') Peter Weir is fighting a losing battle on academic selection - The Irish News
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Source:  http://www.irishnews.com/opinion/letterstotheeditor/2016/11/08/news/peter-weir-is-fighting-a-losing-battle-on-academic-selection-773516/
Letters to the Editor

Peter Weir is fighting a losing battle on academic selection

Not for the first time is our new education minister Peter Weir attempting to close down the debate on academic selection. The minister told BBC Northern Ireland’s Good Morning Ulster that it was clear that while there would not be political agreement around a state transfer test, academic selection was here to stay. ‘It is clear that academic selection whether you are in favour or not , is happening and it is here to stay.’ He went on to say that this was because there was a strong demand  out there for selection. I happen to think that the minister is fighting a losing battle and much of his rhetoric is simply whistling in the dark.

A number of grammar schools in the Catholic maintained sector have already announced that they will no longer decide their intake by academic selection. His claim that there is a strong demand for academic selection among parents is also suspect. No parent that I know wants to put their 10 or 11-year-old through the stress. And let’s not minimise it, the stress is horrendous. As Koulla Yiasouma, the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, pointed out parents have no choice within the system as it currently stands.

There’s no research evidence that I am aware of that supports academic selection at 11 and at Prime Minister’s Question Time on September 14 Theresa May couldn’t name one educational expert who supported her position on resurrecting the grammar school system in England.

In a recent interview in The Observer (October 16) the chief inspector of schools in England, Sir Michael Wilshaw, finished his interview by asking: “Which great education system has selection at 11? I don’t know any.”

In Finland, which has one of the best education systems in the world, there is no competition, no need for choice, since all the schools in Finland are considered good schools, so choice is irrelevant. No privatisation and league tables exist.
Grammar schools  were abolished decades ago. As Gunilla Holm, professor of education at the university of Helsinki says: “The goal is that we should all progress together.”

JIM CURRAN
Downpatrick, Co Down

 

Stormont a colonial assembly with no real power

In response to Anne Quinn (September 29), Anne the facts speak for themselves. The status of Northern Ireland as a constituent part of the United Kingdom has never been stronger. Partition was defacto ratified by the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). The electorate in the Irish Free State were encouraged to rescind Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution that claimed national jurisdiction over the occupied six counties. The unionist veto has been enhanced and the triple lock mechanism designed to put Irish national reunification off the political radar for generations to come.

People voted for peace – an end to continued armed conflict – by endorsing the GFA . They got an assembly that has republicans in government nationalists in opposition, all working for NI plc. Edward Carson and Ian Paisley have realised their dream of a united Northern Ireland within a United Kingdom. The reality is, British rule is being administered via Stormont through the block grant. A super council delivering what, exactly?
I stand over my original assertion – Stormont has failed, again.
The allegations of corruption and cronyism go unchecked. Many of the scandals and misuse of public monies would not occur under direct rule.

What we have is an unhappy alliance – a very bad marriage via d’Hont. Both  pulling in separate directions forcing us all to stand still.
Incompetency and systemic failures are wasting tens of millions of pounds. Scrap the failed pet projects and put the money saved into public services like the hospitals and care for the elderly.

Take back power from Britain.

Stormont is like a colonial assembly with no real power. Serving the same purpose as the original parliament – administrating rule on behalf of Westminster. Subservient to its masters in London and  overseen by the secretary of state where the real power resides.

FRA HUGHES
Belfast BT14

 

A further retreat from republican principles

If Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, was serious in her ‘ideological opposition’ to private health care (October 27) she would not even consider its introduction through the back door, of using the private sector to help cut waiting lists – themselves symptomatic of the utter failure that is the new Stormont.

Sinn Féin are clearly now a party wedded to neoliberalism, their supposed opposition to capitalism in the south merely for the optics – as is obvious from their complicity in the austerity regime waged against ordinary people here in the north, by their new-found friends in the Tory ‘millionaire cabinet’.

The sad reality today is that new Sinn Féin – once the pure and proud embodiment of Irish republicanism – are of the established order and no longer of the republican tradition. A truly sad end for a once-great movement for change in Ireland. Britain has done her work well. For what died the sons of Róisín?

SEAN BRESNAHAN
Thomas Ashe Society,
Omagh, Co Tyrone

 

Brexit rhetoric

I applaud Tom Collins (October 25) for his incisive and withering analysis of the English Brexit dictatorship – May, Davis, Fox and Johnson.

The prominent European countries will negotiate and defend their EU principles in a tough and unyielding manner once article 50 is formally implemented.

Presently it is all rhetoric combined with a total paucity of detail from the aforementioned cabinet members.

London’s rodomontade statements will not produce any favourable ‘economic or trading concessions.

A recalcitrant member from 1973 the UK’s own decision to vacate its seat will not distress many European politicians.

Dublin will need to display awareness and produce evidence of some planning before disaster strikes.  

Our ineffective Stormont administration will no doubt be trapped in a process of ‘indecisive consultation’.

BRIAN WILSON
Craigavon, Co Armagh

 

Time to step up united Ireland debate

Brexit has seen unionist politicians agree, apart from a handful of hardliners, that a Brexit hard border should be opposed because it would be bad for our economy. They should be asked this question – is any border on the island therefore bad for the economy?

The main economic argument against a united Ireland is that we shouldn’t cut ourselves off from Britain. Better to be in an economy of 60 million people than five million.

If this is the case, why limit ourselves to Britain? Let’s attach ourselves to a stronger economy like Germany or the US. Why not allow different parts of Ireland to join whatever country they like and separate from the rest of the island?

Of course, few with any sense would say this is a good idea. Far more practical to work together on the island, to build an infrastructure that will grow an economy fit for the 21st century and beyond.

RYAN JAMES
Belfast BT1

Letters to the Editor