium term. I suspect most, if not all grammar school heads would agree.

  • PACE Parent

    Brian.
    In the first instance you seem to be attacking the player not the ball. The opinion expressed is as valid as the next unless it can be invalidated. What aspect of the detail do you take issue with?
    I think it self-evident that the idea of Area Based Planning is not yours, nor is the idea of Pupil Profiles. These are DENI promulgated concepts which are being sold through “influencers”. Whether you consider yourself such is a matter for you.
    You fail to address the charge that the Catholic Heads were fully aware of the AQE commitment to a numeracy and literacy test for quite some time and therefore seeking agreement on a single test at this stage is just a reflection of the fact that the power struggle over academic selection is sectarian and political. How could agreement on the “Catholic Test” be possible given their opposition to academic selection? Indeed if such a test were withdrawn where would that leave non-Catholic grammars? For parents considering the option of Catholic NFER tests the declaration by the Catholic Commission that they intend to end academic selection by 2012 may pose dramatic difficulties for pupils enrolled into their schools.
    If you have real concerns about the unsatisfactory current situation then your answer to the question on the principle of academic selection should guide you. Parents who believe in academic selection want valid and reliable objective testing not ideological claptrap regardless of source.