Education, education, education…

The Catholic Church has announced it is to unilaterally review the provision of the post-primary Catholic Maintained Schools sector and, in the process, appears to be extending their previously identified ‘deadline’ of 2012 for ending [Catholic] academic selection. Recently Cardinal Sean Brady also defended “the right of children in our schools to be led and formed in authentic worship of God in the Catholic tradition”. DUP leader Peter Robinson is more exercised about the former than the latter. Meanwhile, those Catholic and state-controlled grammar schools still selecting academically are holding talks about introducing a single post-primary transfer test.

The Post-Primary Transfer Consortium and Association for Quality Education held a meeting in Belfast on Monday. The chairman of the meeting described it as a “positive” encounter. Former principal Finbarr McCallion said that there was general agreement on having a single test.

There is one other education story required to match the titular triptych…

The Irish Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe, has “asked the State Examinations Commission to conduct the review of Leaving Cert results and his own staff in the third level sector and the Higher Education Authority to review third level results” over concerns about ‘grade inflation’. From the RTÉ report

Previous studies have shown that the percentage of first-class honours degrees awarded by Irish universities has almost trebled in the past 15 years, while the number of straight A Leaving Certificate results is up 500%.

Although there appears to be some confusion about when the reports are due…

Brendan Guilfoyle and Simon Quinn, of the Institute of Technology Tralee, predict a whitewash.

, , , , ,

  • FitzjamesHorse

    A tricky one for the Overclass to deal with.

    The Overclass does not like Catriona Ruane.
    The Overclass does not like the Catholic Church.
    But the wish of the Overclass that Cardinal Brady would scupper Ruanes plans was never likely to happen.

    Both “Catholic” parties are committed to ending academic selection. The leaders of these parties have been educated by… Catholic schools, including the finest grammar schools.
    SF-IRA and SDLP are therefore to some extent reflecting Catholic opinion.

    In any system 2plus 2 equals 4. The problem in Education is that History…….values, national identity is so obviously different in “Catholic” schools that naturally enough parents want these schools to reflect their own values systems…..and as I have stated before in 2010 the least important of these values is Religion.

    To coin a phrase Cardinal Brady, caitriona Ruane and Margaret Ritchie are singing from the same hymn sheet.
    All of which leaves those arguing for “Catholic Grammar Schools” up the proverbial creek without a proverbial paddle.
    Undoubtedly some will get off the ground in middle class areas but the notion that Catholic parents will prioritise grammar schools so much as to vote DUP or UUP is risible.

    Cardinal Brady has played a blinder.

  • This could be an excellent issue for the PUP to make some progress on with the 3 main Unionist parties all in favour of selection and the Cathoic Church by publically stating they support an end to selection in the run up to elections may just have helped Ruane over the finishing line in South Down.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Moderate Unionist,
    Certainly room for a unionist party to endorse non-selection and possibly PUP could fill the gap. Not sure what the alliance position is (they probably have two anyway).
    But to some extent……in a global philosophical sense Republicanism is supposed to be egalitarian and naturally enough our “republican parties” reflect that.
    The Irish Catholic Church (notwithstanding its posh schools in the Republic)is a peasnat based Church.
    Most “English” Catholics are monarchist and therefore in a broad sense believers in hierarchy and selection and naturally wont understand the position of Cardinal Brady.

    American visitors who come to study civil rights etc here are often mystified that Education was not a major issue for Northern Catholics as it had been for American Blacks in Alabama or Mississippi.
    The irony is that Catholic segregated schools in Norn Iron were at least as good as their “State” counterparts.
    There is no appetite to de-segregate schools here. The Catholic Church knows it. So does its real, lapsed and other “members” who will be voting SDLP and SF-IRA.
    Much to the chagrin of the Overclass.

  • innutclem

    At last the Catholic Church is beginning to show some moral fibre- it’s taken them long enough. There has never been an argument for the division of selection in Catholic social teaching. What remains to be seen is how much “cultural” Catholics ignore the lead given by Cardinal Brady and choose elitism over gospel values of equality for all and not just the few

  • joeCanuck

    We need Grammar schools or equivalent with selection at 14 and full integration. That’s long enough for the weak minded to be indocrinated. Universities are not divided.

  • Ah! the Great Myth of Selection.

    Curious in its workings. It manages to squeeze precisely the right number of sheep into the available stalls. As Big Bill Broonzy had it:

    If you’re White, you’re all right,
    If you’re Brown, stick aroun’,
    But, if you’re Black, oh! brother, get back, get back, get back.

    Ditto: if your home culture doesn’t let you identify the authors of Victorian children’s literature, you don’t belong. [Well: that was the basis on which I was awarded one of the four “scholarships” to a public school. A place I could not accept, because there was no way I could travel daily, no way may parents could afford the boarding fees. So it went to the worthy son of a worthy landlord with two thousand acres. Thus is a lifetime of socialist agitation fomented.]

    There are, of course, schools to which a parent should not send a dog. Why are they allowed to persist? Answer, dear reader: because they absorb the lower orders, and keep them off the streets (at least some of the time). After all, we need the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, don’t we?

    Well, no, actually. The Butler Education Act of 1944 generated the greatest social shift since the Black Death. In a couple of decades a quarter of the “working class” had become white collar “middle class”. We went from a primary/secondary industrial economy to a tertiary one.

    Sometime, about fifty years back, the Butler reforms ran out of steam. We no longer needed 20% of the work-force educated to “white-collar” levels. We needed 80+% technologically literate, numerate and (now) “computerate”.

    What went wrong?

    Two things.

    First, we had got used to the sheeping-and-goating of 11+. It worked for us, so it’s time to pull up the drawbridge:

    We are the precious chosen few,
    Let all the rest be damned.
    There’s only room for one or two:
    We can’t have Heaven crammed.

    Second, the Thatcherite throttle on education.

    That came in stages. One was to make sure that schools were starved of money:

    You want a set of text-books? You had one some years ago!
    Paint! Paint! Why should you need paint? You had a coat of emulsion in the 1950s!
    Inside toilets! Perish the …

    Second, the Baker National Curriculum narrowed “education” down to mere “instruction”. It breathed life into Thomas Gradgrind. Ever attended a “course” in which teachers were given a dictated, prescriptive programme for the term before Key Stage 3 SATS? My alter-ego did. And was warned he would be inspected on its delivery.

    Meanwhile, that dumbing-down, together with ready access to really-useful, over-paid jobs in PR, bean-counting, and telephone-hygiene, meant that teaching suffered “culture-sag”. The profession was dredging lower and lower into the intellectual lucky-bag.

    And that’s where we are, folks.

    The North of Ireland is fortunate. Compared to the rest of us, it is short of educational gurus. If you want a specimen of the species, Chris Woodhead rants for the Sunday Times on a regular stipend.

  • lamhdearg

    Would i be right/or wrong in thinking that in the u.s.a. there can be no religion taught in state schools, and that only state schools qualify for state/federal financial support?.this i feel would be the way forward for this place maybe in two or three generations the them and us attitude would subside.

  • lamhdearg @ 09:55 PM:

    Not just in the great US of A:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Not bad, nor illiberal for 1789-91.

    In passing, that was ruled by the Supreme Court to allow a convicted prisoner to miss out on compulsory attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In view of what I’m currently doing to a bottle of Port, a good idea.

    The French have a rule, as part of the admirable concept of laïcité, separating church and state. That’s why French kids get Wednesday afternoon off school (to allow “religious instruction”). As if.

    The “them and us” thing (not just religion, but class, ethnicity, or how’s-yer-father) won’t dissolve until we achieve universal education. Many years ago I recall the distinguished Director of Education (or whatever his formal title was) of the Inner London Education Authority propounding a thesis: the best system is the smallest number of least-bad schools. Think about it. Fully appreciate it. Then you’ll know why the Thatcherites undertook the destruction of London’s education.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    anyone who has spent a generation or so ina nd around Queens University will know it is actually very segregated.
    Drop into any lecture hall and see the Tyrone GAA shirts or Ulster Rugby shirts will know this. Celtic shirts and Rangers shirts too plus “international night” in the Speakeasy or Bun will know that segregation is necessary as the followers of the Republic and “Norn Iron” square off.
    Likewise the number oF Tshirts worn by the Officer Training types or the exhibition in the Main University Building celebrating 25 years of the IRA Hunger Strike.
    The Universitys own attempts (eg October 2008) celebrating (without irony) QUBs roll in the Civil Rights Movement with such luminaries as Michael Farrell, Paul Bew, Kevin Boyle, Margaret Ward all re-writing history.
    Of course the ambience……the Holy Land Riots of St Patricks Day……of nationalist students is in part facilitated by the relunctance of potential Protestant students to go there. Their parents sending them on the Brain Drain/Chicken Run to Stirling, Glasgow.
    The ramifications of this will be seen in the next decade.
    No dont kid yourself that QUB is not sectarian.

  • joeCanuck

    In that case, it has changed considerably since I was there. Pity.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Theres a lot of people who would agree with you Mr Canuck.
    And a lot who wouldnt agree.
    Quite possibly if you are of a certain vintage you recall the wonderfully non sectarian RUC band on the lawn and the British National Anthem at graduation……or indeed if you are of a different vintage the non-sectarian gaelic signs in the Students Union.
    Might have added that you may see the stone blessed by the Queen/Mrs Windsor on the occasion of its recent celebrations………not actually in the Main Hall where it was intended ……but tucked away rather sheepishly behind the mugs, postcards and key rings ……in the University Gift Shop.

  • lamhdearg

    whats the break down of taigs/orangebastards at our no1 school of learning these days, i would say 80% to 20% in favor of the taigs if the gaelic shirts v nornirn shirts outside the students union on a monday morning is anything to go by, lets hope they all grow up soon.

  • Davros

    If I may chime in on this one but after a 7 year banking sojourn in London I’m actually back at Queens putting my redundancy money to good use.
    There are *lots* of GAA tops but virtually no Rangers/Celtic. Less a chill factor as such, more a culchie mating ritual as the tops are more often than not for local teams (“You’re from Whitecross hae?” etc). I raised this issue a few times with protestant friend who went St.Andrews and his reason for leaving was less Queens and more a great desire to get out of Northern Ireland because “it’s a bit crap compared to everywhere else”.

    The biggest change I’ve noticed is that everyone is actually wearing Queens hoodies, you can get coffee everywhere, no graffiti on the inside of the toilet doors and the new library is fantastic. And everyone appears to be studying law, nursing or sociology. And inflation appears not to have effected the price of a chicken burger in the catholic chaplaincy.

  • David Crookes

    Well said, Malcolm (#6). Thatcher throttled, Stalinized, and debauched the education system. What we have now is a culture of fatuous form-filling box-ticking ‘accountability’ in which real knowledge is despised. The ideal modern headmaster is really a Five-Year-Plan enforcer who gets marks from his civil service bosses for churning out paper and burning out his staff.

    Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. When the Soviet Union threw out most of its ideology, anti-cultural British Tory governments picked it all up.

    We’ve lost it. Nowadays highly respected professors can write books which are full of grammatical absurdities, and no one notices. ‘You make a terrible fuss about getting the words exactly right,’ they say complacently when you complain. Then they buy a new house and pay some lawyer a fortune to check the contract and make sure that the words are exactly right.

    Anti-human jargon is now a bigger industry in the UK than it was in the Old Soviet Union. You must have read academic writing of the following species.

    ‘Postcolonial race-gender-class theorists like Mjinga who reconjugate the subaltern-paradigm in metahierarchical terms believe that although albocentric paternalism is Cole’s keyest given, the anachronistic scopophilia which is embeddedly phenomenic in any gendered-gaze reading of a paleocolonial ‘hisness’ contrapuntally devalorizes the monarchical masterism inscribed in its metrically tyrannized text. Irradicated in (and synergetically liminalized by) the metrocolonial project, the orientationist reliquary called ‘literature’ is still intolerably vinculated by antiquated palimpsest-edicts, with the result that hyperprivileged parasocietal proaesthetics like Mercator’s racist projection and deracinative heterosexist compradorism, which were weakened by the postcolonial academy, are periodically revalorized. Any scriptocentric deembedment of Mjinga’s ‘old’ regalism chromatizes the race-gender-class postcolonial counter-discourse by cartographically emphasizing the keyness of its praxis. While the pocahontasized Cole is ‘merry’, he barbarianizes his ‘soul’ by exploitatively subvalorizing his own postcolonial people-group, for it is clear that the heterocratic givenness of his environment tangentializes on a conveniently pretasked ‘was’. Cole’s alteritous metaracism deossianizes the hypoculturally paracolonial anglocentricity of his cultural-cringe hegemony, derridizing the postcolonial embeddedness of non-key conspecifics and hypervalorizing their fallaciloquent metacolonial systemic nexus-links with the givenly Eurocentric ’enlightenment’ project (Hilton 2009). My race-gender-class explication of ‘Old King Cole’ postcolonializes Akimbo’s keyly unventriloquized xanthochroism within Mjeledi’s in-denial paraculture of haggardized protocolonialism by epistemically reconfiguring the hybridic narrative-fissure between the hypercolonial semioticism of the ‘pipe’ and the oligocentric essentialism of the ‘bowl’. It goes without saying that the obviously female and at least epithetically unclad ‘fiddlers’ serve to valorify the transculturation that Mjinga critiques by characterizing all models of postcolonial ‘threeness’ (which we metathetically mimic) as thridacocentric rhizomes of subcolonial joplinism (which we noologically auscultate). Having been peripheralized, and subjected to ‘the rule of thumb’, the gratificatory female slave-musicians cry out for postcolonial deminstrelization, retroducing Cole’s crusoeist parahegemony even as they attempt to fanonize the lexicon of autocolonial surveillance-behaviours. Mbuzi’s keyer subechelon of heterocolonial bricoleurism must be interrogated metaculturally for the ultraimperialist heuristics that it dereifies and the hyperembedded deontics that it postcolonially otherizes (Schiffer 1993). Readers who discern the splitting that the king has really ‘called for’ will not deny that the closet-Manichaean Cole’s ‘merriness’ is a heterochauvinistic expression of unicolonial dude-power, and nor will they fail to applaud the utter rectitude of laissez-faire misandry, which Mwalimu defines as the energizing principle of all postcolonial theory.’

  • FitzjamesHorse

    lamhdearg…….not really the way I word things.
    Guardian Education Supplement about three years ago suggested the Uni was about 65% female.
    And if I recall this is round about the same figure usually quoted for Catholics from within Norn Iron.
    Theres also a lot of Free Staters but they are not so “political”.
    And a lot of Malaysian.
    The V-C is always spouting about China.
    The really interesting thing is that QUB is the University in Ireland/Britain with the highest proportion of students from non-fee paying schools.
    Also I am assuming that many are first generation in third level education.

    A lot of old fogeys round QUB attribute the appalling behaviour of the students to being Catholic, state-educated and inexperience at Uni life.
    Another factor is the lack of “official” Uni accomodation.
    Personally Id just raise the age at which alcohol can be bought to 43.

  • lamhdearg

    David, regarding your post, What?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Davros…yes I prolly over-stated the Celtic Rangers thing but it does exist. Rather disconcerting in lecture halls to see some huddled together tribally.
    As I mentioned on another thread, the real jocks dont wear county GAA shirts……club shirts with a number indicating that they really DO play.

    The Catholic Chaplaincy is one of the best places to eat.

  • Davros

    I think there’s also a generational element to it also. With Catholics many are the first generation of their family to go to university (myself included) and so they’re just happy to be there, NI Protestants I’ve met in London tended to be the sons and daughters of graduates. They were a little more savvy, much more aware that for certain careers where you get your degree matters quite a bit rather than just having one.

  • David Crookes

    Lamhdearg, if your cry of ‘What?’ represents you in Bertie Wooster mode, then the answer is ‘Precisely, old thing!’ If on the other hand you’re asking what I was on about, I was light-heartedly developing a point which Malcolm made. Partly because the Tories throttled education, people are now content to talk nonsense. A young person says, ‘I was like, hello, and she was like, hello, and I was like, are you busy tonight, and she was like, yes, so that was sort of just about it.’ A pompous desk-wallah says, ‘We were tasked to create a separate cohort descriptor.’ Academics in half a dozen different disciplines find it necessary to use the word ‘postcolonial’ at least once in every sentence. Everyone thinks that it is essential to begin a question with the word SO. When the Tories throttled education, they helped to murder the English language.

    And more besides. Children come out of schools knowing very little, but believing themselves to possess a wonderful range of ‘skills’. Every year the wee things work harder and harder, so that their exam results get better and better. In twenty years’ time everyone will be getting full marks for everything, and if you don’t get a First you will take either your examiners or your lecturers to court.

    Sorry to have gone on so. I’ll drink my arrowroot and go to bed, as Calverley says.

  • Ulick


    the Protestant brain drain is a myth. There is no evidence to suggest that more Protestants than Catholics leave to study outside NI. As for the sectarian split at Queen’s, it’s broadly similar to that which exists for that generation as a whole who choose to take A-levels. There’s not very many southern students anymore and why would there be when they can get a free education down there.The big push is on to get students from China as that’s where the money is – they pay at least three times as much in fees as local students e.g. witness the recently opened private college within the university (INTO) established specifically for this purpose.

  • I dont care what they want or think as far as I am concerned they should chuck religious schools right out of the country.

    I am totally sick of the unhealthy influence these organisations have had on the young of this country.

    Cardinal Brady is what seventy? He never heard of child abuse until the state started to investigate?

    Get real.

  • David Crookes

    Educationists who insist on going comprehensive while maintaining the religious status quo are no more defensible than a man who tries to change his underpants while keeping his trousers on. Many of the educational ideologues who argue stridently for comprehensive schools believe in integrated schools, but you’d never know. They’re a bit like those loud American feminists who refuse to comment on the treatment of women in certain warm countries.

    I wonder if it will take an assembly election to clear up the present educational mess.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    alas this is real.
    The Great & The Good and the Overclass dont like it but not enough people want to change it.

  • innutclem

    Have you forgotten that men an women from throughout this country have devoted themselves to the education of children for centuries. Catholic education came into being, funded itself and changed the life chances of generations of Catholics who were abandoned and left to rot by self righteous institutional sectarianism. The recent horrific revelations of the actions an inaction of the few has cast this heroic history into the background. I would rather children where provided with a lens with which toview the world that focussed on justice, service and compassion for all – schools with a faith dimension offer this others try but are less successful

  • aquifer

    “generations of Catholics who were abandoned and left to rot by self righteous institutional sectarianism”

    The catholic church chose to set up a parallel sectarian system, and the state disgracefully acceded.

    State schools were always open to catholics, still are, which gets us to the real reason the catholic church will keep selection at least until it it ended in the state sector.

    They don’t want catholics going to mixed grammar schools, where they are already very welcome, especially for the schools’ accountants.

  • Comrade Stalin


    To coin a phrase Cardinal Brady, caitriona Ruane and Margaret Ritchie are singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Who elected Cardinal Brady and who does he represent ? Mass is awful quiet these days. When I was growing up it was standing room only in the Church of the Resurrection. Now they’ve closed it on the pretext that it’s structurally unsound. Yeah, right ..

    On the other hand, SDLP are participating in the multi-party talks on the issue of post-primary selection. The only party that isn’t participating is SF.

    I don’t see Catholic/nationalism as being the united front that you seem to suggest. I’m not wholly convinced that there are no snobby Catholics who want to keep the plebs out of their posh schools.

  • No snobby Catholics?

    What? start with the Pope mate and work your way down. Its not just riddled with snobbery, its built on it.

  • granni trixie

    The ‘qualie’ is not fit for purpose – however their parents talk otherwise, children judge themselves in terms of pass and fail – sometimes it takes years for them to build up self esteem and belief (I speak from many years teaching).

    Many of grammar schools lobby are being selfish not to say immoral in wanting to continue with present system. So though I would not vote for Catrina and think that she has mishandled the required change and that the Catholic church has shown itself to be a disgrace (for reasons too obvious to list here), I definately support anyone sticking to their guns in respect of changing the ed. system.

  • Driftwood
  • PACE Parent

    A grammar school which does not use academic selection is not a grammar school.

    Professor Tony Gallagher and Cardinal Sean Brady and their cohort of politicians and the bloated education cabal who parrot their every word can play around with the Northern Ireland education all they like but they cannot change that reality.

  • bigchiefally

    I think this is great idea by the catholic church and here is why.

    Catholic Church gets rid of catholic grammar schools. Then parents of children who used to go to these grammar schools still want a grammar school education for their kids. Then those catholic parents send them to state grammar schools in even bigger numbers than they are going these days. Then we get more integration by the back door.

    Maybe not a massive impact in the lower income brackets of people that NI would most benefit from having their kids educated together – but it is another step.

    I understand the reasons why SF want to get rid of selection instead of annoying the Catholic Church and tackling the biggest source of division outside of housing in NI but I think they are so wrong.

    Why oh why couldnt they focus on coming up with a system that allows catholic religious education to be done within state schools? Surely it isnt beyond our wit to come up with a system where kids go to the same schools regardless of religion, yet have a couple of classes a week where if their parents want they get their catholic education from a priest or nun? Maths, English, Science, Geography and French are the same regardless of your faith, or lack of it.

    Given that the chances of a UI would go through the roof in NI was less divided along religious lines you would think this is something SF should be very keen to do.

  • PACE Parent


    You are adopting the having Kate and Edith approach well-practiced by the Catholic education sector. The Catholic hierarchy have their own faith based schools (funded by the state) and influence in the state schools via ELBs also. Equality dear boy! Section 75 and all that.

    If Cardinal Brady doesn’t want grammar schools using academic selection to determine entry that’s fine. Just don’t get the issue of academic selection mixed up with sectarian schools.

  • bigchiefally

    Sorry PACE – “Kate and Edith” approach? I dont understand what that is.

    I dont think I am getting academical selection confused with sectarian schools. I think I was pointing out my belief that the focus should be on getting rid of the latter but that the former may in some smallish way help do it.

  • willis

    I think the allusion is to having your cake and eating it.

  • PACE Parent


    Didn’t see you at the Colourpoint Alistair Walker “Selection Challenged” book launch at QUB last week. Colourpoint are a CCEA book publisher. Nice and cosy.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Isn’t the real reason behind the Church’s position that the schools that they do control, not the grammar schools, are udner threat due to dwindling numbers. Across the province, the CCMS are being strangled by increasing number going for Grammar places. They need an end to selection to regaiun conrtol of Catholic education from the Catholic Grammar Trusts