Following on from the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) belated publication of its Post-Primary Review Strategic Regional Report, individual dioceses are bringing forward their suggestions. The first one out of the blocks appears to concern Catholic maintained schools in Londonderry.
The Derry Diocese Administrator, Monsignor Eamon Martin, has published “Together Towards Tomorrow – a discussion paper re Post-Primary Education in the Derry City Area”. [Direct link to 9mb pdf file here].
This Discussion Paper explains the opportunities offered in a ‘partnership’ model and sets out a vision for what it called the Le Chéile Partnership of Catholic Post-Primary Schools. It proposes a phased transition away from the use of academic selection as an admissions criterion and the possibility of substantive change to the shape of post-16 education in the Project Area. Anticipating the possibility of ‘bilateral’ status in the short term for the City’s current grammar schools, the Paper commends a move to co-education for all and makes suggestions about future admissions criteria for schools.
According to the BBC report, the proposals got a rocky reception at a meeting on Wednesday night.
A number of parents criticised a proposal to base school admissions on where a child lives: “zoning”.
One parent said: “If they do push it through my youngest child will go to the worst performing secondary school in the town because of where I live.
“It’s the children from disadvantaged areas that are going to be worst affected”.
Parents also expressed fears that they would lose the ability to decide on important matters.
The decisions include whether or not their child sits a transfer test and whether or not they go to a single sex school.
“Choice is the biggest factor,” said one man.
“It’s not to do with streaming. It’s a very serious thing.
“I have a child coming up now to secondary school and I want to see choice, it should be there”.
The discussion period has been extended from its original deadline, of 31st May, to June 22nd. But as the principal of Lumen Christi College told the BBC in February
Pat O’Doherty, the principal of Lumen Christi College in Derry, said his school remained committed to academic selection.
“At the moment it would take an awful lot to convince me that academic selection is not the best way of education for those pupils who are academically capable,” he said.
“At the end of the day it comes down to parental choice and if there are parents out there who wish to retain grammar schools then that choice should be honoured.”
‘Choice’, of course, was a notable absentee from the then NI Education Minister’s 2008 “Every School a Good School” proposals. [Unless the choice is of a supernatural variety! – Ed] Indeed.