20/05/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


20/05/2012

Tara Mills looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.


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We're facing the biggest changes in education in a generation. I'll be

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asking the minister John O'Dowd how long the selection impasse can

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1821 seconds

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland.

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Academic selection, falling pupil numbers and school closures. Just

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some of the problems in our education system. But what's the

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solution? We set a former principal the challenge. He helped transform

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a failing school, now he wants our politicians to transform the

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education system. All of this comes during a recession which has wiped

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out thousands of jobs. We'll hear from the Education Minister who

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says schools will have a key role in growing the local economy. And

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to debate all of this, Scott Naismith, principal of Methodist

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College in Belfast, and Professor Deirdre Heenan, provost of the

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University of Ulster's Magee campus. It's a system which needs to change,

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but are there key areas which must be sorted out before that change

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can take place? We asked an award- winning former head teacher to

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produce his own school report. I am a retired principle and I will

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ask what needs to change to improve the system?

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Let me be clear. I am opposed to 11 plus in any form. The pressure on

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children is obscene. Here, time is spent more productively,

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concentrating on the curriculum. This is a maths class. There is no

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teaching to any test. Nine of them opted in and the rest opted out so

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it is my opinion that there is no need for the selection test at the

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end of this year because they are being continually -- continuously

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assessed and being given a quality better take -- education. My old

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friend and fellow principle is equally opposed to the 11 plus exam.

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He wants a revolution in education. Every school to beat a

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comprehensive. Are you sure you would take the risk of changing a

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successful educational system to a completely new system with the

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possibility it didn't work? What we have at the minute totally doesn't

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work. I cannot imagine a more dysfunctional alleged educational

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system than what we have in Northern I am not -- I am a

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believer in selecting children in streams. That's what our present

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system does. No, it doesn't. For the largest -- last two years they

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are subjected to harsh treatment. There is a difference between

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academic selection and the 11 plus. The 11 plus is the problem not

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academic selection. Keep academics election because it works.

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There is some tremendous leadership in our schools and it shows in the

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success and happiness of our schools. Good headteachers know

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what schools and pupils need and we should give them more autonomy. I

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agree with a view that principles need to be better equipped to live

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with leadership skills. As in thin and, I believe every teacher should

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have a master's degree and everyone applying for as a principle should

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have a masters education or work towards it in leadership. The

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answer to it all is to get a correct balance between autonomy

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and what I call "intelligent accountability". I am very

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concerned with an inspectorate which places emphasis on

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examination results are. Where is the trust and respect between the

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school leaders and the schools and the Department of Education? He I

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will now meet one of the people responsible for designing that

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curriculum and supporting the teachers who deliver it. I support

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the view of many teachers that training methods are crucial.

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have a comprehensive range of online training. The intention is

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to allow more teachers time to teach. We have moved from a model

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of professional development which quite often brings a large numbers

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of teachers out of school. Overall I think we are getting it right in

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the curriculum but the thorny issue of selection and some poor

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leadership and the need for autonomy of schools is blighting

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the prospects of our children. There are many children - might

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changes in East Belfast and I would challenge the politicians that the

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children in all of Northern Ireland deserve a first-class education. In

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many aspects, they are getting that but if you definitely need to be

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sorted out and using education as a political football is not right.

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Well, the Education Minister it joins us. We should stop using it

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as a political football. Is that likely? I you will agree with that.

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However, our society is run by it - - politicians. I have a duty to

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make decisions on policies which I believe our right and proper for

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Education and I believe we have done that over a number of years.

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But you can't get them through because of the unique way we are

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governed. Well we have made remarkable progress. The media

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concentrates on other issues but I eat the cat education in its

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totality. In inner-cities, we have improved the educational outcomes

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of young people but we have not done enough. We need to improve the

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education system and we need to challenge ourselves. What about

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secondary schools facing an enormous challenge and they have a

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half Bhagat -- far harder job because they are teaching a lot of

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less able children which is fundamentally unfair. Why cannot

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you change that? There is a changing -- challenge for education

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in the totality. Schools are educators. People who work in post

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primary schools are educators. A pincer -- principle of a school

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address tone school and said, not whether a child is clever but how

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the child is clever. Are you -- the duty is to be an educator and

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promote the growth of the person walking through your door and turn

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them into a valuable member of society. Evidence you quote says

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that social disadvantage is made work by -- worse by the selection

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system. That is a challenge for those whose promote academic

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selection. But your party changed that system and in put anything in

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place and now we have what a lot of people describe as a shambles.

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There is no shambles. There is a system in place. The vast majority

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of our post primary schools use a system which works. The vast

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majority are highly successful. The vast majority send people to you at

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-- universities and all take the same GCSE best macro and same A-

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levels and the same pathways to universities so let us dispel the

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myth that the only way you provide a good education is through the

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selection process. The vast majority of non-selection schools

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do it every day. The top schools in Northern Ireland keep their

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position saves by keeping the selection process. I would reject

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the "top" schools. You cannot measure the success of a school

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based on league tables only. You measure it on the value they add to

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the young 11 year-old who goes through the school doors and these

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at 16 or 18 as a young adult. about the 29,000 pupils who left

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last year without five GCSE qualifications. That is

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unacceptable. When we first... And it was 45% a few years ago and now

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it is 39%. There is a challenge to improve that and the Department of

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Education has taken measures to do that. We need to tackle education

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under -- and achievement in deprived communities. But we still

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have some selection. I am as opposed to selection and rejection

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of young children going to school. When you fundamentally oppose

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selection, how do you feel as the Minister knowing that you can't get

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it pushed through? I know that two of the other parties are opposed.

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And I also sit back the executive table no - my knowing the Catholic

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Church is opposed. The trade union it needs to stand up to this and so

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do civic society because many changes in our society have not

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always be delivered with politicians. Sometimes it can be

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argued that politicians have followed. I believe it is time for

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civic society to stand up and be counted because it is about

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improving the life of the individual and our society.

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civic society is completely divided on this. There are different voices

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on this. The two commentators you had on who were highly respected

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educators were divided. But there is a strong voice with regard to

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this both in education and the social level but we have to remove

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academic selection from our society to have a firm of playing field.

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No-one is talking about removing academic excellence. It seems you

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are prepared to accept the status quo go because are you campaigning

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vociferously in the Executive? said, I don't think we will change

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the DUP's mind in the current format. What is your target date?

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Do you think you will accept the status quo for five years or 10

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years? I have never accepted the status quo in my life and what I

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will not start now. I believe that civic society and those in civic

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society need to raise their voices who are opposed and stand-up.

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you are a minister and you are in charge? The current system will

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work against me but I will not accept it. I am putting a challenge

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out to society. Let us hear or your voices and let us change the minds

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of the politicians and the DUP. Democratic politics shouldn't be

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just left to those on the hill. Democratic politics is about the

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entire society involving itself and this is one issue where they should

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be involved. Scott Naismith you are perfectly placed to answer this.

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Should you be one of those principles campaigning for an end

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to selection.? No, I am a supporter of it. We are trying to provide

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opportunities for all pupils who come through the door and

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opportunities to add value to their lives and the education of all

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pupils. We say the best way to do that is to have pupils grouped

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together so we can target there needs and meet what the

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requirements are. Academics election allows for that. One thing

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I would like to challenge strongly is the idea of rejection. It is

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always talked about branding children as failures. That is not

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the case and no principle things a child he was unable to get through

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their door is a failure. The environment in their school and the

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teachers are trained and able to provide them with the best

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opportunities. But everyone is pretty much the same. What is your

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free school meals quotient, for example? There are differences.

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you have a socio-economic mix? Pupils from a good sizable number

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of people from varied backgrounds? We have people who come from

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different ethnic and religious backgrounds and town and country.

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We do work in order to encourage pupils from those backgrounds to

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consider applying to the college. That is a big barrier - not the

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academic selection but the self- limiting view that some people have,

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like, "that is not for us". They have to do the selection test.

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Improvements could be made their absolutely. What is the type of

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education? Grammar school teacher a curriculum at post primary school

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level. There is no different curriculum in grammar schools.

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Surely an educator has a challenge to build the young puzzled to be

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everything that young person can be across academia, vocation or a

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mixture of both. Scots teach the exact same curriculum as a non-

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selective school. What is the type of education? Perhaps that is a

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problem way you try to move basic - might was a system where you have

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the same curriculum at every single school and that is maybe not what

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every child needs. When you have selection at 11 or further on, the

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school can best tailor the provision to the pupils who come

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through the door. When it comes to the overview, the research says

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that a child from a poor background who is less able should be in with

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pupils who are more able because it brings everyone up. I don't agree.

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The research is contradictory. I could use one piece of research to

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support one I argument and you could find some to support another.

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It is wrong to say the evidence points in one direction. It does

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not. We had a large-scale study last year from the University of

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Buckingham Sher and they found that selective schools produce the best

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out comes because the reality is children have different abilities

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and the system should recognise that. I think they will -- there is

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a role for academic selection and we need to talk about how and when

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we do it. The 11 plus causes pain and grief but to remove something

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without having something to replace it is poor governance. That is

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incorrect. It isn't. We have a plethora of unrelated tests. As a

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parent and governor it is coat -- parents out there, I can tell you.

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People are dismayed by the system. They cannot understand how we have

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got here. If the Minister is pushing towards a comprehensive

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system, the comprehensive system in England failed. Two weeks ago,

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Baroness Shirley Williams at the University of Ulster, one of the

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architects of the comprehensive system, said it was a failure.

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not looking to establish a in -- and English all-Scottish system but

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a system that works for young people here. I'm sure there young

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people in your universities who have come from non- selective

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schools. Are the I'm sure there'll thousands. Of course. There are

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different abilities. They are nothing wrong with saying that.

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There is a difficulty in rejecting a child... No one is. 12,000

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children sat that test nasty and 8000 got into grammar school so by

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simple mathematics, 4000 children were rejected. Schools are

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rejecting the young people. We are the only paid -- place in Europe

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that selects is blatantly untrue. Look at the German system, they say

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to individuals throughout their prime the school, based on English

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and maths, we will decide on what the best route is for you. I am

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sorry, we are out of time. You will Apologies were at the heart of our

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political week. Here's Gareth Police admitted keeping more than

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60 body parts for use in investigations and said sorry.

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behalf of the police service and the Chief Constable, we apologise

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for the upset that may have been caused.

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The junior minister found himself out of bounds. He said sorry.

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was a clumsy use of a language which I regret using -- using.

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I'm sorry. The Attorney General drop his legal action. A disavowal

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of any attack on the integrity of our judges. Alex Attwood considered

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allowing 16 year-olds to get a provisional licence. The Balmoral

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show was staged for the last time on its present site which made some

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farmers sorrel -- sorry. I will miss it because it has been a hum

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What about a single test? Is that a bit of a compromise that would make

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things easier? You do not need academic selection for children to

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enter school or separate schools for children to be taught at. You

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can achieve academic excellence in a single school and you can achieve

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academic vocational axe -- excellence there. When will you get

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it for everybody then? Grammars schools refused to use the current

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