The great transfer debate – latest

Through gritted teeth no doubt, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane recently sneaked out an unpublicised Assembly written answer disclosing the results of the unregulated secondary school transfer tests, area by area, school by school, (from page 33 of written answers for 11 December; selected details below the fold). Now if we adopt the standard of notionally reclassifying as a comprehensive, every grammar school whose latest 11plus intake falls below 50% A grade, we reach some interesting conclusions. 17 out of 56 – 30% – of grammar schools would lose their membership of the selection club. The first year of unregulated tests don’t seem to have pushed up entry standards. Once again, the losers by my criterion would include previous bastions of the elite, Belfast Inst and Campbell College. Retired top mandarin Sir Ken Bloomfield the driver behind the AQE, is exposed as fighting a rearguard action of behalf of his alma mater. So what next? After the agreement said to have been reached by the minority parties, what “short term compromise “ is envisaged for ending the transfer deadlock? The only one around seems to be official acceptance of a common transfer test for next year to replace the separate tests for State and Catholic schools in this the first, “unregulated” year. Although this was not the intention, this separateness looked awful. A common selection test would not only remove the taint of sectarianism but would make academic selection well nigh unassailable from Education Dept onslaught. Although I support the end of selection, this can only be achieved by consent. And consent will only come when parents can see for themselves area plans for each community which offer greater choice for their children, combined with protection for existing academic standards. The abuse crisis in the Catholic church plays into the debate. The facts that the Catholic grammar schools defied the bishops over selection and that the new Trustee support body is no longer the employer suggests that clerical governance is disappearing not with a bang but a whimper. “Support” can still mean clerical influence behind the scenes but at least school governors have shown they can take it or leave it. They should go on to ask themselves the key question: does a “ Catholic ethos “ really require separate schools these days?

Some A grade 11 plus results

Top in Belfast Rathmore 99%, Aquinas 91%, Grosvenor 88%, Strathearn 78%, Methody 76%
Bottom Hunterhouse 11%, Campbell College 20%, St Mary’s CB 22% , Victoria 35% RBAI 39% Once agoian

Once again, Catholic schools come top. What I don’t know is the size of each school’s intake in order to assess comparative performance. But if you were a Catholic parent ambitious for your kids, woiuld you heed the bishops and abandon selection? The question for state/Prod schoolparents is different in some respects. Are there too many schools, or too many in the wrong place?

This will not be sorted out quickly.

  • wild turkey

    ‘For a short time, Beckett taught Romance languages, but the appeal of academia was short-lived. Beckett’s pupils at Campbell College, Belfast, evidently unaccustomed to the kind of hard grading they faced in his classes, made complaints, and Beckett was on several occasions reprimanded by the headmaster who asked whether he understood that the school’s students were “the cream of Ulster.” They were, Beckett agreed, “rich and thick.”

    Intake arising from the 2008 transfer tests

    Campbell College A B1 B2 C1 C2 D
    20% 8% 5% 11% 18% 34%

    well brian, Billy Faulkner wrote
    “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    The question is this.

    What are some hot rod journos doing to investigate and expose the extent to which the AQE and its attendant zipper lickers (in govt, politics, business, ) are associated with, or have personal or professional associations with, class acts like Campbell College?…

    as an aside, cue PACE parent to come in the usual turgid and self-serving arrogance re-selection.
    A favour PACE parent, if only for the holiday season?

    With respect to your self serving and bigoted ( and yeah, not bigoted in the usual hatfield-mckoy sense understood in NI, but bigoted, and yes bigoted in a know nothing way reminiscent of Sarah Palin, please consider this. If you desire the maintenance of your privledge and grammar schools, please keep your hands out of my, and the taxpayers, pocket.

    As a matter of basic decorum, please consider containing your exercises in intellectual handjobbery to home matches.

    Pray, but don’t spray. OK?

  • Brian Walker

    wild turkey, a crazed contribution, lovingly crafted and perhaps a tribute pastiche to Hunter S Thompson but only very incidentally relevant to what I wrote. Beta Plus for imagination,(literary promise lurks in there somewhere) Gamma for relevance, analysis and civility. Not bad for a 16 year old Kevin.

  • wild turkey

    Headmaster Walker

    thanks for the report card.

    next time I’m in the governors box at the Kentucky Derby, I’ll be sure to put you on the guest list. at that time we can perhaps have a deeper and more meaningful conversation re-selection and the archaic persistence of privledge. the governor will understand.

    ‘Not bad for a 16 year old Kevin. ‘

    shucks, you’re only off by around 40 to 50 years.

    not bad for a journalist/reporter

    happy holidays… and I do mean that


  • PACE Parent


    The Minister is not Dr Who and cannot conveniently pop into the Tardis to glean answers on results of the unregulated exams that haven’t been issued yet.

    Not for the first time you demonstrate your lack of ability to check facts and thus provide analysis on the subject of the Northern Ireland education conflict. Give the analysis game up Brian – you’re not any good at it. In your arrogant supercilious marking of others contributions you have compounded a schoolboy error in believing the Minister Ruane’s response to be “the results of the unregulated secondary school transfer tests”.
    Your failure Brain Walker to spot this schoolboy error over the test results both exposes you to ridicule and undermines faith in your judgements.

    Your attempt to link this misinformation on last years entrance grades to the unregulated tests of this year demands an immediate apology and retraction.

  • willis

    Well as I have said before, PACE knows how to do research and he has an admirable attention to detail. On this occasion Brian has unaccountably got his dates wrong. These are last year’s figures when it was still a regulated test.

  • PACE Parent

    Having elicited an immediate and prolonged silence from Brian Walker after outing him I am interested to know your views on the analysis by PACE of the decline in literacy in schools revealed in Key Stage 3 data released by Gavin Boyd’s old firm CCEA.
    The negative results for 14 year olds link to the revised curriculum is so strong as to confirm that this curriculum, devoid of measurement, is the Trojan Horse warned of years ago.

  • willis

    Hi PACE

    The problem is that I am not clear as to what is going on with KS3 tests. It appears that they are no longer compulsory, so a school can opt for teacher assessment rather than a test. This might explain the large absence figure. It would also appear that a teacher’s assessment gives you a higher score on average than testing. However unless we know which schools do testing and which ones do teacher assessment it is a bit hard to know if the figures mean anything.

  • PACE Parent

    Schools denying pupils and their parents any opportunity of objective assessment cannot be accepted as sound professional judgement. If the teacher assessed score is consistently higher than the attained score and subsequently only teacher assessment is provided such assessment becomes meaningless. The important issue highlighted in the PACE press release is the graphical representation of this data since the revised curriculum was introduced. The trend is clearly negative yet none of the educationalists want to talk about it. If you are concerned about which schools still offer Key Stage 3 testing perhaps you should ask some of them. PACE started their FOI search with Bangor Grammar School. It will hardly surprise to learn that the County Down school no longer offers the examinations. When the headmaster’s views are so strongly in line with the Minister’s curricular Trojan horse approach and he feels it is safe to espouse his rejection of KS3 testing not with parents but in the Spectator you know that parents are being duped. I should stress that the new build (putting the local secondary and the grammar together) has nothing whatsoever to do with the measurement of attainment.
    The CCEA silence on the ks3 stats is also telling for an organisation that spends so much money on advertising and self-promotion.
    Check the graph again Willis and come up with an explanation.

  • PACE Parent

    Wild Turkey
    You are not the same Ron Keegan who contributed to the COMPREHENSIVE REPORT FROM CONSULTATION ON SHARED FUTURE at CONWAY MILL Organised by West Belfast Economic Forum are you?

  • willis


    It is very nice that you value my judgement so much however as I said I do not think the figures mean very much.

    I suspect that broadly you are correct. Standards probably are slipping. However I must chide you over these continual non sequiters.

    Take your latest cause celebre, Professor Della Sala. What is the link between Brain Training and Assessment for Learning?

    As with most of your posts, I read it twice and was none the wiser. Logical consistency and a narrative flow are important constituent elements of Maths, Science and English.

    Happy New Year

  • PACE Parent

    The common link is CCEA.
    Prof John Gardner (you remember his sentinel work Testing the Test, a private publication used in an attempt to discredit the 11-plus) was used by CCEA to introduce Assessment for Learning in place of quantitative assessment in schools. John Gardner is one of the prominent members of the Assessment Reform Group which has influenced curricular changes throughout the UK.
    The point of the posting was to show what can happen when educationalists attempt to meddle in other disciplines and expose the ill-informed basis of their grandiose claims. CCEA were evangelists for Brain-based learning, thinking how to think, and learning how to learn.
    Perhaps you should spend more time examining the common relationships among those promoting radical change to the Northern Ireland education system. It doesn’t take a lot of effort and certainly reinforces the lessons of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
    Give it a go Willis. You might learn something new.

  • willis

    Hi PACE

    I had a wee look at some salient facts.

    It seems Prof Della Sera was talking about Nintendo games consoles.

    It looks like your research is as good as Brian’s.

  • PACE Parent

    What part of the post on the PACE blog re Prof Della Sera did you not comprehend?

    The criticism from Professor Della Sala came in a speech to Scotland’s headteachers at their annual conference. He said: “This research shows that when pupils in a school use a games console after 10 weeks they become a bit better in performing maths but the same applies to the students who did not use the console.

    “It may be fun, but it is not a learning device.”

    The games console is called Ninetendo.

  • willis


    Glad we cleared that up.

    I ask again, more slowly

    What is the link between “Brain Training” on a Nintendo Games console and Assessment for Learning?

  • PACE Parent

    It seems that you will not admit links that have been laid out for you.
    Take your time and read these articles from CCEA.

    When teachers rely on self-assessment (Assessment for Learning) of pupils attainment in numeracy by having them use Nintendo games consoles their professional judgement is suspect.
    As the professor stated: “This research shows that when pupils in a school use a games console [Nintendo] after 10 weeks they become a bit better in performing maths but the same applies to the students who did not use the console.

    In other words Willis, costs are added (handsets), teaching is reduced and the outcome entirely predictable. Brain Training and Assessment for Learning are both CCEA projects. Unfortunately Willis, CCEA have a lengthy history of failed and expensive initiatives and if more attention had been taken in evaluating their efforts it is likely that there would be less disruption in education. Take time to read CCEA’s Response to Dr Hugh Morrison’s Criticisms in particular.

  • willis

    Hi PACE

    Did a search on all 4 articles

    The test results are in

    Nintendo 0/4

    Brain Training 0/4

    If you want some feedback on your performance I would be happy to give it, however that would be “Assessment for Learning”.

  • willis

    “The approach envisaged by CCEA does not advocate open classrooms, which Dr. Morrison
    believes will lead to chaos. Nor does it involve leaving pupils to struggle/drift when all that is
    needed is some well structured and focused teaching. As before, Dr. Morrison is given to
    unsupported exaggeration. The teacher, as educational professional, will decide what method
    to use in his or her class on the basis of ‘fitness for purpose’ . There will be times when the
    teacher will be a facilitator. At other times a transmitter of knowledge. It will depend on the
    context, the pupils and the purpose of the lesson being taught.”

    CCEA come across as sensible, intelligent people who wish to take a balanced approach to improving the quality of learning in N.I. schools.

    There is underachievement in N.I. schools as there has been for a hundred years in different forms. What has changed profoundly is the world of work.

    If you came out of the system in 1910 unable to read or write there was still work. Now it is very different. Also there was a culture of self-education and support for children learning which has gone. However schools and universities still produce good results.

    Why is it, do you think, that so many Indian and Chinese students want to study at British Universities? Because progressive teaching ideas have dumbed them down and their degrees are worthless? Think again.