Saturday, 7 February 2009

Burns 'deeply regrets' impasse

It's results day and many families will be digesting the last set of 11plus results ever to arrive on a door mat. Next year's pupils have a much more uncertain future with the possibility that many children will have to sit multiple exams in different schools.

Kathryn Torney in the Belfast Telegraph reports on the continued uncertainty and Professor Tony Gallagher's call for compromise first published on this blog.

Gerry Burns, who is Pro-Chancellor of the University of Ulster and chaired a group in 2001 that published a report on the future of the 11-plus and post-primary education, has also said he deeply regrets the continuing row over the future of selection in Northern Ireland.

His, Burns Report, played a big part in Martin McGuinness's decision to do away with the test during his tenure as Education Minister in 2001.

According to the Newsletter, Mr Burns stopped short of direct criticism of Education Minister Caitriona Ruane's role in the current morass, but admits the whole affair has been badly managed.

Mr Burns said his report was aimed at redressing the social problem of disadvantaged children not making it into grammar schools – and the 11-plus was part of that problem.

He said he still stands behind the report and its conclusions but regrets that education has become a political football.

"It's all now in the realm of politics, which is a world I am not familiar with, but I deeply, deeply regret the confrontation that has developed," said Mr Burns.

"One couldn't help but be critical of the way things have developed.

"People in Northern Ireland don't like to be confronted – and when you do that, you will not achieve a great deal.

"I still feel there is room for consensus, I still hope there is – otherwise, people worried about their kids, what do they do?

"Primary teachers are also being forgotten in all of this and they are a very important part of the whole system.

"I just hope there is still some room for compromise."


  1. Interesting list of all the schools who intend to set their own test, due to falling rolls and surplus grammar school places, the current selection system has long been more an indicator of class and ability to pay for a tutor than academic ability. Everyone knows that some of the less popular grammars have been accepting D grades for the last few years, and to be fair some have really added value, which would seem to dispell the myth that selection at 11 is a reliable indicator of future performance.

    This system of school exams could mean that even more pressure is placed on students, after all it would be putting all your eggs in one basket to only apply for one over-subscribed school, so does that mean thats your child has to sit multiple exams for multiple schools?

  2. This blog reflects yet another conflict of interest for educationalists posing as "concerned parents". Professor Tony Gallagher has advised, been paid and reported for the Department of Education (the government body responsible for the current education chaos) from the outset of the current attempt to impose comprehensive education against the will of parents and pupils.

    For the only non-political parental blog addressing parental rights see

    Imitation is said to be a form of flattery but
    “Deception is a cruel act... It often has many players on different stages that corrode the soul.”
    Donna Favors, Member of the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Institute, 1955

    Close to the bone Tony?

  3. Pace NI

    You are welcome to comment on this site. I must point out however that Tony Gallagher is the only educationalist posting here. Everyone else is either a parent or someone with a genuine interest in seeing a resolution to what I am sure we all agree is a very unsatisfactory situation.

    We invited Prof Gallagher to become part of our team because we wanted to ensure expert views were posted here.

    This site is about solutions not political point scoring.

    Thank you for your comment.


You are welcome to comment on the issues being debated. We would ask you to respect other's views and refrain from insulting or personal comments.