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
asking the minister John O'Dowd how long the selection impasse can
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1821 seconds
Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland.
Academic selection, falling pupil numbers and school closures. Just
some of the problems in our education system. But what's the
solution? We set a former principal the challenge. He helped transform
a failing school, now he wants our politicians to transform the
education system. All of this comes during a recession which has wiped
out thousands of jobs. We'll hear from the Education Minister who
says schools will have a key role in growing the local economy. And
to debate all of this, Scott Naismith, principal of Methodist
College in Belfast, and Professor Deirdre Heenan, provost of the
University of Ulster's Magee campus. It's a system which needs to change,
but are there key areas which must be sorted out before that change
can take place? We asked an award- winning former head teacher to
produce his own school report. I am a retired principle and I will
ask what needs to change to improve the system?
Let me be clear. I am opposed to 11 plus in any form. The pressure on
children is obscene. Here, time is spent more productively,
concentrating on the curriculum. This is a maths class. There is no
teaching to any test. Nine of them opted in and the rest opted out so
it is my opinion that there is no need for the selection test at the
end of this year because they are being continually -- continuously
assessed and being given a quality better take -- education. My old
friend and fellow principle is equally opposed to the 11 plus exam.
He wants a revolution in education. Every school to beat a
comprehensive. Are you sure you would take the risk of changing a
successful educational system to a completely new system with the
possibility it didn't work? What we have at the minute totally doesn't
work. I cannot imagine a more dysfunctional alleged educational
system than what we have in Northern I am not -- I am a
believer in selecting children in streams. That's what our present
system does. No, it doesn't. For the largest -- last two years they
are subjected to harsh treatment. There is a difference between
academic selection and the 11 plus. The 11 plus is the problem not
academic selection. Keep academics election because it works.
There is some tremendous leadership in our schools and it shows in the
success and happiness of our schools. Good headteachers know
what schools and pupils need and we should give them more autonomy. I
agree with a view that principles need to be better equipped to live
with leadership skills. As in thin and, I believe every teacher should
have a master's degree and everyone applying for as a principle should
have a masters education or work towards it in leadership. The
answer to it all is to get a correct balance between autonomy
and what I call "intelligent accountability". I am very
concerned with an inspectorate which places emphasis on
examination results are. Where is the trust and respect between the
school leaders and the schools and the Department of Education? He I
will now meet one of the people responsible for designing that
curriculum and supporting the teachers who deliver it. I support
the view of many teachers that training methods are crucial.
have a comprehensive range of online training. The intention is
to allow more teachers time to teach. We have moved from a model
of professional development which quite often brings a large numbers
of teachers out of school. Overall I think we are getting it right in
the curriculum but the thorny issue of selection and some poor
leadership and the need for autonomy of schools is blighting
the prospects of our children. There are many children - might
changes in East Belfast and I would challenge the politicians that the
children in all of Northern Ireland deserve a first-class education. In
many aspects, they are getting that but if you definitely need to be
sorted out and using education as a political football is not right.
Well, the Education Minister it joins us. We should stop using it
as a political football. Is that likely? I you will agree with that.
However, our society is run by it - - politicians. I have a duty to
make decisions on policies which I believe our right and proper for
Education and I believe we have done that over a number of years.
But you can't get them through because of the unique way we are
governed. Well we have made remarkable progress. The media
concentrates on other issues but I eat the cat education in its
totality. In inner-cities, we have improved the educational outcomes
of young people but we have not done enough. We need to improve the
education system and we need to challenge ourselves. What about
secondary schools facing an enormous challenge and they have a
half Bhagat -- far harder job because they are teaching a lot of
less able children which is fundamentally unfair. Why cannot
you change that? There is a changing -- challenge for education
in the totality. Schools are educators. People who work in post
primary schools are educators. A pincer -- principle of a school
address tone school and said, not whether a child is clever but how
the child is clever. Are you -- the duty is to be an educator and
promote the growth of the person walking through your door and turn
them into a valuable member of society. Evidence you quote says
that social disadvantage is made work by -- worse by the selection
system. That is a challenge for those whose promote academic
selection. But your party changed that system and in put anything in
place and now we have what a lot of people describe as a shambles.
There is no shambles. There is a system in place. The vast majority
of our post primary schools use a system which works. The vast
majority are highly successful. The vast majority send people to you at
-- universities and all take the same GCSE best macro and same A-
levels and the same pathways to universities so let us dispel the
myth that the only way you provide a good education is through the
selection process. The vast majority of non-selection schools
do it every day. The top schools in Northern Ireland keep their
position saves by keeping the selection process. I would reject
the "top" schools. You cannot measure the success of a school
based on league tables only. You measure it on the value they add to
the young 11 year-old who goes through the school doors and these
at 16 or 18 as a young adult. about the 29,000 pupils who left
last year without five GCSE qualifications. That is
unacceptable. When we first... And it was 45% a few years ago and now
it is 39%. There is a challenge to improve that and the Department of
Education has taken measures to do that. We need to tackle education
under -- and achievement in deprived communities. But we still
have some selection. I am as opposed to selection and rejection
of young children going to school. When you fundamentally oppose
selection, how do you feel as the Minister knowing that you can't get
it pushed through? I know that two of the other parties are opposed.
And I also sit back the executive table no - my knowing the Catholic
Church is opposed. The trade union it needs to stand up to this and so
do civic society because many changes in our society have not
always be delivered with politicians. Sometimes it can be
argued that politicians have followed. I believe it is time for
civic society to stand up and be counted because it is about
improving the life of the individual and our society.
civic society is completely divided on this. There are different voices
on this. The two commentators you had on who were highly respected
educators were divided. But there is a strong voice with regard to
this both in education and the social level but we have to remove
academic selection from our society to have a firm of playing field.
No-one is talking about removing academic excellence. It seems you
are prepared to accept the status quo go because are you campaigning
vociferously in the Executive? said, I don't think we will change
the DUP's mind in the current format. What is your target date?
Do you think you will accept the status quo for five years or 10
years? I have never accepted the status quo in my life and what I
will not start now. I believe that civic society and those in civic
society need to raise their voices who are opposed and stand-up.
you are a minister and you are in charge? The current system will
work against me but I will not accept it. I am putting a challenge
out to society. Let us hear or your voices and let us change the minds
of the politicians and the DUP. Democratic politics shouldn't be
just left to those on the hill. Democratic politics is about the
entire society involving itself and this is one issue where they should
be involved. Scott Naismith you are perfectly placed to answer this.
Should you be one of those principles campaigning for an end
to selection.? No, I am a supporter of it. We are trying to provide
opportunities for all pupils who come through the door and
opportunities to add value to their lives and the education of all
pupils. We say the best way to do that is to have pupils grouped
together so we can target there needs and meet what the
requirements are. Academics election allows for that. One thing
I would like to challenge strongly is the idea of rejection. It is
always talked about branding children as failures. That is not
the case and no principle things a child he was unable to get through
their door is a failure. The environment in their school and the
teachers are trained and able to provide them with the best
opportunities. But everyone is pretty much the same. What is your
free school meals quotient, for example? There are differences.
you have a socio-economic mix? Pupils from a good sizable number
of people from varied backgrounds? We have people who come from
different ethnic and religious backgrounds and town and country.
We do work in order to encourage pupils from those backgrounds to
consider applying to the college. That is a big barrier - not the
academic selection but the self- limiting view that some people have,
like, "that is not for us". They have to do the selection test.
Improvements could be made their absolutely. What is the type of
education? Grammar school teacher a curriculum at post primary school
level. There is no different curriculum in grammar schools.
Surely an educator has a challenge to build the young puzzled to be
everything that young person can be across academia, vocation or a
mixture of both. Scots teach the exact same curriculum as a non-
selective school. What is the type of education? Perhaps that is a
problem way you try to move basic - might was a system where you have
the same curriculum at every single school and that is maybe not what
every child needs. When you have selection at 11 or further on, the
school can best tailor the provision to the pupils who come
through the door. When it comes to the overview, the research says
that a child from a poor background who is less able should be in with
pupils who are more able because it brings everyone up. I don't agree.
The research is contradictory. I could use one piece of research to
support one I argument and you could find some to support another.
It is wrong to say the evidence points in one direction. It does
not. We had a large-scale study last year from the University of
Buckingham Sher and they found that selective schools produce the best
out comes because the reality is children have different abilities
and the system should recognise that. I think they will -- there is
a role for academic selection and we need to talk about how and when
we do it. The 11 plus causes pain and grief but to remove something
without having something to replace it is poor governance. That is
incorrect. It isn't. We have a plethora of unrelated tests. As a
parent and governor it is coat -- parents out there, I can tell you.
People are dismayed by the system. They cannot understand how we have
got here. If the Minister is pushing towards a comprehensive
system, the comprehensive system in England failed. Two weeks ago,
Baroness Shirley Williams at the University of Ulster, one of the
architects of the comprehensive system, said it was a failure.
not looking to establish a in -- and English all-Scottish system but
a system that works for young people here. I'm sure there young
people in your universities who have come from non- selective
schools. Are the I'm sure there'll thousands. Of course. There are
different abilities. They are nothing wrong with saying that.
There is a difficulty in rejecting a child... No one is. 12,000
children sat that test nasty and 8000 got into grammar school so by
simple mathematics, 4000 children were rejected. Schools are
rejecting the young people. We are the only paid -- place in Europe
that selects is blatantly untrue. Look at the German system, they say
to individuals throughout their prime the school, based on English
and maths, we will decide on what the best route is for you. I am
sorry, we are out of time. You will Apologies were at the heart of our
political week. Here's Gareth Police admitted keeping more than
60 body parts for use in investigations and said sorry.
behalf of the police service and the Chief Constable, we apologise
for the upset that may have been caused.
The junior minister found himself out of bounds. He said sorry.
was a clumsy use of a language which I regret using -- using.
I'm sorry. The Attorney General drop his legal action. A disavowal
of any attack on the integrity of our judges. Alex Attwood considered
allowing 16 year-olds to get a provisional licence. The Balmoral
show was staged for the last time on its present site which made some
farmers sorrel -- sorry. I will miss it because it has been a hum
What about a single test? Is that a bit of a compromise that would make
things easier? You do not need academic selection for children to
enter school or separate schools for children to be taught at. You
can achieve academic excellence in a single school and you can achieve
academic vocational axe -- excellence there. When will you get
it for everybody then? Grammars schools refused to use the current