What do the GCSE Results tell us about employment propects?

The truth is, probably not a great deal. The trend in Northern Ireland is pretty established: best top end performances in the UK; and the worst record of students leaving with no qualifications at all. Education Minister John O’Dowd has been questioned several times about a .5% drop in the NI performance; which, to be fair to the Minister, is probably neither here nor there.

The real problem is that after four years of Education being devolved to Stormont we have stasis. There is no sign of fresh innovation, or that the Executive is even looking for policy instruments that would tackle the problem at the bottom end of the scale.

The Academy school initiative in England established under new Labour’s Andrew Adonis has had mixed effects. Although as Frase Nelson’s slightly breathless blog on the Harris Academy group of schools points to the need for schools to grasp the opportunity to do something with the autonomy that comes with it. Fraser concludes:

The Harris results demonstrate beyond any doubt that it is a lie to say failing schools take a generation to turn around. It’s also a libel on the pupils from these backgrounds: they don’t lack brains, but were being given a poor education. The results are the most visible reminder of the lesson of the Blair/Adonis reforms: we don’t have to tolerate failing schools.

But there are thoughts in play within the wider educational debate in England. Not least because the earnings gap between graduates and non graduates (just as the UK government is piling up personal debt on university students) is narrowing, there are questions to be asked about putting so much emphasis on qualification within the wider educational debate…

According to educationalist Alison Wolf the issue of NEEPS (not in employment, education or training), the problem is not qualification it’s the quality of jobs that matter, “…subsidised employment training has an excellent record of improving the future prospects of those who receive it, whereas training programmes have a dismal record”.

There is much to be done, particularly at the lower end of the income scale. Minister John O’Dowd seems much less inclined to resile to the thin rhetoric of ‘death to selection’ so favoured by his predecessor. Let’s hope this time round he encourages thoughtfulness and innovation that seeks to take the problem in hand rather than to simply make cheap political capital out of it.

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  • Skinner

    It’s very difficult to step outside your own experience on this issue. That accepted, I really don’t believe that dropping selection will suddenly improve the plight of pupils who fail to achieve any meaningful qualifications. Put simply, mixing them with pupils of a much higher ability will not make them feel any less of a ‘failure’.

    I do not believe it is necessary to mess with the successful part of NI education (grammar schools) in order to improve the failing part. The reason our lower-achieving pupils are even more lower-achieving that other parts of the UK has as much to do with other factors, like the reason they are more inclined to throw stones at the police, like the reason our cities are so run down, like the reason our employers find it so difficult to find good basic-wage employees, like the reason our long-term sickness is so high, like the reason we have a massive compensation culture here. Some might argue that that all stems from academic selection too. But I refuse to believe that 30 year-old men have been sentenced to a life of scratching in bed all morning just because they failed an exam aged 11.

    I believe it is has more to do with the troubles giving large parts of our society a ‘poor me’ victim complex that provides a ready excuse for not getting off your arse and earning a wage. It has taken the shame out of state dependency.

  • FuturePhysicist

    There are many from poorer backgrounds who bring a practical and emancipated way of using their educational experience to develop themselves, I would say though that many are possibly poisoned by self-doubt due to family anxieties and personal alienation and fears. There are of course people from middle class backgrounds who become lazy or lethargic because they deceive themselves into believing the work is trivial or have poor organisation and exam technique.

    Penstroking away the 11+ does not remove these problems.

  • FuturePhysicist

    or improve them either.

  • Neil

    In Ballymena, from a Catholic perspective, you either passed your 11 plus and went to St. Louis or Garron Tower, or you failed and went to St. Pat’s. If you went to St. Pat’s (by far the biggest school) you were actively discouraged pre-GCSE, from considering further education as you weren’t likely to succeed and it was just a waste of time. You would have had to go to Tech and make a go of if – which is much harder to do than going to a school and succeeding due to the fact that you can take time off when it suits and work as hard as you like, or you needed to get a place in one of the two aforementioned grammars.

    One good friend had to fight his teachers and his parents to get to go through education and eventually get a degree (some eight years after leaving school).

    The idea that the 11+ is not a problem is just ridiculous. A pass at 11 and you’re off to a good school and practically gauranteed a minimum of 5 GCSEs, more likely again to get the full nine.

    You fail and you’re off to St. Pat’s to be prepared for an apprenticeship in plastering, or worse, the dole.

    I imagine the people who have no problem with deciding the entirety of someone’s future at 11 passed their exam (as did I), but unfortunately I’ve also had to watch as numerous children had their confidence shattered and found themselves labelled as thick at 11 because they had one bad day, and the kids in question weren’t stupid at all.

    The 11 + was wrong, and I think the only people who disagree were fortunate enough to have parents who had the finances and inclination to ensure their kids got what they needed to pass the exam.

  • Skinner

    Neil, you say the 11 plus is at fault for low achievement but you also say the only people who think otherwise are those with the parents who had the inclination to make sure their kids passed. But don’t you think there’s a correlation here – the kids with the parents who had sufficient ‘inclination’ to get them through the 11 plus are also the kids who were encouraged into higher education. So suddenly it’s not the fault of the system at all, it’s the fault of the parents, and the belief among certain sections of society that education is just not for them.

    Also:

    “You fail and you’re off to St. Pat’s to be prepared for an apprenticeship in plastering, or worse, the dole.”

    To mention a worthwhile occupation such as plastering in the same breath as the dole tells me you don’t see the problem as I do. We need plasterers and other tradesmen. People should be encouraged to do such things if their academic abilities are not suited for further pissing around with books and theories. We can’t all take degrees and nor do we need to. It’s the inclination of some to give up on having any occupation at all which is the problem.

  • Neil

    To mention a worthwhile occupation such as plastering in the same breath as the dole tells me you don’t see the problem as I do. We need plasterers and other tradesmen. People should be encouraged to do such things if their academic abilities are not suited for further pissing around with books and theories. We can’t all take degrees and nor do we need to. It’s the inclination of some to give up on having any occupation at all which is the problem.

    I don’t disagree with the worthiness of the career. I just think it’s ridiculous to line a child up for that because they found the 11+ too stressful and failed, for example, and so are sent off to either sit on the bru or do an apprenticeship.

    Those 11 year old kids should have the opportunity to decide to chase whatever dreams they have. They shouldn’t be told ‘a degree in computer science is not for you, it’s a trade or nothing’. They should be allowed the opposrtunity to choose from the whole range of opportunities in life instead of being packed off to a school that will consider every opportuinty for a child apart from a degree.

    I’m in IT now. Wish I’d done plumbing as I’d probably be semi retired by now, so it’s not a disrespect towards a trade I’m displaying, just that 11 is too young to cut off the option of studying any of the many thousands of degrees available and being lined up for one of about ten (at most) trades.

  • For politicians (and people like myself) on the Left…..including SF or SDLP there is a dilemna about academic selection. It is almost Augustinian.
    We would like afairer system but……not yet. Not until our children have taken full advantage of every perceived advantage in the “system”.
    We want Fairness….just not yet.
    Those of us with memories of skipping Primary Six and going from P5 (and 50 plus pupils) to P7 (another 50 plus) just to get into the right age group to do the 11 plus. might feel it was a lifetime ago.
    And being one of the thirteen (from fifty plus) in P7 who worked away at the IQ tests for an hour while the rest did something different.
    Or being one of the THREE who actually passed it.
    Or the TWO who actually sayed at Grammar School longer than six weeks.
    And lasting the course, socialising only with the other grammar school boys in the wider locality.

    Frankly not much has changed. The Irony is that we owe our advantages to being given advantages. And the dilemna is denying others the same opportunities in the name of Fairness.
    A move towards ending Grammar Schools effectively begets another form of Unfairness with private schools moving into the “market”.

    I dont actually believe anything will really change. Its not in the interests of ANY Party to go beyond lip service for change. Iconic statements in respect of Comprehensives, Grammar Schools, Integrated Schools, Private Schools, Catholic Schools and Irish Language Schools shore up a core vote without and set out a position/s without actually having to do anything about it.

    Manifestos are just words.
    The politica system guarantees stasis so it follows that nobody is willing to take a risk and split a vote. Frankly no politician is genuinely interested in the lower end. Do their parents even vote? And why churn out competitors for the Voters sons and daughters.
    Education was never a civil rights issue here….as in USA….. it surprises American observers that there was no outcry over education and no “bussing” of apparently under performing Catholics from St Dominics and St Malachys to BRA and RBAI.
    Leaving well enough alone is probably the best option.
    There is no advantage in making iconic well wishing anything more concrete.

    As to the GCSE (or O Levels as Im still inclined to call them) they dont seem as important.
    An O level was once a guarantee of employment.
    Circa 1968 it was a fact that two were a minimum for a clerical assistant job in the Belfast Corporation. Five O Levels could get you a clerical officer job.
    You were at least on the ladder.
    And more importantly five allowed you to stay on for A levels.
    And two A levels got you into Queens….and worst case scenario…..a teacher.

    That cosiness has gone. And in an atmosphere of recession its every man and woman for themselves. Nobody will actually vote for any “fair” system that disadvantages their own children.

  • Neil

    As to the GCSE (or O Levels as Im still inclined to call them) they dont seem as important.
    An O level was once a guarantee of employment.

    Wherease now, no [o-levels] GCSEs is a gaurantee of no employment. It’s hard to get into Burger King these days if you have no GCSEs, because most of the kids going in for a job now have them, and it’s better to hire someone with rudimentary mathemtical skills than someone with none.

  • Skinner

    Neil

    “I just think it’s ridiculous to line a child up for that because they found the 11+ too stressful and failed, for example, and so are sent off to either sit on the bru or do an apprenticeship.”

    Admittedly I don’t have sufficient personal experience but I can say that none of my friends that went to the local high school shares your view of what failing the 11-plus meant for them. Some went on to do A-levels and a degree. As far as I understand they were positvely encouraged to do so. If you know of circumstances where the opposite is the case, where children are told “it’s the trade or dole for you” then we need to find the people who are saying this and boot them out of our education system! If what you are saying is true in your experience (in my experience it is not), then it is the guidance from teachers and parents and the perception of society that needs to change, not the principle of academic selection.

  • Mick Fealty

    Neil,

    Where’s the product then? My point is that the public spats over selection cannot cover the fact that nothing is being done to address the problem.

    Someone needs to break logjam with a challenge that privileges action over stasis. Let’s hope it’s the current Minister.
    .

  • Once upon a time, only primary education was compulsory. Secondary schools were for the few trades that needed more training or education, such a priests to bury the dead during the black death (that is why Corpus Christi College Cambridge was founded, paid by two guilds).

    After the industrial revolution was underway, it became necessary to make secondary education compulsory.

    We have now reached the stage where tertiary education is the minimum requirement for a job outside China and India. Not necessarily university education: rather make sure everyone learns some skills needed today. When their chosen industry becomes obsolete, then they can go to university to learn how to learn.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    Given the current international situation, exam results are of little relevance to the overall employment prospects of the next generation. I’m unlikely to find a job any time soon with my doctorate. If I’d left school at sixteen and trained in a construction-related trade, I’d be in precisely the same situation. We need to stop acting as if education can solve our massive economic problems, or as if our education system would be fixed if only ‘non academic’ (ie ‘everyone else’s’) children would just be a bit more enthusiastic about a lifetime of manual labour.

  • Skinner

    “We have now reached the stage where tertiary education is the minimum requirement for a job outside China and India.”

    Sorry but this is absolute horse shit. Ask any local employer and he will tell you the minimum requirement for a job is a bit of gumption, reliabilty, and a willingness to put the work in.

  • Neil

    I agree and my experiences are from some time back, hopefully things have moved on from then. But being a Catholic in Ballymena I did count numerous friends who failed the 11+ and were basically shut down from there with regards to A-levels and a degree.

    And I do know numerous people who were actively prevented from following education and sent off to one of the factories or shops to start bringing in money by their own parents. Which was unbelievable to me as my parents were the exact opposite.

    I just feel that 11 is too young to send a kid off to the worst school going because I feel it is damaging to their chances and I don’t think it’s fair. I know a lot if not most of the kids who fail the 11+ have a pass in them, it just didn’t happen on the right day, and to see your kid’s future and confidence taken away at that young age is wrong.

    Had Catriona handled things somewhat better I would have been happier, but unfortunately she built no consensus so we’re stuck. I was happy to see the 11+ go for the reasons outlined, but fully accept she didn’t do a great job, politically speaking, of justifying her position or indeed putting in place some kind of system where kids could be effectively streamed by ability so they end up in the right classroom in whatever school they end up.

  • Skinner speaks perfect sense. I agree completely.

  • Neil

    Where’s the product then? My point is that the public spats over selection cannot cover the fact that nothing is being done to address the problem.

    Someone needs to break logjam with a challenge that privileges action over stasis. Let’s hope it’s the current Minister.

    Probably addressed by my reply but I agree that work is still needed on the current system (or lack thereof). Some kind of system is clearly desirable to distinguish those kids that are clearly not meant for a degree level education from the vast majority of medium ability students and the few at the top level. I’m just happy to see the 11+ go that’s all, I don’t necessarily go with the chaotic theory of removing the system and just hoping for the best.

    “We have now reached the stage where tertiary education is the minimum requirement for a job outside China and India.”

    Sorry but this is absolute horse shit. Ask any local employer and he will tell you the minimum requirement for a job is a bit of gumption, reliabilty, and a willingness to put the work in.

    Also agree. Degrees are becoming more meaningless not more important.

  • Skinner

    “I just feel that 11 is too young to send a kid off to the worst school going because I feel it is damaging to their chances and I don’t think it’s fair.”

    There is always going to be one school which is deemed “the worst school going”, whether we have selection or not. In England parents have to send their kids to the “worst school going” because they live in that catchment area and can’t afford to pay their way into a private school.

    The challenge for us is not create a system like England’s, it is to make the “worst school going” not as bad as it currently is. And I would start with those teachers and parents who discourage kids from pursuing higher level education where it is appropriate for them.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Skinner, your world is quite a distance away from mine.

    Let’s remember that the stats the Daily Mail uses to attack the “Dole Culture” of the Troubles often is just another excuse to attack the genuinely physically and mentally ill who genuinely cannot work because they unlike the English were not immune from the bombs, gunfire and explosions that cause that.

    I also believe that an 11 year old may not be emotionally mature to cope with failure as both an obstacle to their life and as a part of life.

    I have never seen a single person who have claimed that shame gets people off the dole, shame keeps people on the dole, self respect forces people to try everything they rationally and sometimes irrationally try anything to get off it. Indeed the problem with this stigma is that some people only commit crimes because they think that being in prison is less shameful than the dole.

    Your comment about the plight of employers is quite disturbing too, we are told we have 80 people applying for jobs, I heard of 100 people applying for a pumping station job in Muff including a geophysicist. It is a “buyer’s market” for the employer, to say “our employers find it so difficult to find good basic-wage employees” … is utterly sickening to me. If you don’t have 18 people applying for your “basic job”, you haven’t advertised it to a desperate market place, if you can’t find what you want you aren’t looking hard at the candidate’s potentials and stuck up in rigid dogmas.

    There is a diversity of talents on the dole who can take the jobs if a few minor adaptations can be made. Many of the low managerial posts could be given to an unemployed or part-time working graduate, apprentice or tradesman.

  • Being an old fogey, I’m quite out of touch. But when I finished grammar school all those years ago, a few “o” levels could get you an entry level position in a bank or into a management training position in large stores, for example. What would the requirement be now for a bank, for instance?

  • Kevin Barry

    Joe,

    For a Bank, from my experience you would need some A-Levels and then sit some psychometric test and that is to get into a branch. Some of them have graduate schemes while others appear to have freezed any new hiring for obvious reasons.

    I have had the pleasure of sitting the 11+, as have my younger brother and sister. We all passed and went to grammar school in Newry, however, my sister who was top of her class in all subjects prior to sitting the exam had a bad couple of days and got a B and was very close to not getting accepted. Fortunately, the headmaster at our primary school phoned the headmistress of the grammar, noted my sister’s stellar grades and how this was a complete aberration and she was allowed in.

    My sister was very fortunate to say the least that she got in and she continued on her path of excellent academic success and is doing well for herself.

    Grammar schooling is one area where NI has excelled in and as FJH has alluded to above, if they are done away with its likely that private schools of some kind will replace. However, I would also have to agree with Neil on this matter to a certain extent, a child’s future should not be decided thanks to an exam taken when they are 11, that’s particularly cruel.

    While we require testing, I think that their has to be a better way to assess whether some children should go to grammar school or to more academic subjects. Furthermore, those less academically inclined require a lot more attention than is being given to them now so that they have requisite skills to work in the modern work place, rather than being tossed onto a waste pile as seems current policy.

    So, I would be happy to see the 11+ go by the way side, maybe becoming something like a 14+ as is the case in Lurgan I believe, and for further investment in on the job training and apprenticeships. We either pay for this now, or we will pay far more by way of social security, policing and health services in the future.

  • Lurgan is indeed different.
    But if you go thru it at before 8am you will see a a loada kids waiting round to take the bus that takes them to Newry to Violent (sic) Hill and Our Ladys (?).
    Further up the street at AIB you will see another set of kids waiting on the #51 bus which will take about an hour via Dollinstown, Moira, Lisburn to the front door of Rathmore. It picks up more kids along the way.

    Across the street at Santandar another group of kids waits on the bus to take them to Armagh….to the Royal or St Pats. It picks up kids in Portadown.
    Meanwhile down at the train station another group of Lurgan kids are waiting on the Lisburn train for Wallace HS.

    They have all done the eleven plus, all passed and all (so far as I am aware) have a bus pass to travel outside the area.
    Of course other kids dont do the 11 plus……and go to some good schools in Lurgan area….the Junior High or Lismore for example.
    But a lot will take the chance of going to Lurgan College or St Michaels at 14.
    I would not really hold Lurgan up as a good example. Parents still take the grammar school route and are facilitated.

  • Mr Canuck is indeed right. O Levels got you into the job market……junior ranking council clerk, lower grade civil servant or secretary…….and each subsequent exam result (A level or degree) further underpinned that.
    The fact is that many working class parents dreamed that their child would have an “indoor job and lift nothing heavier than a pencil”.
    Other working class parents got their child into good apprenticeships or jobs in same factory.
    For others it was simply a case of getting the 15 year old out to work as quickly as possible.

    And for doctors and solicitors children…….bonus points for university entrance because of “daddy”.

  • Thanks, Kevin. Good thoughts.

  • Where do you find a future boxing x-weight champion? Among those who have not a lot to lose.

    Why is there a 70+% differential in examination results between Bangladeshi boys and girls in east London? Because a well-qualified girl isn’t exported back to an arranged marriage?

    How do you get a well-paid, respected, bourgeois professional job? Ah! Therein lies the rub!

    All cruel, but with a kernel of truth.

    Students across all social (and other) divisions in NI have to leap a bar which is set a bit higher than the rest of the UK.

    Think on …

  • Little James

    Joe Canuck

    Being an old fogey, I’m quite out of touch. But when I finished grammar school all those years ago, a few “o” levels could get you an entry level position in a bank or into a management training position in large stores, for example. What would the requirement be now for a bank, for instance?

    You could still get into a bank as a cashier with 5 GCSEs. A-Levels would not be required. Staff would then have an opportunity to work their way through the ranks.

  • Skinner

    FuturePhysicist

    My comments are made within the context of 30+ years of selection-based secondary education. The unprecedented turbulence of the last two years has skewed the norm somewhat (though even then my comments still hold true in a few cases known personally to me).

    My comment about the troubles contributing to a state dependent culture was not about those who were rendered physically and mentally incapable of work through specific acts of violence. I don’t know the stats but my reckoning tells me they would make up a very small proportion of the number of people who are state-dependent.

    I have to say I find your comment that some people try to get into prison because its less shameful than the dole absolutely baffling. I’ve never heard anyone claim that as a cause of crime before.

  • carl marks

    As a parent of two girls one doing a degree in law (at present doing a year overseas at the national university of Singapore) the other has just received her gcse results all A,s with 3 A+ (annoying proud father moment over).
    We are most certainly not a middle class family and both (parents) are opposed in principal to selection and left the choice of wither to do the 11+ or not up to each child, they both chose to do it and both received A passes . In my opinion both girls would have still done well at the local secondary school however they made the choice and for them it has worked.
    So I suppose my point is that we have a excellent system if the kids fit into it, those who don’t are the losers the challenge ahead is to change things to ensure that all children have access to the resources needed to get the best out of them I don’t think that the present system is either morally or practically correct and selection at 11 is just not right (it worked for my girls but i have no reason to think that under a different system they would not have done so well), I have not got the answer as to what change is needed but I know that some sort of change is needed.

  • Fitzjameshorse 25 August 2011 at 4:35 pm has made an important observation about the Grammar School system. It facilitates a significant amount of social mobility for students from poorer backgrounds. Alternative educational models, including the existing English one, do not have that degree of success.

    I would like to see a shift away from the emphasis on academic success in the non-grammar schools. Why does failure have to be measured in terms of bad GCSE grades? Why cant we just accept that there is a large proportion of children who will never pass academic exams under any educational model?
    Education system failure should be measured in terms of not being able to give the most number of children the best possible start in their adult lives.

    Non grammar schools should offer a greater range of skill learning which non-academic pupils can benefit from. That, in my view, would give Northern Ireland a system which provides the optimum for giving as many students as much opportunity as possible.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    ‘Non grammar’ schools, and techs, do offer lots of opportunities for the acquisition of non-academic skills and non-academic qualifications. The problem is that they offer little else, and the kids that end up with this particular choice of outcomes are A) selected at age eleven and B) overwhelmingly from less privileged backgrounds than those who are herded into higher education, not necessarily any more appropriately. More plumbing apprenticeships is not the answer.

  • Carl Marks position is not very different from my own.
    Two sons now successfully thru the system. The second not in a job related to his academic standard but at least he has a job.
    And both did the 11 plus…..their choice……and if Mrs FJH and I are opposed to selection……we didnt discourage “their” choice. We were actually glad they made that choice.
    And as I perhaps indicated above in another post people have to travel outside our immediate area to go to grammar schools.

    Of course Mrs FJH and I have as “SeymourMajor” puts it achieved a certain amount of social mobility. And we are perhaps lucky that (at best) our own children are not moving backwards “socially”. Yet while retaining our egalitarian principles/pretensions the thing that angers us is the limiting of opportunities for social advancement in a third generation ….that our route via O Level, A level, Degree, secure employment (trade union rights, large public sector) is so much more limited.
    We were lucky to have finished raising our family when we did in 2004.
    Yet Id caution against “vocational training”.
    Now we all know that there are too many people with too many degrees…….many in nonsensical disciplines like Media Studies, Journalism, Drama, Politics, Hist……..no wait History is ok.
    But as I recall from the early 1960s it was always assumed from I was about 8 years old that Id do the 11 plus.
    There was as I recall three tiers of secondary education.

    1 Grammar for those who passed the 11 plus
    2 Secondary which was for those who failed and probably had a mixture of academic/practical subjects
    3 The Techs/Secondary Modern for the rest.

    Thats how it seemed.
    Now Im sure that an EMPLOYED Plumber or Plasterer is more valuable to Society than an UNEMPLOYED Architect.
    But there is something wonderful about Education itself and being well rounded as a person.
    And frankly limiting university opportunity would only limit social mobility.
    Not many Doctors, Solicitors, Accountants would be signing their children up to courses on Car Mechanics in the local Tech.

  • Alias

    There has been a big shift in attitude over the last couple of decades toward education as a means of unlocking earning potential and away from it being a means to unlock any other form of potential. It’s not so much “What do you want to be?” anymore as “How much do you want to be paid?”

    If you look at the non-technical degrees, it’s clear from the stats that the marketplace no longer attaches a premium to them that would justify the person making any significant financial investment in them. A degree in Arts, History or English, etc, did mark one person out to a potential employer as likely to be smarter or more progressive than another but now it serves the opposite purpose and marks them out as likely to be dumber, since it clearly isn’t smart to invest 3 years and 30k in a degree that see you earn just marginally above the mimium wage. As for the technical degrees, they still offer a good ROI for a student.

    It’s a shame that little or no emphasis is placed on the self-sufficiency of entrepreneurship with folks indoctrinated to look to others to employ them rather than to create their own employment and eventually employ others.

  • Kevin Barry

    Thanks FJH,

    As one of the kids who stood outside the Pillars waiting to go to Violet Hill you described my early mornings for 7 years, however, what you seemingly overlooked is the fact that many whom I went to school with, whether fellow College lads, the Sacred Heart girls my brother chased after on the other bus or the Our Lady’s girls I chased after, quite a few of them decided to sack getting up at stupid o’clock to wait around, going to the bakery to get sausage rolls or caramel squares and sit on a bus and they decided to go to St Micks half a mile away whenever they hit the requisite age as it wouldnt be detrimental to their chances of getting into Uni, but alas, their chances of winning a McRory or Hogan cup final were immediately curtailed (likewise anyone who went to the Abbey in Newry where if they mentioned the phrase ‘Hogan Cup Final’ briought about an immediate detention).

    Some of the families in Lurgan have their cake and eat it; their kids go to a grammar school and endure early mornings (6.30 for us 3) for 3 years, then you get to go to St Micks, well prepared. We stayed on (we’re from Craigavon and don’t get along with the bourgeoisie in Lurgan in all seriousness) in Newry and did well whilst being from a single parent family in a working class estate (que violins). Unfortunately, the rest of the kids in the North don’t get the chances or being able to take advantage of our anomalies that we do in our catchment area but I’m sure if they did things would be a whole lot better.

    The 11+ is an unbelievably cruel way to decide someone’s future. While I agree that many disagree with it but will not see it gone as it provides their kids with opportunities, I always believe their’s a better way to do this, a 14+, their performance over a period of time, anything but this archaic nonsense.

    Parents will always send their kids to what they feel is better schooling, but go to Lurgan at 4pm and you will see stacks of kids walking around in their St Micks’ uniforms, and they are a credit to their parents. Also, those crowds in the mornings are now getting smaller (except for the die hards wanting glory for their sons with football)

  • Thanks Kevin Barry.
    Yep I could remember the name of the Lurgan shop and not being a father of girls had difficulty with the Newry girls school name.
    And yes your 6.30am start is familiar. For many of the kids that Newry or Armagh bus is already the second of the day…….whether from Dollinstown, Waringstown, Craigavon or the Catholic Loughside villages.
    And youre absolutely right about the St Michaels or Lismore or other option at 14. The kids resent the early start and the long journey home.
    Quite possibly I have direct parental experience. LOL.
    But while some of that St Michaels/Lismore option is driven by the kids, I think that the assumption most of the parents make is that the kids will transfer again at 14.
    Its not so much about GOING to Armagh or Newry…its more about NOT GOING to St Pauls, the Junior High, St marys and Brownlow.

  • …oops should read “could not remember the name of the Kurgan shop”

  • FuturePhysicist

    “FuturePhysicist

    My comments are made within the context of 30+ years of selection-based secondary education. The unprecedented turbulence of the last two years has skewed the norm somewhat (though even then my comments still hold true in a few cases known personally to me).

    My comment about the troubles contributing to a state dependent culture was not about those who were rendered physically and mentally incapable of work through specific acts of violence. I don’t know the stats but my reckoning tells me they would make up a very small proportion of the number of people who are state-dependent.

    I have to say I find your comment that some people try to get into prison because its less shameful than the dole absolutely baffling. I’ve never heard anyone claim that as a cause of crime before.”

    I repeat, any employer who can’t face a basic wage employee good enough for his precious little company should get his or her head examined, either close the post and accept you have no desire to hire because you can’t take a buisness risk, or grit your teeth and put your dogmas to the test and hire the best one. I honestly believe many employers are simply turning away candiates who are not mirror images of themselves, not on the basis of qualifications, experience, appearance, attitude or salary expectations.

    This turbulence has been around for at least 5 years, not 2. Take a look at Graduate Fog to see how little these stigmas surrounding graduates do not hold up to the light of day.

    You tell me that people wouldn’t want to go to prision than the dole … then tell me why are trained graduates going into prostitution, terrorism (which they contribute their expertise to) and the drugs trade as ways of clearing their debt, as ways of avoiding the shame of the dole or even dole fraud. It happens … people do it … there is no strawman way of denying it, and if they go to prision then they don’t care. Society did nothing for them and they feel no obligation to society.

    Where else do they have to turn to but crime if both jobs and dole are “off limits” … well there’s always the slavery of unpaid internships with no prospects of a real job isn’t there and suicide I guess.

    People like you never had it so good, and you have the state you hate to thank for it.