At last a decision on an educational matter of substance … or is it? Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has announced an end to educational selection at 11 with the introduction of some form of decision making process by children at the age of 14. But.. did you ever get the feeling that the battle is only just starting?
For one thing the grammar schools are not going to like this and the minister’s suggestion that their funding could be in danger will really stir some anger. The minister said that although she understands grammar schools may need time to adjust to a new system if they choose to run independent admissions arrangements, they may not get government funding. Whoa…… is that the sound of girding of loins I hear? The grammar school have done a fabulous jobs under the 11+ system but to believe they will back down, and throw away the privilege they enjoy, is pretty fanciful. I predict a lot of squirming and lobbying by these schools, their parents and alumni. Watch this space.
Of course, the DUP nailed their colours to the mast on this one when at the Edinburgh talks they raised the matter of academic selection and managed to have Martin McGuinness’ plans shelved. So a pretty substantial unionist vote is going to go against these plans. Maybe our saviour will be the Paisley/McGuinness relationship. When they finish laughing things up in New York, good luck on that front by the ways guys, maybe Ian will tell Martin that the DUP were only joking in Edinburgh and really they support the abolition of selection at 11. I’m holding my breath here……………
But there is another problem with the announcement and the BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent, Maggie Taggart, puts it very well:
“The minister’s announcement is strong on aspiration, but low on detail. She says local area groups will be formed to decide what sort of schools they will have – whether they are for 11-14 year-olds, 14-19 or 11-19. There are no details about who will sit on the groups and what areas they will cover.
After 2010, if a school has too many applications, pupils will be selected on the grounds of where they live and whether they have family members already at the school.”
Now…. that is a battle set to rage for years! In one move Catriona may have redeemed the Northern Ireland housing market! If your house is near a successful grammar school, with lots of playing fields, science rooms, computer suites and a nice low pupil/teacher ratio… hold on to it for a couple of years. When the dust settles on this school argument it should be worth a fortune!
So… what do you think?
Has the minister made the right decision?
Will the decision stand the cold steel of political debate?
Will parents support this move?
Over to you….
(Note:Picture shows Lumen Christi Grammar School, Derry)