Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein must learn grammar lesson

Editor's Viewpoint

One of the main findings of the educational tables published in today's Belfast Telegraph is that selective grammar schools are more popular than ever, with demands for places at record levels.

There were 12,047 applications last year, up from 11,844 in 2014. In fact, only one school was undersubscribed, down from three in 2014. These figures underline that the demand for selection remains irrespective of what the education policymakers are trying to impose.

Writing in today's paper, Education Minister John O'Dowd talks about the need for pupils to have access to as wide a range of subjects as possible, which presumably is his main argument against the selection process.

He states: "It is clear that young people need to study subjects which develop a wide range of skills - both intellectual and practical - in order to have the choice of both professional/technical and academic pathways."

He is entitled to his point of view, but so are parents. Their choice of education for their children is vital, and the figures show clearly that there is a significant and increasing demand for selection.

Sinn Fein has controlled the Education Department since the beginning of devolution, but it has not raised the standards in the secondary modern sector.

It has not put its stamp on education, and, if anything, it has created a more confused picture, rather than less.

Sinn Fein placed a high emphasis on education when it made it a key portfolio, but it will be interesting to see if it wants to make it one of its departmental choices after the next election.

It needs to face up to the reality that the popularity of both transfer procedures underlines their sustained cross-community support, and that is something all the education policymakers must take on board.

Sinn Fein continues to talk a great deal about its education policy, and Mr O'Dowd is no different from his party colleagues, but it is clear that the policy has its determined and numerous critics, who have equally strong views and will not be silenced.

Despite the torrent of words on the subject, there remains a strong perception among parents in all communities they are being treated as Sinn Fein would like them to be, but, crucially, not how they are in reality. Sinn Fein must face up to this.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph