4/25/2008

Don't fund them!

I haven't really ventured into the education debate up until now. That said the recent move by some elitist schools has changed all that.


I am the first to admit that at the start of all of this I didn't really see where Caitriona Ruane was going with her reforms but the last month or so has changed that for me.

Before I get into the entire debate on the future of education I think it only fair to outline my own experience.

I was one of the 30% of children for whom the 11+ didn't classify as a failure, I got an A. Up until the results day and even shortly afterwards I was fully expecting to go to my local secondary school, my parents were told that I had the brains to go to Grammar school but that my poor handwriting would stop that happening.

They were wrong.

After I got an A my parents felt that I would be happier going to a Grammar with the rest of my friends as they were all heading to the Abbey CBS. As a result the Principal of my primary school told me that she was not signing forms for me to go to a secondary school, in effect giving me the push I needed.

I have to say that bar a few quite nasty months at the end of my 7th year I loved my 7 years in the Abbey, I was always more academically inclined. Being a carpenter or an electrician held no sway with me. From almost my first day in the Abbey I decided that I wanted to be a Solicitor and that's the career path that I have followed.

I have no doubts that were it not for my time in the Abbey I would not be in the position that I am today.

It may sound weird but the 11+ made me realise that I wasn't a failure as I had very low self confidence after a very nasty experience with a poor teacher who told me that I was good for nothing.

The problem with the 11+ is that I was one of the lucky ones, for many other people it labelled them a failure at the age of 10 and that is criminal in my eyes.

While my parents didn't expect me to pass the 11+ they did expect my younger brother to pass. They fully expected him to be joining me in the Abbey, this didn't happen. I can still remember his tears at the time and it was heart breaking.

He went to the local secondary and is now in Uni training to be a PE teacher.

My youngest brother will be the last child to do the 11+ this September and his teacher, the same one that I had, said he has a good chance of passing. I am a bit concerned because he is already talking about going to the Abbey and studying law like me.

I'm concerned because the 11+ is lottery, it's a cruel lottery and most children don't benefit from it.

I am 100% opposed to the 11+ and I fully support Caitriona Ruane in the work that she is doing because I have seen the cracks that children fall through because of it.

I know young fellas at 18 and 19 who have left school and who can't read or write, I'm not joking. Imagine in this day and age a young fella leaving school with out basic literacy and numeric skills.

It's an outrage!

Many people have accused, Unionist's mostly, me of being a hypocrite. They argue that I have benefited from a Grammar school education yet I support denying that to others.

That isn't the case at all; I oppose the current system because most other children didn't get the same standard of education that I received.

I'm not the kind of person that believes everyone should go to University, I don't and it would be wrong to suggest that. University is not for everyone and some children would benefit from a more vocational style of education.

I want to see the bar raised for everyone, not just the top 30%.

I was disgusted when Lumen Christi College broke ranks and said they were imposing their own system. As far as I am concerned they are nothing more than a bunch of elitists and the Catholic Church should have come down on them like a tonne of bricks.

The principal of that school suggested that she had no right to ban academic selection. As the minister for Education she has every right and we are not going to let a minority of snobs dictate to the rest of us.
There are 229 secondary schools in the North; we are not going to let the minority dictate the rules for all.

If Lumen Christi is so concerned then they should go the whole hog and declare themselves a private school and stop taking public money.

If you want to be in our club you play by our rules, it's that simple.

I also see that a further 31 Grammar schools have rebelled and said they are introducing their own test. These state (Protestant) Grammar’s are going down a very dangerous and elitist road.

If I was the Minister for Education I would be doing more than pulling funding for their examination, I would be pulling their funding full stop.

Basil McCrea has revealed a Sinn Féin discussion document which suggests that if Caitriona Ruane fails to get the required consensus she will use existing legislative provision to issue guidelines and in effect bypass Stormont.

I couldn't have been happier when he did this and I was very impressed with John O’Dowd on let’s talk who said you can have Plan A the easy way or Plan A the hard way.

The DUP had the opportunity to take Education, the same as they did in the last administration.

Sinn Féin took the ministry because we believe in Education, we believe in the future of our children and I mean all of our children.

The 11+ has failed children in working class Protestant areas a lot more than most. Their political reps don't give a shit about them; they only concern themselves with the middle-class elite.

That is one of the major differences between Catholic and Protestants in the 6 counties, our attitude towards Education.

Catholics have always saw education as a way to advance and better your position in life, for too many years the Protestant working class have relied upon their religion and contacts.

Those days are over and the reality is that the only chance working class Protestants have is a Sinn Féin Education Minister. We are the ones who will ensure that their children get the Education which they are entitled too.

The opposition to Caitriona Ruane has nothing to do with policy, I have watched the DUP in the chamber and their opposition is thus.

She is a Woman, she is a Southerner, She is an Irish speaker and she isn't going to take shit from any of them

The sexist approach of the DUP is typical of patriarchal Unionism but it will not be tolerated by Republicans.

I wish Caitriona Ruane the very best of luck in her efforts to improve the lives of children on all sides.

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