Back to school day

It’s back to school day for kids all over NI.

Our MLAs don’t return until next week and when they do, they will have to face the sad reality that they have left tens of thousands of children in educational limbo. Selection has been effectively privatised and many fear chaos this winter and the true implications of a deregulated system hits home to parents. Teachers are annoyed and the education minister, Caitriona Ruane, is sticking to her ideological guns, apparently putting party policy ahead of progress and agreement.

There have been plenty of good suggestions about how to break the deadlock. The SDLP for example proposed an educator led commission and the temporary reintroduction of a state exam.

Outside politics many have tried to start an informed and constructive debate on the best way forward. Professor Tony Gallagher writing some time ago on the Education for All blog weighed up the pros and cons of transfer at 14. Others have also written extensively about best international practice.
Truth is politics is failing children here. Policing was ultimately solved when the politics was taken out of the debate. Surely it is the time to put in place a process which allows mature, evidence based discussion about the way forward.

  • bob wilson

    ‘Surely it is the time to put in place a process which allows mature, evidence based discussion about the way forward.’
    Then again why change the habits of a lifetime!

  • DC

    “Truth is politics is failing children here.”

    Oh please don’t stop at education, there’s the over 3,000 dead. If it failed on the streets should schools be any different??

    Or politics in health were those unthinking conservatives take a rigid moral stance on abortion meaning instead of interventions at a local place locals take planes to Britain.

    You’re all conservatives, useless patronising conservatives with the inability to compromise intelligently maintaining the success of each interests, be it grammar schools, non-selective schools, sharing of other resources and the abject failure in both communicating effectively and positively.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7986582.stm

  • Driftwood

    If politics is failing children here then what are this useless shower of quangocrats:

    http://www.niccy.org/about/team

    going to do about it?

    They’ve got frig all else to do.

  • jj

    Given that SDLP, DUP, UUP and Alliance all seem to support a state test, at least in the short term, the blame for this stalemate should be at Sinn Fein’s door. All politicians cannot be blamed for one womans stubborn ideological stance.

  • Policing was ultimately solved when the politics was taken out of the debate.

    Conall

    Do you really believe that, surly education is just like policing, it is impossible to take the politics out of it, the more so if anything. In any case has the issue of policing really been solved? if so, it was not because of the exclusion of politics but because one party changed their politics.

    If this happens on education, what will happen is an elitist selective education system will remain in the north. Fine if your kids are at the top of the heap, but what about those who are no?

  • Neil

    The idea to get rid of selection was a good one. She’s just handled it as badly as could have reasonably been expected.

  • Brian Walker

    A radical approach is unlikely to make much headway. Realities need to be faced; this is not a theoretical exercise. Time is short,before public spending is severely cut and while a demographic window remains open to rationalise the schools estate. We are where we are. Any proposal needs to take account of the popularity of the 40% state and Catholic grammar schools and move ahead from there. Public discussion of the present programe of local area planning is essential. Indeed, the Craigavon model, of student choice at 14 rather than selection at 11 has merit. So have revised plans by former UK Education Secretary Kenneth Baker for a revival of technical schools, in the form of engineerinhg acaedmies sponsored by universities and FE colleges. These practical suggerstions are the bestI’ve seen in a long time for improving secondary education and look like being adopted by both the Labour and Conservative parties. Why not for Northern Ireland?

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=404692

  • Ulick

    “Professor Tony Gallagher writing some time ago on the Education for All blog weighed up the pros and cons of transfer at 14”

    Considering that the same Tony Gallagher voted at Queen’s University Senate to target for redundancy all those who concentrate on teaching undergraduates and not research, I’ll not give credence to anything he thinks will enhance teaching quality.

  • Driftwood

    The FE colleges have mostly been refurbished and are an appealing alternative for post 16, the new Belfast Met College building dockside should complete this. But the FE sector (and Higher Education) comes under the writ of Sir Reg at DEL. Another example of too many departments, and no joined up thinking.
    We badly need a Cameron government to sort out this mess.

  • Brian,

    Hear, hear.

    Indeed, the Craigavon model, of student choice at 14 rather than selection at 11 has merit.

    People from the Craigavon area (like myself) have been shouting into the wind about this for nearly forty years. Here we have a compromise solution (selection without testing) that is genuinely popular and, though not perfect by any means, has the advantage of being tried and tested right in the heart of NI.

  • willis

    Here is a simple question:

    Which “serious” subject has the word technology in it?

    Maths
    Physics
    Languages

    Food Technology
    Music Technology

    Are we giving kids the subliminal message that technology is second rate?

  • The Raven

    Which “serious” subject has the word “technology” in it?

    Business studies
    Economics
    Hospitality, leisure and tourism
    Design
    Agricultural sciences
    Languages
    Social sciences
    yada yada yada

    Or are we just missing the point that not every kid is able for, or indeed wishes to pursue a career in STEM subjects…?

  • DC

    Information technology.

  • Hard hat

    Compared to the issue of integrating our education system, the selection issue should be relatively uncontentious. We’re in serious trouble IF they ever see fit to tackle the former.

    Furthermore, in a society emerging from conflict, how the reform of the transfer procedure can be given higher priority over reversing the institutionalised religious segregation of our children for 12 – 14 years of their lives is beyond me.

    Anyone care to guess why the political parties are happy to allow segregation by default to continue??

    For the avoidance of doubt, I believe that there are those who could justifiably wish to opt out of integrated education and I believe that their right to do do should be preserved. But it should be exactly that – an opt out. Instead we have the situation where we must opt-out of segregation and the integrated schools must justify, and fight for, their existence. It should be the other way round.

  • Coll Ciotach

    It should be neither opt out or opt in but as it is now – a recognition of what people want as opposed to what others want them to want. My two eldest started and to say they are in limbo is a huge exageration, they went to their schools and they got on with it.

    As a parent I do not see a terrible difference on a day to day basis and yet of all schools theirs should be the most interesting.

    They went to Garron Tower and sat tests to stream them into grammar or non-grammar. So not a lot different except that they are on one campus.

  • Anyone care to guess why the political parties are happy to allow segregation by default to continue??

    Perhaps because there are no votes in doing otherwise?

  • Sorry for the double post.

    I believe that there are those who could justifiably wish to opt out of integrated education

    I’d really like to hear that justification.

  • pace parent

    @ Andrew Gallagher
    Why do you think it is that Conall McDevitt and Tony Gallagher and other Catholics supporting the government policy of promoting integrated education also demand that the opt out for just one denomination of Christians (Catholics) is preserved and retained? The state sector has been pillaged by zealot education bureaucrats foisting integrated schools upon communities that have no interest in sectarian headcount admission policies.
    If McDevitt and Gallagher truly supported integration in the organic rather than fascist sense they would promote the state sector, unless of course they have a problem supporting the state.

  • Hard hat

    Andrew – grief, fear, humiliation? Imagine a family in a working class interface. The father was murdered by paramilitaries from the other side of the fence and for mum, arriving with the kids every day at the same school with people from the community from which the murderers came, perhaps even the murderers themselves, would be too much to bear. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone has the right to tell that mum that her reluctance to embrace intergration is wrong. Or should we just tell her to get over it?

    Yes of course we could just dump everyone into the same one-size-fits-all solution and deny everyone the right to choose. Do you reckon that would work?

  • Coll Ciotach

    16

    That just answers itself

    No point if there is a lack of people wanting it

  • Hard Hat:

    people from the community from which the murderers came

    Collective guilt?

  • Logo

    Conall why do you insist on every single blog you write that you add a link to your own weaker website.

    Yes advertise it a bit I suppose, but you are actually taking the piss now. I don’t think you have ever blogged without linking to ‘oconallstreet’.

    Mick do something about this cheap attention seeking.

    BTW Conall maybe you should take a hint if not enough people aren’t reading your blog… Maybe its no good enough. Well thats what I’ve noticed…

  • pace parent

    @Logo
    Who do you think is behind the Education for All blog if not our self-promoting former SDLP PR guy?
    It merely serves as another vehilcle for his friend the king of self-promotion in education – Tony Gallagher. Both seem to have lost their tongues at the mommet.

  • Hard hat

    Andrew – compassion for victims of our history who haven’t found a way to handle their trauma and fear. Perhaps silly of me to think we should be in any way compassionate in our thinking.

    20 “No point if there is a lack of people wanting it”. Leadership?

  • Hard hat:

    What about those people who suffered at the hands of members of their own community? Segregation doesn’t help them much…

  • Coll Ciotach

    24

    Only if it is for the good which I for one do not accept – perhaps we should lead the people in the other direction away from imposed solutions from above and let freedom reign

  • Hard hat

    I have not advocated the impairment of freedom. In fact I advocated retention of choice. I have however suggested that segretation should require an opt in rather than an opt out.

    Fine if you are not ready for that sort of positive change. You are entitled to opt for the segregationalist regime.

  • pace parent

    So its over to Cardinal Sean Brady then to opt in or opt out. Given his acceptance of a separate 11-plus test for Catholic schools the response will hardly be in doubt.