What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? In political terms, the nearest thing to such a clash was the non-event which did not happen at the Executive meeting of Stormont last Thursday.
This clash had been anticipated ever since the day the first Executive was formed following the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein, firstly by Martin McGuinness and subsequently by Caitriona Ruane have persistently pursued the destruction of academic selection and the Grammar School System.
Of course, it is inaccurate to describe Ruane as an irresistible force. It is more accurate to say that she is intransigent and inflexible almost certainly because she is driven by her left-wing ideology. The description of the DUP as an immovable object is much more accurate as it sums up their politics since their recently retired leader, Ian Paisley formed the Protestant Unionist Party all those years ago.
Though the saga relating to the Grammar Schools is now about 8 years old, I begin specific reference to it from last Autumn. We were in the last year for the sitting of the 11+ transfer test before it ceased to exist under the provisions of the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. There had been no consensus on an alternative means of selection for Grammar schools. The situation was becoming extremely urgent as we were about to reach the point where the present crop of P6 primary students would normally have started preparing next year’s transfer test.
On 10th November 2008, a motion, introduced by the UUP was passed by the Assembly calling upon the Minister to re-introduce the 11 plus for a further 3 years pending the implementation of an agreed formula to replace it. She refused and I argued that she was unfit to continue in office and that sanctions should have been applied.Instead, she continued to pursue a previously rejected proposal to wind-down academic selection over a 3-year period and then make it illegal for schools to take into account the academic abilities of a child during the post-primary transfer process.
On Friday, 31st January, we learned that all Catholic Grammar Schools will be revealing their new admissions arrangements within days. Some will have their own specific admissions test. Others will use a Common Entrance Exam test. With central cohesion over admissions gone, this is appalling for the children. Instead of having to sit one test, they could be sitting a number of them. It is a recipe for chaos and increased pressure on children and their parents.
With Sinn Fein’s pursuit of dismantling the Grammar School System having now hit the buffers, one wonders what next for Sinn Fein on this issue. There is no doubt that their standing within the Catholic Community has been severely diminished now that the chaos resulting from the failure to provide an alternative to the 11+ has impacted directly on primary school children, teachers and parents. Sinn Fein now has little choice but to embark on a damage limitation exercise.
Perhaps their best hope is that success in the forthcoming European Elections eclipses their humiliating failure.
Filed under: Academic selection, Assembly, Caitriona Ruane, Conservative Party, DUP, Education, eleven plus, European Elections, Ideology, Martin McGuiness, Sinn Fein, Stormont, UUP | Tagged: Academic selection, Assembly, Caitriona Ruane, Conservative Party, DUP, Education, eleven plus, European Elections, Ideology, Martin McGuiness, Power Sharing, Sinn Fein, Stormont, UUP | Leave a Comment »