Monday, 30 March 2009

SDLP and UUP respond to Bishops' statement

Thanks to Pete at Slugger we can bring you the SDLP and UUP responses to today's statement.

Catholic Commission issues statement

Ten years after the Good Friday Agreement a Sinn Fein Minister has delivered the ultimate act of educational segregation and division with the effective creation of a Catholic 11plus and a Protestant 11plus.

The BBC reports that The Commission for Catholic Education has given the go-ahead for Catholic grammar schools in Northern Ireland to set entrance exams.
However, it has also restated its position that academic selection of any kind should end by 2012.
Some Catholic grammar schools have said they will set entrance exams in the absence of an official test. The commission said that in the absence of a regulated system of transfer, academic test may be appropriate in the short-term, particularly for those post-primary schools which are oversubscribed.

NICCE chairman Bishop Donal McKeown said: “This is a clear statement from the Catholic trustees that academic selection at age 11 has no place in a modern education system.”
The commission stressed that Catholic schools which opt to use the tests must ensure they do not discriminate against any child, avoid a multiplicity of tests and should be used for only a limited period of time.

The church has been trying to keep the support of Catholic parents who want their children to go to a grammar school but who could choose to leave the sector and apply for non-denominational grammar schools instead.

Today’s decision is an honest act on behalf of the Catholic Commission to show some leadership on this issue. It will however do nothing to prevent the inevitable chaos which will now ensue. It is a dark day for politics and a total indictment of Caitriona Ruane’s stewardship as Education Minister.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Bishops expected to make statement on Monday

The Catholic Bishops are expected to make a statement on the future of transfer next Monday. The Bishops have strongly favoured a non-selective system and are not believed to be about to change their mind. There is however major concern about the crisis which has been triggered by the Minister's unilateral decision to introduce a deregulated system. I would not be surprised if the working group calls for an interim state exam for a year or two whilst a long term resolution is found.

Many senior educationalists now believe it is time for the sector to reach agreement on the way forward. Politics has clearly failed and others are going to have to step in and make an effort to provide a road map out of this mess.

One thing for sure. The true extent of this crisis will not hit home to many of our MLA's until next year when parents realise the flaws of a deregulated system and demand action to fix it. Things may get an awful lot worse before they get better.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

SDLP outlines compromise proposals

SDLP's Education spokesperson, Dominic Bradley MLA, outlines the party's views on breaking the deadlock in the Assembly on transfer.

Thanks to Pete Baker at Slugger for the YouTube link.

Monday, 23 March 2009

SDLP seeks to break deadlock

The SDLP is proposing an interim CCEA test and the establishment of a new educator led working group to break the deadlock in the current education crisis. The Party has tabled an amendment to an Alliance Party motion which will be debated in the Assembly on Tuesday.

The amended motion reads:

That this Assembly notes that schools may choose to use an examination as part of their entry criteria under the Minister of Education’s 2010 guidelines; calls on the Minister of Education to ensure the provision of a CCEA test, as she previously proposed, for a maximum period of two years; believes that no school should be allowed to admit its full year 8 pupil quota using the outcomes of that test alone or using any other test; recommends also admission criteria outlined in the Minister’s document transfer 2010 and welcomes the first criterion as a means of ensuring all schools help to tackle social deprivation; and further calls on the Minister of Education to set up a new educator-led working group tasked with building a sustainable consensus on non-selective transfer whose recommendations the Executive and the Assembly would use as the basis for legally binding regulations from 2011 at the latest.

This move will be welcomed by educators and parents who have been placed in an impossible situation since the Minister's unilateral decision to end the 11plus without having any replacement system in place. It will be intersting to see how the other parties react to what appears to be a genuine attempt to show some leadership on this issue.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Ruane is Alice in Wonderland

I have just listened to Ministerial Question Time in The Northern Ireland Assembly with Caitriona Ruane MLA.

During her answers she claimed that the primary curriculum will not be distorted this year because of the ending of the 11plus and that children across the North will NOT spend time in the coming academic year preparing for a test.

This is an unbelievable statement and plainly misleading. True, there will be no state exam but fact is there is already the AQE exam and there will most likely be a Catholic sector exam to select children for grammar schools.

In fact the situation is potentially worse then at any point in the past as children may well have to sit a "Catholic 11plus" and a "Protestant 11plus". All deregulated.

How long will this Assembly let this Minister continue to live like Alice in Wonderland?

Saturday, 14 March 2009

It's creativity stupid

If you are interested in education you will be interested in this vodcast of a TED talk Sir Ken Robinson gave in California about creativity in education. His opening gambit is to point out that my little Clara, age four and in her first year in school will retire sometime around 2070....

I want to thank Paul Smyth for the link.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Education Minister rejects selection proposals

The BBC reports today that the education minister has rejected calls to allow a temporary replacement for the controversial 11-plus exam.

At a special session of the assembly's Education committee on Tuesday, Caitriona Ruane stood by her decision to cancel plans for an interim test.

She had been lobbied by parents' groups and politicians who want an official academic test to run for a few years.

They argued an official test would avoid the likelihood of unregulated tests by the grammar schools.

Mrs Ruane warnd: "Any test operating outside such legislative support is a legal minefield as those within some grammar schools who are proposing this approach are now finding out."
Chairman of the committee Mervyn Storey accused the minister of threatening schools and teachers.

He told the minister her tenure would be judged for "bringing about confusion, division and further segregation".

Ms Ruane said she was disappointed that the committee had failed to send her their own proposals and that its members could not reach consensus.
She denied threatening schools but said a small number were "blocking change".

The final 11-plus was held in Northern Ireland schools last November.

Many Catholic grammar schools have announced they will set independent tests, while more than 30 state schools say they will continue to use academic selection against Ms Ruane's wishes.