Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Has Ruane been the ruin of education? Discuss

Congratulations to Education minister Caitriona Ruane who this week finally saw off the 11-plus.

Only to see it replaced by the Continuity 11-plus. Caitriona herself saluted this momentous milestone in our history: “I would like to say to all children receiving their 11-plus results you were the last to take this test, you were the last ones to sit anxiously awaiting a grade that determines the school you will go to.”

Her words may not come as complete comfort to parents of P6 (and under) children now sitting anxiously awaiting to see what sort of system will in future determine the school their child goes to.

A large number of grammar schools (both state and Catholic) have already signalled that they will continue using academic selection — only this time involving their own private tests.

So despite what Caitriona says, come next year it is indeed entirely likely that several thousand more primary pupils will again be anxiously awaiting the grade that determines etc, etc

Throughout the wrangling that has led us up to this point the Education Minister has insisted that her determination to abolish academic selection has been all about equality.

She’s certainly achieved an equality of bafflement.

Worried parents and long-suffering teachers are left wondering what precisely happens next.

Private tests. Talk of legal action (more money for our bewigged friends). Non-academic admissions guidelines ranging from whether you have a sibling already at the school, you get free school meals or you live within a certain radius (the old postcode lottery)

To add to the concern of parents and teachers is the succinct comment from the Commission for Catholic Education that it is setting up a working group to “try to manage the chaos”.

‘Chaos’ just about says it all.

Sure there are problems in some areas of education in Northern Ireland. Everybody accepts that. But the Ruanation of education is not the solution.

Concentrating on those areas which truly needed fixing would have produced more impressive (and more widely acceptable) results.

What the minister has been proposing is the equivalent of the doctor who on seeing the patient has a broken leg, kills him and attempts to rebuild him from scratch. Re-setting the broken bit did not appear to be an option.

How to re-set the system now in Northern Ireland?

The Alliance Party, which is opposed to selection, have come up with a common sense suggestion that we give the 11-plus another couple of years — to avoid what just about everybody suspects will be selection chaos.

As MLA Trevor Dunn says: “There is now complete consternation among parents, teachers and pupils as to what system will be used to select children for all secondary and grammar schools.”

Chaos and consternation?

And to think its critics said the 11-plus was stressful

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