20/05/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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


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