“rather than trying to pretend that essentially, testing does not exist”

As the BBC notes, the Northern Ireland Education Minister, the DUP’s Peter Weir, has reversed the department’s previous position prohibiting the use of academic selection to decide what post-primary school pupils transfer to.  That position was set out in 2008 by then NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, and upheld by the subsequent Minister, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd.  From the BBC report A circular sent to school principals on Wednesday removes any prohibition on using academic selection to decide what post-primary school pupils … Read more

A deferred educational revolution prefered to evolution…

Ah, the forces of conservatism are everywhere! It has been revealed by the biggest show in the country that no fewer than eleven primary schools have received warnings for tutoring their pupils for the proliferant 11+ exams… Maggie Taggart in yesterday’s Newsline interviewed the head of one Primary school head who explained that the schools are simply responding to parent pressure and claims that if they don’t provide these sessions in some case parents will take their kids out and … Read more

Sectarian wrangling over sharing and integration can only be averted by raising sights towards higher standards

A debate on the future of education has begun in confusion but at least it’s underway. Since Obama’s speech which was accorded more significance than it deserved, the debate on sharing or integration in education got into a terrible muddle straight away. Is sharing a big step towards integration or the very opposite?  Since promoting its comment columns as The Home of Debate NI, the Belfast Telegraph has thrown its usual ”on the one hand, on the other – let’s … Read more

Catholic Post-Primary Education Reform: “I am anxious to try to build consensus on the way forward”

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’ … Read more

Independent’s editor backs grammar schools

 Behind the turmoil of the current news agenda, something is stirring at  the Independent. The editor Chris Blackhurst, by background a mainly financial journalist, has come out in favour of grammar schools – but without the 11 plus. Mary Anne Sieghart’s column was not a one-off. This is interesting because the Independent positions itself as a freethinking paper outside the party political box. More often it tilts centre leftwards than centre right. Its closest bedfellow among the UK parties is of course … Read more

Grammar schools and social mobility: a Northern Ireland contribution to the debate

Here’s something that won’t make relations between the Education and Finance ministers any easier.. An approving poll for a UK wide campaign to revive grammar schools has received a gushing review from Independent columnist Mary Anne Sieghart. It’s pegged to the general angst about stalled – even reversed – social mobility which all UK political parties share.  Nick Clegg will wring his hands about it again this week . If you wonder why the  references to Northern Ireland are unusually heavy … Read more

Without a new approach to Education, the Minister is condemned to micromanaging micro outcomes…

Well, I didn’t hear it, but apparently the Education minister John O’Dowd let rip this morning on the Nolan Show (42 minutes). But some time earlier, his party colleague Daithi McKay gave a fairly calm account of the Department’s request to school inspectors to report primary schools found to be giving special tuition to pupils sitting grammar school entrance exams: listen to ‘John O’Dowd urges school inspectors to report schools preparing for transfer tests’ on Audioboo I know of no … Read more

Learn from the English experience in secondary schools

Interested parties would do well to examine battles over secondary school admission in England. The Northern Ireland debate, such as it is, is locked in parochialism and stand- off. Unwisely it seems to steer clear of the English experience – on political grounds?-  even though we have broadly the same schools system. The major difference is that in England, academic selection is prohibited in most areas but admissions policy still can be just as controversial. English secondary education, the argument … Read more

“all schools in the Catholic sector should move to an alternative form of transfer as soon as possible and by no later than 2012…”

Six years in the writing, the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) has published its Post-Primary Review Strategic Regional Report. It’s a mixture of proposals of limited school closures, amalgamations… and wishful thinking. As the BBC reports, Catholic Church representatives have been focusing on one issue in particular. Cardinal Brady was speaking at St Mary’s College in Belfast when he criticised continuing academic selection by schools. “It is totally unacceptable that some Catholic schools are, in effect, becoming all ability … Read more

“We believe this is a crude attempt to circumvent the proper and long-established channels of financial accountability within education”

The BBC notes the declared intention of the board of governors of  Catholic grammar school Loreto College to end academic selection from 2012 or 2013 – you can check the most recent figures on Loreto’s academically selected intake here.  By the way, how is that review going?  And the BBC report quotes the Catholic Principals’ Association chair Seamus Quinn CPA chair Seamus Quinn said: “Loreto has followed the moral and spiritual guidance provided by the Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE). “Their decision is an important step … Read more