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Exploring Education Policy in Northern Ireland Escalate Seminar Regents College November, 13, 2003 Penny McKeown, QUB.

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Presentation on theme: "Exploring Education Policy in Northern Ireland Escalate Seminar Regents College November, 13, 2003 Penny McKeown, QUB."— Presentation transcript:

1 Exploring Education Policy in Northern Ireland Escalate Seminar Regents College November, 13, 2003 Penny McKeown, QUB

2 ISSUES CONFRONTING THE SCHOOL SYSTEM Excellent public examination performance relative to rest of UK Fewer pupils in Northern Ireland achieving no GCSEs relative to rest of UK

3 HOWEVER continuing divisions and civil unrest in our society continuing high levels of adult functional illiteracy Uneven levels of attainment between schools – stubborn problem areas steady decline of school-age population questions about the values & relevance of the current compulsory curriculum

4 State (Controlled) Catholic (Maintained) IntegratedIrish-Medium (Maintained) Independent PRIMARY SCHOOLS THE 11+ (TRANSFER) UNSUCCESSFULOPTED-OUTSUCCESS SELECTIVE SCHOOLS Catholic voluntary grammar schools Non-Catholic VGS State (Controlled) GS NON-SELECTIVE SCHOOLS State (Controlled) secondary schools Catholic (Maintained) secondary schools Integrated schools (GMI & Controlled) Irish-Medium schools

5 Review of the post-primary school system as case study of policy process Continuing dissatisfaction in many quarters about the retention since 1947 of a bipartite system: grammar and secondary schools, but also a strong grammar school lobby. Refusal by Ministers, under Direct Rule, to confront this issue – considered to be a matter for local decision-making. Also, needed an objective information base

6 Research on Effects of Selection Commissioned 1997, under Direct Rule, by Tony Worthington, Minister of State Reported Autumn 2000

7 Main Findings close link between social background and performance; reinforced by selective arrangements high average exam performance by pupils in grammar schools, but great variability in the secondary sector, leading to a long tail of low-achieving schools a range of heavy negative impacts on children and on primary schools

8 Main Findings (2) divergent perceptions of the teachers role among grammar and secondary teachers strong sense among secondary school pupils and teachers of being held in lower esteem by society

9 Burns Review Group Set up by Minister in September, 2000 to make recommendations for change Reported 2001 Recommendations based on a set of Guiding Principles which affirmed the value of every child, and sought to maximise each childs talents through his or her schooling

10 Burns Recommendations Abolition of the 11+ tests and the ending of academic selection at 11 setting up of a new formative assessment system for primary school children to address all their needs, aptitudes and interests. This would help to inform choice of post-primary school, but could not be used by post-primary schools as a means of selection. establishment of collaborative groups of post primary schools, called collegiates

11 Burns Review Public consultation inaugurated by Martin McGuinness, Minister for Education. Respondents invited to make: comments on the Review Body's proposals; suggestions as to modifications or variations of the Review Body's proposals; suggestions as to alternative arrangements.

12 Consultation Strands Ministerial Meetings (28 with the education partners) Written Submissions (1,300 received) Detailed Response Booklets (510 schools responded: 40% of all schools) Household Response Forms (200,000 returned) Focus groups with 14-19 yr. olds

13 Ministers Report on responses to consultation (Oct., 2002) a demand for change in respect of unacceptable aspects of the current system an obligation to value all learners and enable each to develop talents fully an emerging consensus on some key issues (though also considerable opposition to the ending of selection)

14 Ministerial Response Transfer tests to be abolished after 2004 Ministerial discussions with Assembly and education stakeholders to take forward Review Proposals for system change by December, 2002

15 Suspension of Devolution, October, 2002 Confirmation of the ending of the Transfer tests by Jane Kennedy, Minister of State April 2003, appointed a working group to make recommendations for change.

16 Remit of Group development of alternative transfer procedures with a view to the current Transfer Tests being withdrawn as soon as practicable; development of a Pupil Profile to inform parental and pupil choice; access for all young people to a broader curriculum providing greater choice; flexible arrangements that can meet the developing needs of young people; greater co-operation and collaboration among schools and with the further education sector; the development of local arrangements that meet local needs, wishes and circumstances.

17 Also, advise on: guiding principles and measurable outcomes for future post-primary arrangements; criteria for the development and assessment of proposals together with measures to encourage and support their development and implementation; outline arrangements for the planning and implementation of future post-primary arrangements.

18 Developments since the date of the seminar in November, 2003 The report of the working group, chaired by S. Costello was published by the Minister in early 2004. A number of changes from the Burns recommendations Minister accepted these, and indicated that the last Transfer tests will take place in 2008.

19 Change since return to Direct Rule End of the period of active review of some key issues in the school system, and the promotion of agreed solutions education issues again relegated to the political part-time initiatives which continue to develop are being driven again by officials

20 The education policy process under devolution Devolution made considerable difference to the processes which had shaped and steered the nature and parameters of the debate, all the main political parties provided public statements of their views and priorities about education the debate on reform had legitimacy, status, a comprehensive remit and the resources necessary to conduct this fully

21 Contd.(2) Now, general acceptance of Burns Guiding Principles has firmly put the worth and needs of every child on an equal footing, at the core of the debate opened up democratic participation, to give voice to all who can use it. Level of responses may reflect a view by the public that their views may actually make a difference to the final decision

22 Contd. (3) Obligation on education providers and stakeholders to engage with their constituents in order to generate responses Provided space for groups to expand the definition of difference beyond its historical connotation in Northern Ireland, primarily acknowledged around an axis of religious affiliation combined with academic selection

23 Contd. (4) Contrast between Ministerial agency under devolution with subsequent Direct Rule Importance of personal attitudes and motivation of the Minister: willingness to confront difficulty Importance of local accountability throughout process. Local politicians are accessible, susceptible to pressure, and democratically accountable

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