School selection ideas from England may offer a way out of deadlock

A renewed debate on school selection in England offers clues on how to proceed in Northern Ireland without the present transfer tests. The debate appeals to the Conservatives who have been forced to deny their instinct to restore grammar schools by the weight of public opinion against existing tests, never mind reviving the 11 plus. A Guardian piece makes the obvious point that other secondary schools should be improved without destroying the small number of remaining grammar schools. As criteria for selection, the present distinction between ability (bad) and aptitude (good) is wholly spurious, as the Times says. And how wide really is the difference between selection by academic ability and selection by aptitude for music, sport or anything else? The answer is two fold and could be applied to Northern Ireland. The basic split in NI schools between the grammar and secondary is too crude. Instead, all secondary schools could be configured for a range of specialisms. Aptitude tests could be set and the entry classes streamed according to ability – sorry – aptitude. Yes, I know that unlike England up to 40% of NI kids are educated in grammar schools. But many so-called grammars have lost their academic majority and many of the so called non-academic majority are poorly served. School reform should proceed urgently to take advantage of the existing surplus capacity and the small window remaining open before budgets are drastically cut.

  • PACE Parent

    Brian,
    Take a look at this. http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/opinion/Come-on-Mr-Cameron-voters.5954986.jp Yorkshire currently has few grammar schools.
    I think that you and the Cameron Conservative Party will find that it is the teaching profession and pliable principals who created “opinion against existing tests, never mind reviving the 11 plus.”
    Cameron and Michael Gove have been warned about the folly of unrestricted support for academies and insists on pushing on regardless.
    The voters will have their say on Conservative education policy.
    As I have asked before on many occasions – please do list academic (general) or vocational (applied) subjects. The curriculum is the same for all schools. What has been changed from a practical aspect is measurement of attainment and parents don’t like the removal of information.
    The 11-plus still operates successfully for 164 grammar schools in England. Demand is growing, fuelled by the economic downturn. It is Northern Ireland that is now out of step from a regulated position but parents and grammar schools have taken care of the policy inequality.

  • willis

    PACE

    I will put you out of your misery (How many times have I done that?)

    This is an academic course

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/scandinavian-studies/undergrad/viking.htm

    This is a vocational course

    http://www.belfastmet.ac.uk/courses/coursedetails.asp?course_id=2059

    I might ask someone who had passed one of these courses to work on the subframe of my car. Can you guess which one?

  • Brian:
    England’s Conservatives have not ‘been forced’ to deny their instinct to restore grammar schools by the weight of public opinion against existing tests. David Cameron has done it because he hopes a minority of egalitarian, socialist voters will think he is on the same wavelength.
    Two years ago, Kent had 1,232 voluntary entries for its 11-plus for a place in one of the County’s grammar schools from areas outside the County, where there are no grammars. Last year voluntary, out-of-county entries rose to 1,810 – an increase of around 50% within 2 years. Where is the ‘weight of public opinion’ there?
    So-called specialist schools in England, which are not selctive, have done little to improve standards. Pupils from only 164 grammar schools are awarded more than half the total number of top-grade A-levels in ‘harder’ subjects (such as physics and foreign languages) awarded to pupils from around 3,000 comprehensive schools.
    Why would it make sense for Northern Ireland to follow that route to disaster?

  • willis

    Hi Nick

    Welcome to Slugger. I hope you will stick around and give us the benefit of your knowledge on pencil cases.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/4336017.stm

  • willis

    “England’s Conservatives have not ‘been forced’ to deny their instinct to restore grammar schools by the weight of public opinion against existing tests. David Cameron has done it because he hopes a minority of egalitarian, socialist voters will think he is on the same wavelength.”

    David Cameron is a lot of things but he isn’t stupid. Anyone who thinks he is annoying a majority of much needed voters to appeal to a group who will probably never vote for him anyway is.

  • PACE Parent

    Willis,
    I suggest that you have misinterpreted Nick Seaton’s analysis about David Cameron’s move away from support for grammar schools. Cameron and his advisers have made a presumption that Conservative voters would not abandon them electorally for their shift towards comprehensive academies or specialist schools. This assumption may have been based upon his move towards the centre, mimicking Labour’s appeal to the undecided electorate, but failed to predict the economic downturn, the expenses scandal and the independent nature of grass roots conservatives.
    You assert that David Cameron may not be stupid but Forrest Gump (1994) adopted a much more pragmatic observation “Stupid is as stupid does.”
    Write that on the inside of your pencil case Willis you may need to refer to it again.

  • willis

    PACE

    I merely extracted Nick’s analysis for the edification of our readers. Read it again. Nick is saying that Cameron is hoping to pick up socialist voters as a result. Now really!