Belfast Telegraph interview Catriona Ruane

Catriona Ruane has an interview in the Belfast Telegraph. Unsurprisingly she is completely unrepentant about her time as Education Minister. She says she regards the abolition of the 11 plus as her “proudest achievement” and that she has achieved “about one of the most progressive and radical reforms of education since the Partition of Ireland”.

On issue of academic selection she states:

“Well, first of all, the old system has gone and one of my proudest achievements is ending the 11-plus. The breakaway tests operated by the grammar schools should not be happening, they should not be doing those tests and they should not be placing barriers in front of children to prevent them from getting into their schools.
“What I would say to the schools is stop doing it. What I would say to the parents is tell the grammar schools that they should not be erecting barriers for their children to have to climb over.”

Ruane argues that all sectors apart from the state grammar schools have moved or are moving away from academic selection:

“The academic selection debate is over. The direction of travel is now moving towards a flexible, modern education system in terms of how our children transfer from primary to post primary, but even more importantly, how our children learn in post-primary.”

“Change has happened, it is happening and further change will happen,” she stated.
“The Catholic sector in its entirety is moving away from selection. In the Irish medium sector there is no selection and in the integrated sector, by and large, selection is not operating.”

She does find time, however, to blame the grammar schools for the large number of children failed by the education system, but accepts no blame for herself:

“I attribute it to the very unequal system we had in the past. Our curriculum was totally and utterly distorted by the 11-plus and one of the biggest successes of the last four years has been to bring in the revised curriculum and to support principals, teachers, unions who were opposed to the distortion of the curriculum.”

Going forward Ruane wants all schools in Northern Ireland to teach Irish and the system here harmonised with that in the RoI.

Although Ruane said she would like to remain Education Secretary after the next set of assembly elections there is significant speculation (mentioned here in the Telegraph) that Sinn Fein would be more interested in taking the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry which would allow another party to take Education. Indeed such is the controversial and uncompromising nature of Ruane’s interview and her claimed desires for the future direction of education, that one might suggest that she knows that her days in power are numbered and that she is getting in one last swipe against her opponents. This may be with the support of her party but it has, at times, looked as if she is actually a bit of an embarrassment to others in Sinn Fein. In that context her grand vision of ensuring all schools teach Irish and a harmonised education system might be seen as an attempt to up the ante and her popularity amongst SF hard liners to such an extent that getting rid of her proves harder for SF. Of course so difficult to read are the internal machinations of SF for all outsiders that it is a form of Kremlinology to establish who and what the different factions within the leadership are. However, for what it is worth with Gerry Adams, seen as her chief supporter, now in the Dáil it is possible that her star had waned and McGuninness has at times seemed less than enamored of her style (though he began the end of academic selection). That said of course knifing Ruane could play into the narrative of McGuinness being the more progressive and helpful of SF’s leadership: just as long as no one mentions assorted murder victims.

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  • fordprefect

    I, for one, am against academic selection. I remember (as a kid), that if a teacher had spent a few more minutes with me (especially on maths) I would have been okay, but they didn’t. Three years ago I finally did my GCSE on maths and passed it aged 47! (though I still hate that f****** algebra!). Ms. Ruane made a complete Balls of her job, in particular, I remember her disputes with the unions (who I supported totally) and then her decision not to cross a picket line at a school that was protesting against her cuts! Orwellian or what? Apart from that irritating voice of hers, she never cut it as a micro-minister for anything!

  • lamhdearg

    Best to say nothing, for fear it may encourage S.F. to back her.

  • fordprefect

    Lamhdearg, doesn’t matter really, no matter how bad SF micro-ministers are, the party will always back them.

  • SF won’t pass over education for trade and whatever.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    I’m not sure to what extent a Minister can dictate what happens within their department given that the ‘other’ side can veto it.

    SF might therefore have an eye on departments that looks better from the Southern position as suggested above Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry might be a possibility.

    Turgon,

    a review of TUV candidates would be an interesting topic for discussion.

    ps minor typo – it is Dáil not Dial

  • Turgon

    ItwasSammyMcNally,
    Thanks I have fixed typo.

  • The Word

    I’m sure SF are thinking that she is a liability but that to admit it before an election would cause problems.

    As usual, when Sinn Fein talk of harmonisation of the two parts of the island, they talk in terms of symbolic things like Irish. Not only is this good for helping in a divisive election, it is also tremendously shallow and reveals that they themselves are hollow people who urge worship for the flag and the nation, rather than the people.

    Have they never learned from history that only the privileged elites encouraged poor people to do that? Well, if they want to be used, then they’ll be used.

  • Sinn Fein should be kept as far away from education as possible. Ruane would be better off in Colombia than in the Six Counties, stifling the chances of bright kids who use the 11 plus as a leg up.
    Special Olympics are fine for “special” people but the “special” people of Sinn Fein should not be allowed to muck up education for others.
    During the French Revolution, the Republican leader Robespierre, who inspired Wolfe Tone, wanted the steeples of churches cut down. He thought it was undemocratic that some buildings were higher than others.

    Such is Sonn Fein’s policy,

  • Reader

    Telegraph: She says she regards the abolition of the 11 plus as her “proudest achievement” and that she has achieved “about one of the most progressive and radical reforms of education since the Partition of Ireland”.
    Surely it was Martin McGuinness who abolished the 11+, on the final day of the first Assembly? So, Catriona Ruane’s proudest achievement was accomplished by someone else.
    But that isn’t surprising, given what she has been doing for the past few years.

  • JAH

    “Sinn Fein should be kept as far away from education as possible. Ruane would be better off in Colombia than in the Six Counties, stifling the chances of bright kids who use the 11 plus as a leg up.”

    And what about the rest, mostly working class kids?

    The 11 plus became a prime instrument in social exclusion by the middleclass of both camps. No wonder they want to save it. Imagine their children even having contact with riff raff.

    Free Schools anybody?

  • fordprefect

    Word
    Two parts of the island? Ireland is a whole country (the north east is not separated by a body of water from the rest of the country) it is separated by a stupid line on the map.

  • ThomasMourne

    The brightest children will still make it to the top in a comprehensive education system and, if it is managed correctly, overall standards should improve.

    The Catholic Church has suddenly realised that a supposedly Christian organisation cannot justify apartheid in its education system.

    How long will it take for those other Christian gentlemen and women on the boards of other grammar schools to come to the same conclusion?

    Ruane may have been an irritant to many but she has pushed many people into changing their out-dated ideas on elitist education systems.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Sinn Fein had ministerial responsibility for education since the Good Friday Agreement. Martin McGuiness’ last action before The First Assembly collapsed -( remember the police raids on Sinn Fein’s Stormont Offices, to gather information on double agent, Denis Donaldson’s spying activities) – was to abolish the 11+ , with the very last stroke of his ministerial pen.

    4 years ago Ms Ruane repeated that same action.

    So for 12 years now, the 11+ is officially, but not de-facto, dead and gone. Testing again this year, and planned again for next year. Why?

    Because Sinn Fein has failed to credibly plan, or understandably articulate, never mind get agreement put in place, for any credible alternative.

    Let’s see if SF backs Caitriona’s boasting by letting her boldly go on the air waves (flying solo without John O’ Dowd) to defend her own record.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    There is an equitable solution to all this. Schools stream their applicants by results. Those that are most able are put into larger class sizes. The less academically gifted at least get the benefit of more teacher time and those of an academic bent are not slowed down by the convoy system, going at the pace of the slowest.
    Top 25% in a class of 30
    Botton 25% in class of 15
    Flawless

  • Reader

    Count Eric: Those that are most able are put into larger class sizes.
    If you put the top 30 into a single class, that will hold back the top 15. The way to get good streaming without huge schools is to have selection between schools, then streaming within them.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Reader : If you put 15 into a class that will hold back the top 5. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. However, exact numbers will depend on the schools and the available resources. Given that society is trying to provide relatively broad based education for third level or the workplace I dont see the need for hot housing the more intelligent. The genuine geniuses will be identified and nutured outside secondary leaving a more equitable system for all

  • Fact is many kids who struggle or scrap through their school years can often excell at University or when in a skills based form of training so academic achievement at 11 years of age is of little real significance or meaning –other than personal pride or sense of accomplishment to the parents or child.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    ‘The Catholic Church has suddenly realised that a supposedly Christian organisation cannot justify apartheid in its education system.’

    apart from religious apartheid of course…

  • andnowwhat

    Can someone please, please, please tell me, how come I had friends in W Belfast who did very well via selection?

    An example; I knew this guy from Beechmount who was the son of a single mother (via being widowed) back in the 70’s. Two of her sons are consultants (doctors) and one is a barrister. I know quite a few people who come from a working class (very poor by today’s standards) who have done very well and are well educated.

    Me? I’m thick as shit and live with it.

    Now, where the hell did that all go wrong? Has it gone wrong?

    Are the likes of St Mary’s, St Malachy’s, BRA, St Louse’s, St Domnic’s, Wellington etc truely letting down their working class students or is it that lazy parents want the system dragged down to their level?

    Are they spendiong the evenings working with their children or spending it mesmerised by Sky TV, the X Factor and puzzled by Frank Mitchell’s (it’s not his real mane you know) weather quiz?

    All this bollox about kids from wherever being disadvantaged gets right on my perky ones. No the school AND the parents have a part to play in a child’s education.

    Anyway, even without an exam, a child will later be streamed in to capability.

    Personally, I’d prefer selection at 13 or 14.

  • andnowwhat

    Forgot to add……we need to realvaluate teching and teachers. I remember the days when the profession had kudos and teachers were right uppery gits. Actually, that’s exactly how I want teachers to be. Proud snobs, proud of their profession and proud of their students.

    BTW, could people please stop instilling authority in their children? Its dragging education and society down.

  • The Word

    Fordperfect

    That was just a sign of desperation.

  • Reader

    Count Bisto: If you put 15 into a class that will hold back the top 5. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
    You were the one who suggested 15 as a suitable class size for some purposes. I guess that might be a class size small enough to allow some individual attention and personally targeted work? Or you may have had another reason for picking that number?
    Anyway – it seems to me that a measure of individual attention would be well directed at pupils in the long tails of ability at both ends of the normal distribution.

  • Alf

    An extremely ugly woman with extremely ugly opinions. Does anyone take her seriously?

  • Cynic2

    Hot air and waffle in the face of an election where she knows shes regarded as a disastrous Minister and what little she has done has been under the guidance of John O’Dowd. Still she looks better so thats Ok

  • Alf

    “Still she looks better so thats Ok”

    She looks like Frankenstein’s monster.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Alf

    Let’s at least try keping this about the person’s character and her track record and not her looks, eh ?

  • Surely anyone in office who causes division and conflict rather than harmony and agreement is an abject failure and for them to imagine their time in office, at considerable public expense, as anything other than that, is surely quite sadly delusional.

    And to proclaim it a success and valid progress must surely have one thinking it be bordering on the madly certifiable.

    In that light, does Stormont vie competitively against the likes of the Downshire and Purdysburn hospitals with their secured units for patients and/or inmates, for they appear to be unable to agree on anything, which does it it most convenient in not being held responsible for doing something for which there is no funding …… and getting well paid for doing nothing is clearly a mad bonus. 🙂

    It is a farce and and a pantomime indeed, and one does wonder where intelligence is lurking if it is present at all. It may have abandoned and left the building.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “An extremely ugly woman with extremely ugly opinions. Does anyone take her seriously?”

    Sadly, the amount of misery she has created amongst children (and their parents) of primary school age over the past few years means they have no option but to take her very seriously indeed!

  • thethoughtfulone

    “It is a farce and and a pantomime indeed, and one does wonder where intelligence is lurking if it is present at all. It may have abandoned and left the building.”

    Well we constantly hear so many of our current politicians bragging about the fact that they failed the 11+ yet they ended up running the country. Then look at the job they’re doing of it and I think it speaks volumes!

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    the really, really sad thing is that her vote won’t drop. the fact that she winds the hell out of unionists and the SDLP is a vote winner if anything. to hell with the kids.

  • vanhelsing

    Incompetant and divisive.

    She has spent over £100,000 translating government documents into Irish which could have been used to fund a couple of teachers. Her pioneering of Irish Medium schools [I have no problem with teaching Irish as a subject in schools if it’s part of the wider curriculum of a school] has lead to problems also. I read in a local newspaper that the Irish Medium schools whilst forming only a tiny part of the overall percentage of schools in NI account for something around 35% of the schools which fail the Departments own inspection regime.

    Not a good ‘school report’ for Ruin and it begs the question should some of the money invested in these schools not be better used elsewhere in the controlled and maintained sector?

    Ps I agree with previous posters in the ‘hot or not’ assessment 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin

    SF won’t pass over education for trade and whatever.

    The DUP will have first pick though, which could well mean that they plump for education and SF take the finance ministry. That would be .. interesting.

  • 241934 john brennan

    The quite quixotic Ms Ruane wants all things Irish taught in all schools in the North. But she also wants to abolish the whole Irish secondary and grammar school system – and replace it with the failed English compressive system.

    On St Patrick’s Day she seems not to have come north to demonstrate support for Irish Culture, by marching in step with Eamon McConvey, his big Irish wolfhound and even bigger tricolor, during the parade in Downpatrick.

    Unless Gerry Adams retains, by remote control, the post of Sinn Fein nominating officer for the next Stormont Assembly, Ms Ruane will have less need to take the road north

  • vanhelsing

    I know at least two heads of RC Grammars who will rejoice at her departure 🙂

  • Cynic2

    I could never work out why Gerry was so in thrall to her apart from the possibility that she made him look like an intellectual genius. Anyone know?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Turgon,

    I’m sure you couldnt have realsistically expected such a high level of intellectual debate, particulalry from Unionist contributors, who have been quick to spot the real issue as they see it -that an ugly, stupid, Fenain, Irish speaking, female lacking in sex appeal is the government minister.

    To be fair, such a high level of debate is perhaps a reflection of the deep seated problems in the (State/Unionist) schooling system identified in the recent Education report which Purvis herself commssioned- and she seems to be the only Unionist politican to have the balls to stand up and say that something needs to be done other than sloganising over selection.

  • Reader

    ItwasSammy: particulalry from Unionist contributors, who have been quick to spot the real issue as they see it -that an ugly, stupid, Fenain, Irish speaking, female lacking in sex appeal is the government minister.
    Be fair, some Unionist posters (not I) have also pointed out that she “is a vote winner if anything”, and referred to her “pioneering of Irish Medium schools”
    And while you are right to point out that one or two posters have misrepresented the proper qualifications for ministerial office, surely stupidity *should* be an obstacle?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Reader,

    re. stupidity

    The point relates to personal abuse alleging stupidity fits into that pattern.

    Unionist parties are out of step with all other political parties in Britain and Ireland on the issue of selection and the person identified as attempting to move Ulster into line is called stupid.

    Yeah right.

  • Driftwood

    Turgon, in his intro, mistakenly refers to Ruane as Education Secretary. She is not. The Education Secretary-currently bringing in real widespread reform to GCSE/GCE etc- is Michael Gove.
    The education ‘ministry’ in the NI assembly is of the same level as any regional LEA on the mainland. Though many of them are incompetent and of a 1970’s marxist ideology also.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Driftwood,

    If Stormo wants to introduce education legislation they are free to do so – they can opt to introduce the Leaving Certificate (Irish or Scottish) and ditch GCSEs completely.

    Wee Mickey Gove can do feck all about it.

  • Kadfoomsa

    If Caitríona Ruane just got rid of the 11+ I would give her my vote.

    But given here support for irish medium education despite unionist squealing – she will definitey be getting it!

    Fair play to her.

  • andnowwhat

    Catrioana stupid? Arrrogant, focussed, blindly determined? Without a doubt but not stupid?

    At least she does not believe that the earth is 6,000 years old FFS !!

    Now, that would be stupidity. Thank goodness politicians would never express that level of ignorance here

  • Driftwood

    andnowwhat

    How do you know she doesn’t believe this? Just as stupid would be if she believed in a virgin birth. Or that a glass of wine can be the blood of a 2000 year old zombie called Jesus….or… or…lots of other impossible things.

  • Reader

    ItwasSammy: Unionist parties are out of step with all other political parties in Britain and Ireland on the issue of selection and the person identified as attempting to move Ulster into line is called stupid.
    As though everyone else was happy with the comprehensive system in the UK! And what else do you want to bring to NI from the rest of these islands – majoritarian Assemblies and Parliaments? Should every component of these islands fall into line with the majority, or should some issues be devolved?
    Even if you think we need to operate a comprehensive system here, do you think her tactics have been intelligent?

  • Driftwood

    to add

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Six-Impossible-Things-Before-Breakfast/dp/0571209203

    none of our parochial concillors are all that bright, but then most voters are pretty nonchalant about their dumbness..

  • andnowwhat

    Driftwood

    The difference is that young earthers present their views as science, not faith.

    A massive difference

  • Alf

    “Let’s at least try keping this about the person’s character and her track record and not her looks, eh ?”

    But they all blend together so perfectly.

  • Alf

    “If Caitríona Ruane just got rid of the 11+ I would give her my vote.

    But given here support for irish medium education despite unionist squealing – she will definitey be getting it!”

    The republican position on education summed up perfectly. Never mind the kids. If it annoys the Prods then it has to be a good thing.

  • Alf

    “Unionist parties are out of step with all other political parties in Britain and Ireland on the issue of selection and the person identified as attempting to move Ulster into line is called stupid.”

    Northern Ireland has the most successful education system in the United Kingdom. Ruin wants to change it to come into line with the failed model in England because OC Ireland failed his eleven plus and was left with a massive inferiority complex as a result*.

    I don’t think that the word stupid quite does her justice.

    *A psychiatrist would have a field day no doubt.

  • andnowwhat

    Just saw a wee bit on the news about Dawn (I had no idea what the UVF even was) Purvis talking about a report she apparently ordrered re. working class protestant students VS catholic ones.

    Apparently, the former come or worse due, she claims, to a lack of parental input. she also blames deindustrialisation.

    It was on the Politics show (watching it now) andthey say that young protestant children are “living in the past”.

    What the hell is going on? I mentionedthis in a much earlier post. Take responsibility parents

  • andnowwhat

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007tjx7

    For goodness sake working class unionists/loyalists, form your own party. It will only take 2 or 3 parliaments for it to have real power

  • Irishlassabroad

    I can still remember my 11+ but mainly because we got to go swimming after it rather than the exam which to me was no big deal, but I also remember some class mates being very stressed by it. I am not a fan of the minister but agree with the central idea that 2 exams at 11 years of age should not determine somone’s future. My old headmaster at School (RIP Mr Thompson) also said that any decent teacher would know if a student was capable or not and that selection should be on continued assessment from a child’s P6 and P7 years. I always thought this sounded a much better idea!

    If she had done away with the 11+ and had a new system with the support of the schools and parents that would be fine but she didn’t and now kids are doing exams for maybe 3 different schools which is much more pressure.

    Northern Irish students consistently outrank students from other parts of the UK. We should be proud of our education system and be striving to make it better for more children, not dismantle it completely for political gain

  • Big Maggie

    “Northern Irish students consistently outrank students from other parts of the UK.”

    Is the playing field a level one? Are the marking criteria standardized across the UK?

    I’m only asking, mind you. I can’t say I’ve noticed exceptional brightness in the school-leavers I come across in Northern Ireland.

  • Zig70

    letting teachers do the assessment? No way. You need data to back up the decision. Also, teachers develop a certain personality and if the students personality rubs the wrong way then the assessment won’t be unbiased. I reckon I rubbed half them up the wrong way, I’d have failed.