Catriona on guidelines: take them or leave them, as necessary…

I’m not going to comment on Catriona Ruane taking her kids out of school for three days. Well, I’ve been there myself, done that, and got the tee shirt. But one thought occured to me when watching Let’s Talk on Thursday was that if it is okay for parents to breach the guidelines on this matter; what about schools who choose to retain selective education in spite of the department’s advice. It’s a point I think has been made by the DUP’s education spokesman, Mervyn Storey. The principle already pre-existed of course. The Minister has just given it confirmation.

  • You’ve got it spot on, Mick. We have a minister who says that, regardless of her own department’s guidelines, she will decide what is best for her own child. She is now hoping that ordinary parents will accept another set of departmental guidelines on post-primary transfers, and she hasn’t a prayer.

    It is obvious that many ordinary parents will quote the minister’s words straight back at her and insist on their own right to chose what is best for their children.

    The significance of the story is that the minister’s plans are doomed to failure through her own actions

    It needs to be remembered that we only know about the minister’s child and her educational arrangements because the minister put the matter in the public domain through her amazing speech at the INTO conference last year.

    It has been an astonishing episode, and its logical conclusion is likely to follow in the Autumn.

  • joeCanuck

    The Minister has just given it confirmation.

    Mick,
    perhaps all that has been confirmed to us lesser mortals is that, in her mind, she is always right.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think it’s that level of hypocrisy that has angered parents so much.

    Fine for Catriona to make that autonomous decision, but not the peasants…

  • underwood

    “Well, I’ve been there myself, done that, and got the tee shirt.”

    Which is all very well, very understanding, and seems to be the official SDLP line as well. But it just won’t wash!
    None of us has been-there-got-the-tee-shirt as far as being Minister for Education is concerned. She is guilty of rank hypocrisy. No question about it! In the same way that anti-grammar and anti-public school Labour MPs in the UK, who quietly sent their own kids to the best schools that money could buy while lecturing everyone else, were guilty of exactly the same thing.
    This smokescreen she has thrown up about the media invading her daughter’s privacy is a nonsense. She dragged her daughter centre stage when, as Minister for Education, she decided to take her out of school on a foreign jolly during term time.

  • Scap the 11+

    Poor Caitriona a walking disaster !!!!!!

  • Dave

    Exactly right, Underwood. It’s akin to the finance minister telling us to fill in our tax returns while also telling us that he/she can’t be arsed to do us. It subverts the moral authority of the state. It is more apologist spin to depict her actions as a citizen, refusing to cast a stone that should be cast when one is not the minister.

  • Pigeon Toes

    i could have got the tee shirt too, if only it hadn’t gone up in flames!

    We had a bit of a blaze at home a couple of years ago.

    The kids did not go to school next, partly because
    it was the tumble dryer that had gone on fire, whilst drying their school uniforms.

    Incredibly, one child was entered into the records system as an “unauthorised absence”, whilst the other was entered as ” authorised absence”.

    The children attended the same school.

    Needless to say I challenged this, and eventually got the entry corrected.

    So if part of your house going up in flames, isn’t an “exceptional circumstance, I fail to see how a wee jaunt to Cyprus can be.

    Oh aye, I forgot- I’m not the Minister for Education…

  • Paul Kielty

    I’m not going to comment on catriona ruane……..BUT!!…Priceless!!!
    I realise that the reality of the great unwashed of the sandy row joining the ivory towers of Methodist college fills our middle class friends with a barbarian at the gates nightmare scenario.
    Is it a deep seated fear that the kids from the ‘row’, actually go on to out perform their erstwhile genetic superiors?
    This whole debate is based on SNOBBERY, pure and simple.
    I missed the first two weeks of secondary school because of my fathers work commitments. It is a ‘holiday’ that I still remember very fondly. At school, we were taught that travel is in itself an education.
    In the words of Mark Durkin, on ‘let’s talk’…..”..wind your neck in.”

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    What don’t the rest of you understand? There’s one rule for Ruane, and another for you lot. Get used to it: it’s where ‘power sharing’ sticks you.

  • Paul Kielty

    Laughing(tory)unionist.

    Yaaawwwnn!!!

    Please go back to England and to the bosom of your beloved, and slightly more right-wing than new labour, master Cameron!

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    You’re yawning so much you’re in danger of failing another 11+ – I’m so anti-Cameron I’d sooner be led by you.

  • Paul, the wider debate over post-primary transfers will eventually resolve itself, probably through an unregulated system which will emphasise class distinctions more firmly than ever.

    The minister has effectively given a green light to all this, by declaring that parents can make up their own minds and do not have to respect the guidelines of her own department.

    Do you really think that the criticism she has faced in based on pure snobbery or is there a possibility that she has made another very bad call ?

  • dunreavynomore

    Paul
    I’m afraid that oldhack is right. Ruane is inept in her post and has put us in a worse mess than we were. we may well end up going back to what our grandparents faced, the best education for those who can afford it and ‘equality’ in the rest for the rest. Meanwhile our minister will educate Her children sometimes in the North and sometimes in the South as expediency demands and sometimes in Cyprus and tell us that MOTHERS HAVE THE LAST word and she, of course, is BIG MOTHER and so will always expect the last word. What, did you think she meant that ordinary mothers could overrule big mamma??

  • Paul Kielty

    oldhack

    Fair enough, though not quite sure that….’ she has made another very bad call?’
    I think she is making a sincere attempt to re-address the blatent inequalities of the current education system, under immense pressure from the middle classes. You only have to look at the personal profiles of her opponents, particularly the journalists, and the editorial staff who work at the BBC and UTV. How many of them went to a grammar school? Exactly!!!
    On top of that, the entire elected unionist rugger-bugger brigade, who care nothing for the unionist working class.

    Laughing (tory) unionist

    Thank you for your kind offer, but I couldn’t afford to employ you my friend.
    Have you considered the DUP? If you have any catering skills, ….your laughing!!

  • Mick Fealty

    For the record, I think parents should be able to take their kids out of school; within reason of course. And I have no doubts whatsoever about the educative value of travel.

    But my point relates to the Minister’s previous claims regarding the consequences that schools and parents who do not follow her guidelines on selection might face. There is, and should be no risk to those parents.

    There was only one way to get substantive reforms in education: legislation. Nothing else is binding; which, I suspect, the Minister has inadvertently and unintentionally proven through this episode.

  • Paul Kielty

    Dunreavynomore

    I dispute the fact that we may return to the education system endured by our grandparents!

    If you wish for your child to receive private education then fair enough. Though the tax-payer should absolutely not subsidise this privilege.

    Beyond the biased media and the middle classes there is a sympathy for what Catriona Ruane is attempting to achieve in particular, working class communities.
    This could be a big vote loser for the SDLP!

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Beyond the biased media and the middle classes there is a sympathy for what Catriona Ruane is attempting to achieve in particular, working class communities”

    Is there?

  • Pigeo Toes

    “There was only one way to get substantive reforms in education: legislation. Nothing else is binding; which, I suspect, the Minister has inadvertently and unintentionally proven through this episode.”

    Yea, but isn’t that where Catriona became unstuck?

  • Paul, Caitriona Ruane’s party leader, Gerry Adams, went to a grammar school, St Mary’s CBS in Belfast, as did her fellow minister, Conor Murphy, at St Colman’s in Newry. Does this make them her opponents as well as the journalists ?

    Her now celebrated speech to the INTO conference last year confirmed that, even though she lives in Co Louth, where there are many fine schools with no selection process, she had insisted that, in order to qualify for the grammar system in the north, which she wishes to abolish for everyone else, her daughter should sit the 11 plus.

    Regardless of party political considerations, can you see any double standards here ?

  • Mick Fealty

    PT:

    “…isn’t that where Catriona became unstuck?”

    Exactly.

  • Paul Kielty

    oldhack.

    Is/was it not obligatory to enrole her children in either jurisdiction? Does it matter?
    She choose the north, as in her constituency.

    Storm in a teacup being exploited!!

  • dunreavynomore

    “I dispute the fact that we may return to the education system endured by our grandparents!” Paul Kielty.

    The possibility of reverting to a system where the best education can only be bought exists but thankfully such a system is not yet a ‘fact’ because if it was you could ‘dispute’ away and it wouldn’t matter.
    Where we are at now is a situation whereby everything is up in the air and there is no certainty, no ‘fact’ except the fact that we have no certainty, all thanks to Ms Ruane.
    It is worth repeating that she has upset thousands of people who agreed with scrapping the eleven plus but who had assumed that a clear plan would be mapped out rather than the constant mantra like statements we hear from the minister invariably led with that ugly ‘well’.
    Crying ‘change, change’ like some kind of will o’ the wisp fluttering over the bogs does not bring change. Pretending that the 11 plus destroyed the lives of the majority of children in the 6 cos and left them quivering wrecks in the wake of being branded’ failure’ and with the cry ‘failure’ hanging above, around and about them for ever and yea sounds good but is still not a plan for the future education of our children. The 11 plus has had its day, beyond question. But, Catriona, what do we do now?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Well with the current ahem “economic” downturn there will be so many more “disadvantaged” children, which according to the system will get priority places in Nursery and SENCO placements.

    There’s a plan, not a good one but what’s the betting that criteria comes into play with secondary education soon?

  • Paul, not only is it not obligatory to register your children for the 11 plus in the north when you live in the south, it is practically unheard of.

    The point is that she set out to enroll her own child in a system which she claimed needed to be abolished for the wider populatrion.

    My question to you asked if you could see any double standards in this, and if you thought that former grammar school pupils, as in the case of Gerry Adams and Conor Murphy, must be opponents of the minister, together with some journalists, as you have suggested.

    I am honestly interested in the different attitudes emerging in this debate, and I would be keen to learn your response to two fairly direct queries.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Old hack,
    Right if you are interested, I attended a Catholic Grammar coming from a working class home.

    My brothers attended a Grammar,which allocated places to Catholics without being “Integrated” as such.

    My sister on the other hand attended the local Catholic Secondary, and wound up pursuing the same degree as I did.

    My husband attended the first comprehensive school in Northern Ireland, and studied Latin as a language (something that we did not have the benefit of at at Grammar Schools)

    His brothers are both doctors, and my own daughter attends a Catholic Comprehensive School, where students gain entry to Oxbridge universities

  • PT, many congratulations on the achievements of your family, but my questions were directed to Paul Kielty and I did not challenge your credentials in any way.

    Paul suggested that the latest Caitriona Ruane issue is a storm in a teacup,and I put a couple of specific points to him in this regard. I’m sure he will clarify his position, but your response puzzles me a little,

  • Pigeon Toes

    Why?

  • Pigeon Toes

    I can see merits of both systems, but i my experience Comprehensive schools oly work when the children are allowed to have the 2aspirations2 of grammar school children.

    Unfortunately for that scenario to work you need to replicate the Grammar Schools system, which Catriona and her colleagues are so against..

  • PT, I asked someone else questions, on the basis of their posts, to which you are attempting to respond. I do not understand why the undoubted achievements of your family should be an issue.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Sorry old hack,
    thought you might have considered a broad basis of opinion, given that it is an open forum.

    But if you want private dialogue, why not email him?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “I am honestly interested in the different attitudes emerging in this debate, and I would be keen to learn your response to two fairly direct queries.”

  • kensei

    Mick

    But my point relates to the Minister’s previous claims regarding the consequences that schools and parents who do not follow her guidelines on selection might face. There is, and should be no risk to those parents.

    Hmmm. Parents have undoubtedly got the right to put their children through any exams they want.

    The interesting bit is at the other end. If a school coached transfer pupils for an unregulated test and lost a subsequent legal case, what would happen? There seems to be actors in this who would at least attempt to bring a case. If the result is a ban and a resultant class-based skew heavily dependent on outside tuition, has anyone any idea what the hell will happen? It seems inconceivable that such a situation would be tolerable to all sides and there would be huge pressure for compromise. I’m not sure that no legislation means this is over.

    Lots of ifs there, but I’m not sure that I’m done.

  • Pigeon Toes

    But sure they aren’t allowed to coach them under current “guidelines”

    Anyway, I am trying to get my head around Scottish education system, which isn’t fantastic.

    Never be a whistleblower…ye are fecked

  • redhugh78

    The snobs that want to see academic selection retained are flogging a dead horse!

    It’s going,deal with it.
    Good riddance to it.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “The snobs that want to see academic selection retained are flogging a dead horse!

    Red Hugh,
    No.I think we have just entered UK selection process to Grammar schools.

  • 0b101010

    The snobs that want to see academic selection retained are flogging a dead horse!

    Ah, “snobs”. That says it all. Better we all hold ourselves to the lowest common denominator, lest anyone gets upset. Watch as the country grinds to a halt after we purposely hobble the ability of our children.

    Wouldn’t want to be seen as a snob, oh no, not when it’s easier to hide amongst the many blind to their self-defeating snobbery against people that are driven to better themselves, their families and society.

    It’s going,deal with it.

    No, it isn’t going. That much is clear. All the government has managed to do now is deregulate academic selection and reintroduce financial selection. Unusual work from a Marxist party, producing results worthy of libertarians.

  • There’s no doubt that some grammar schools had it too easy in the past, and the system needed to be reformed.

    There was a firm consensus that the 11 plus had to be replaced, and falling enrollments and demographic changes provided a huge opportunity for progress.

    It was simply a question of working with all the sectors and key groups within education to produce an outcome which was viable and had a broad degree of support.

    There was every indication that Martin McGuinness understood this during his term as education minister.

    Unfortunately, we have ended up with a confrontational approach which has a zero chance of success and can be relied on to make things worse.

    Rather than challenging snobbery, it is going to be institutionalised.

  • paceparent

    While all the usual frothing about academic selection, grammar schools and parental/ministerial choice continues take a look at how one primary school principal has taken to labelling his P6 children. I thought all of that old style approach had gone but the mask has slipped again from the self-interested primary principals. Their forthcoming meeting might want to debate exactly what Mr Ivan Skinner means by “work done in class” which isn’t numeracy and literacy to address poor performance in numeracy and literacy.

    http://paceni.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/information-for-parents-on-p7-11-plus-tests/

  • paceparent

    Oldhack, you claim:

    “There was a firm consensus that the 11 plus had to be replaced, and falling enrollments and demographic changes provided a huge opportunity for progress.”

    Instead of parroting the DENI line perhaps you should check the facts and tell Sluggerites how to dispose of the inconvenient rise in the birth rate and to define the word “progress”

    http://paceni.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/the-sdlp-assembly-member-who-misleads-on-demography/

  • Pigeo Toes

    Would that also be the rationale for erm not funding Integrated schools, because Dept could not see demand for it, and two years later when the same (charitably funded proved the demand) allowed
    the local County Primary to transform?

    The local County primary HAD been marked for closure because of falling enrolments…

  • Pigeon Toes

    It was further common knowledge, that prior to this miraculous turn around in attitude in the County Primary, that parents had been assured that they would be “Integrated in name only”

    That indeed turned out to be the case.

  • Paceparent, the birth rate may be rising in some areas but it is dropping in plenty of others. There are a range of schools with a significant number of empty desks and, whether you like it or not, amalgamations are eventually inevitable. This presents an obvious opportunity for wider reforms,but it is likely to be wasted.

  • paceparent

    Oldhack,

    Waste neatly sums up contribution of educationalists and politicians who arrogantly refuse to listen to parents.

    Perhaps you or the DENI soothsayers might like to identify those areas with a falling birth rate and those schools with empty desks. Tony Gallagher refused to do it in his DENI sponsored report in 2000 but the empty desks ploy has been an old DENI chestnut bandied about for almost a decade. Much like the long tail of underachievement which has been shortened without “the wider reforms” coming into it.
    The only deliverable in the past decade in education terms is utter chaos and confusion perpetrated by the same bunch of superannuated socialists. Even most of the champions of grammar schools have shuffled off the stage grasping their generous pensions without a word of concern. However academic selection is alive and well even under the control of a hypocrite.