Report on the Review of Post-primary Education in Northern Ireland Volume Four

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Report on the Review of Post-Primary Education in Northern Ireland


Ordered by The Committee for Education to be printed 9 October 2001
Report: 01/01 R (to the Northern Ireland Assembly from the Committee for Education)





The Committee for Education is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 46. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Education and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

The Committee has the power to:

nconsider and advise on Departmental budgets and Annual Plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;

napprove relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation;

ncall for persons and papers;

ninitiate inquiries and make reports; and

nconsider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister of Education


The Committee was established on 29 November 1999 with 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of five.

The membership of the Committee is as follows:

nMr Danny Kennedy (Chairperson)

nMr Sammy Wilson (Deputy Chairperson)

nMrs Eileen Bell

nMr John Fee

nMr Tommy Gallagher

nMr Oliver Gibson

nMr Tom Hamilton*

nMs Patricia Lewsley

nMr Barry McElduff

nMr Gerry McHugh

nMr Ken Robinson

* Mr Tom Hamilton replaced Mr Tom Benson on 29 January 2001. Mr Benson died on 24December 2000.

Written submission by:

institute of directors

1. Introduction

The Institute of Directors has long stressed the fact that the quality of the education system is fundamental to the well-being of Northern Ireland, its economy and its competitiveness.

2. Timescale

There is much in our education system to be proud of and we would not wish the excellence that does exist to be diluted through hasty change. We feel that the review period is to short; this could be detrimental to the creation of a system unique to the needs of Northern Ireland and its young people.

3. Desired Characteristics

The IoD wants to see an education system which:

nis tailored to the social, cultural, intellectual and economic needs of the twenty first century;

nis benchmarked with, and informed by, world best practice and standards;

nis developed and implemented in partnership with business;

nis integrated with economic strategy;

nprovides a combination of generic and industry specific skills;

nis genuinely accessible and open to all, with equality of access;

nis flexible in terms of level, pace, content and structure; and which

nrecognises and rewards excellence and innovation in education.

4. What Business Expects

Business needs an education system that ensures the employability of all its young people. The right system should:

nenable everyone to achieve their maximum potential.

nprovide sufficient choice and flexibility so that young people can select their preferred route to a future career.

nproduce potential employees with the life skills, work skills, competencies and qualifications that will make them valued members of the labour force.

nincrease the expectations that young people and their parents have of the education system.

5. Keep the Best, Improve the Rest

Our system of education has a well deserved reputation for high academic performance. The opportunity to reach the highest standards should be extended to all pupils. Secondary schools should offer a more technical/ vocational emphasis and should be resourced to provide a high quality service to pupils. Research could identify why some secondary schools cannot provide the right environment to enable all pupils to achieve their full potential.

6. Parity of Esteem

The IoD attaches great importance to the quality of all education, both vocational (ie mainly leading to training, further education, the world of work) and academic (mainly leading to higher education). We are most concerned at the lack of esteem accorded to people working in 'blue collar' as compared to 'white collar' jobs. Business success depends equally on those who can make and supply goods and services, and on those who can extend the boundaries of knowledge.

7. Change

IoD members were surveyed on post primary education and they overwhelmingly supported the models that propose a two route system. There was very little support for a comprehensive system, which has not, by and large, proven successful in terms of results elsewhere in the UK.

An argument is often given in favour of a comprehensive system in that it would increase social inclusion. The Institute believes that such a system would actually reduce social inclusion in Northern Ireland as the high level of social (and indeed religious mixing) that occurs in the present grammar schools and some secondary schools would be lost. It is likely that families would move home to fall within the catchment area of the most popular schools.

8. Multiple Opportunity

The Institute proposes the following:

nCurrent secondary level schools should become part of a single body of post primary schools, without the labels of grammar or secondary. All schools should offer a range of opportunities, some of which would be common to all, and some of which would vary as between a more academically or vocationally oriented emphasis. We would, on the whole, envisage that the present grammars would maintain their academic bias and the secondary schools would become centres of excellence in vocational/technical areas.

nWhat school a pupil enters should be a matter of choice, involving the parent and pupil with teacher guidance in establishing that the child is likely to benefit from the type of educational route chosen; this would be based on continuous assessment throughout the primary school. There would be no selection test as part of the transfer procedure apart from the Key Stage 2 testing currently used to assess a pupil's acquisition of key skills.

nIdeally schools will be adequately resourced and, if necessary, allowed to offer more places when demand exceeds supply.

nIn any system, however, there will almost inevitably be some over-subscription to certain schools. The Institute would propose that schools apply similar criteria to those applied to allocate places under the current transfer system.

nA broad common curriculum should apply to all schools with certain core subjects compulsory to all. Beyond the core, a wide range of vocational and academic subjects would be delivered on the basis of overall pupil demand in each school for more academic or vocational career routes. Resources must be made available to enable the curriculum to be delivered to high standards in all schools.

nParity of esteem for pupils from all schools also requires an improved qualifications framework. Pupils at vocationally oriented schools should be able to leave with the same level of GCSEs and A levels as those at academically inclined schools, regardless of the subjects they choose.

9. Integration

Any administration that seeks to promote excellence should seriously address the segregation between the maintained and controlled sectors. Segregation is politically and culturally divisive, inimical to equality of opportunity, and wasteful of resources.

10. Further Information

This is an executive summary of the Institute of Directors submission to the Review Body on Post Primary Education. The full document will be available on the Review Body's website.

Post Primary Education - A Source of True Competitive Advantage

1. Introduction

1.1 This paper provides a contribution from the Institute of Directors (IoD) to the work of the Review Body on Post Primary Education.

1.2 The IoD has long stressed the importance of the quality of the education system to the well being of Northern Ireland in general, to the strength of the economy and to the competitiveness of our businesses. We therefore have a keen interest in the subject matter of the Review, and we welcome the opportunity to make an input.

1.3 The views expressed in this paper have been produced through consultation with the Northern Ireland Committee and Education Committee of the Institute. Analysis of the results of a survey of the 820 members of the Institute in Northern Ireland has also been incorporated into this submission.

2. Timescale

2.1 IoD members are concerned that the review process seems somewhat rushed. 73% of respondents to the survey felt that the period allocated for the review was too short.

2.2 There is much in Northern Ireland's education system of which to be proud. Institute members would not wish the excellence, which does exist, to be in any way diluted through hasty change.

2.3 At the same time, it is recognised that there are shortcomings in the current transfer procedure from primary to post primary education, and within the structure of the secondary education sector.

2.4 The starting point for this review of post primary education should be the needs of children rather than the structures. Whatever system is introduced, the question must be asked as to whether it will address the social, economic and educational needs of' young people.

2.5 The Institute believes that the opportunity now exists to develop a post primary education system, which will provide a firm foundation for social well being and economic prosperity, which genuinely meets the needs of all citizens, which enables them to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations, and which is unquestionably world class. Sufficient time should be allowed to enable that to be achieved.

3. Desired characteristics of the Northern Ireland education system

3.1 As expressed in the Institute's response to the Assembly Committee for Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment examination into Education and Training for Industry, the IoD would wish to see established a system of education for Northern Ireland which:

nis tailored to the social, cultural, intellectual and economic needs of the twenty first century;

nis benchmarked with, and informed by, world best practice and standards;

nis developed and implemented in partnership with business;

nis integrated with economic strategy;

nprovides a combination of generic and industry specific skills;

nis genuinely accessible and open to all, with equality of access;

nis flexible in terms of level, pace, content and structure; and which

nrecognises and rewards excellence and innovation in education.

3.2 The Institute's survey of members elicited comments about the preferred outcomes of the education system. Members were concerned in particular that the education structure should be shaped by these outcomes and not in response to political dogma.

3.3 From the business community's point of view, one of the key outcomes of education should be the employability of the young people leaving the system and entering the labour force.

4. What business expects

4.1 The quality of our system of education is an essential element in the creation of a vibrant, modern and internationally competitive economy through the development of a strong, indigenous business community.

4.2 In addition, the existence of a well educated pool of labour is a key attraction to potential inward investors.

4.3 Education has an important role to play in developing citizenship, changing attitudes, resolving sectarian differences and creating an equitable society.

4.4 Whilst the Institute does not deny the importance of these other outcomes of education, the employability of the young people leaving post-primary education is of prime concern to the business community.

4.5 An education system that ensures the employability of all its young people will have the following characteristics:

nEnable everyone to achieve his or her maximum potential.

nProvide sufficient choice and flexibility so that young people can select their preferred route through the education system.

nProduce potential employees with the life skills, work skills, competencies and qualifications that will make them valued members of the labour force.

nIncrease the expectations that young people and their parents have of the education system.

4.6 Research amongst business has identified the qualities and competencies which make up employability as:

nValues and attitudes - including a desire to learn and to apply that learning, to improve and to take advantage of change, regard for others, self-confidence, motivation and integrity.

nBasic skills (literacy and numeracy).

nThe six key skills (communication, application of number, information technology, improving one's learning and performance, working with others, problem solving) sufficient for the needs of the work.

nOther generic skills that are becoming increasingly 'key' - such as modern language and customer service skills.

nUp-to-date and relevant knowledge and understanding.

nUp-to-date job-specific skills.

4.7 76% of respondents to the IoD survey felt that the current secondary level education system does not meet the needs of the business community in Northern Ireland.

5. The Gallagher Report

5.1 The Report on the Effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education undertaken by Tony Gallagher of Queen's University and Alan Smith of the University of Ulster (the 'Gallagher Report') is a most useful aid to the work of the Review body and those aiming to assist it. It is however by no means a completely satisfying document.

5.2 The Institute would suggest that the Report has a number of failings including:

nIt is most surprising that whilst the Report compares the system in Northern Ireland with what happens in England, Wales, Scotland and certain parts of Europe, it undertakes no comparisons with the system in the Republic of Ireland. That system is different from Northern lreland's, but it has made impressive progress and through it some 90% of 16 to 18 year olds continue in full time education until the senior 'Leaving Certificate'. A strategic approach has been taken to the education system, which underpins the progress of the so-called 'Celtic Tiger' economy. It relies heavily on individual choice rather than on selection at eleven by examination, and it offers a choice between academic and vocationally focussed options.

nThe comparisons omit measures by which levels of attainment and outcomes as between the various systems can be assessed. It is thus difficult to make an informed and definitive judgement as to their respective merits. This is a serious handicap when attempting to weigh up the 5 options which the report offers.

5.3 It is understood that a further report has been commissioned, which amongst other things, will deal more specifically with international comparisons. The Institute awaits that report with much interest.

5.4 84% of IoD respondents felt that benchrnarking of the education system against comparative international systems should be undertaken before changes are made in Northern Ireland.

6. Keep the Best, Improve the Rest

6.1 Northern Ireland's system of education has a reputation for high academic performance. Much, but not all, of this reputation rests on the quality and achievements of the grammar school sector.

6.2 These schools produce levels of academic attainment that compare well with what is achieved in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Europe and beyond. As Gallagher indicates, they are well regarded by their pupils who on the whole are well motivated, by their parents, by the staff employed in them and by the public at large. A very high proportion of their pupils go on to third level education where many of them acquire the knowledge and the skills on which, amongst other things, the future of Northern Ireland industry, especially the so called 'knowledge based sector' will depend.

6.3 Whatever is decided about the future of the system, it is important that the quality of educational achievement now attained by the grammar schools sector or elsewhere should in no way be diminished, diluted or undermined. On the contrary, the aim should be to advance standards of attainment to even higher levels and to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to achieve them.

6.4 69% of respondents to the IoD survey believe that the grammar schools should be retained.

6.5 Only a minority of pupils attend grammar schools. The majority (currently according to Gallagher, some 65%) attend secondary schools which should, in theory, have a less academic and more technical/vocational orientation. In the secondary schools, achievements in terms of measurable outputs as shown by qualifications obtained, is much less marked and in some cases is disturbingly low.

6.6 The Institute would suggest that the secondary schools have moved too far from the technical/vocational route than was originally the case. Part of the blame for this may be due to the introduction of the common curriculum, which may not provide the flexibility and diversity that is required to meet the diverse needs and talents of young people.

6.7 Although most comparisons of educational attainment are made with other parts of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland's achievements are rated highly, the outputs of the Great Britain school system - taken as a whole - are not impressive by the best international standards. This gives cause for concern and suggests that efforts should be directed at raising expectations and achievements right through the system

6.8 The Gallagher Report indicates that the poorer performance within the secondary sector is related to a number of factors including social disadvantage and parental background. It points, as the primary cause, to the 'grammar school effect'. The Report states (para.2.2.4) that a pupil's achievement at age 16 'appears to be related more to gaining access to a grammar school than to any other factor'. It goes on to say (para.2.3.2) that as between grammar and secondary school pupils who are similar in every other respect, including transfer grade, the former will receive significantly higher GCSE grades - equivalent to three additional grade Cs. This is an important difference. The 'grammar school effect', however, does not address the fact that a larger number of subjects is taken by grammar school pupils, which is likely to account for most, if not all, of the difference in cumulative scores and does not calculate average scores.

6.9 The view of the Institute is that secondary schools should be resourced to provide the necessary high quality service to their pupils. Research should be carried out to identify why the secondary schools cannot provide the necessary environment to enable all pupils to achieve to their maximum potential is a key issue before wholesale restructuring of the system is undertaken. There are examples of secondary schools in many difficult areas, which are producing excellent outcomes for their pupils. A successful outcome is more frequently measured in terms of employability than GCSE results - and employability is an important outcome for the business community. The quality of the head teacher may well be a vital element in this success.

7. Weaknesses of the Present System of Education

7.1 There have been improvements in the level of achievement of young people leaving secondary level education, especially with respect to those leaving with no qualifications at all.

7.2 Many people in business are still concerned that too many young people are achieving below their potential, notwithstanding some excellent work done within the secondary school sector. There is a 'tail' of underachievers and too many pupils are leaving formal education with inadequate standards of numeracy, literacy and skills relevant to the world of work.

7.3 From a qualifications point of view and the consequent impact on opportunity and progress, being denied a grammar school place can be a serious disadvantage. This is compounded by the sense of failure many young children experience from not obtaining a place at a grammar school.

7.4 Since selection is at the root of this sense of failure, it follows that a system is required that creates choice rather than continues rationing of places through selection. What is needed is greater provision of high quality places for those wishing to pursue an academic route through education. To ensure that the non-academic route is regarded equally as highly as the academic route, the quality of provision in the vocationally or technically oriented schools must be just as high. This is clearly not the case in the present system.

7.5 Currently the choice for pupils transferring from primary schools is limited by the fact that a common curriculum operates in all secondary level schools. This curriculum may be inappropriate to the aspirations, expectations and talents of many young people. The common curriculum appears to be more suited to those wishing to follow the academic route than to those whose aspirations lie in technical or vocational directions.

7.6 This limiting curriculum may well be an element in the alienation that affects many young people, especially boys, in the early secondary years. For some, this alienation can be permanent with unfortunate social and economic outcomes for society.

7.7 The expectations of young people, and their parents, of life after education do not match current economic reality. Within areas of deprivation, generations of unemployment have resulted in the attitude that education has no relevance. The new economy that Northern Ireland is aiming to build needs every young person to obtain a sound basic education and the employability skills relevant to business needs.

7.8 Business must work more closely than ever with education to create awareness of the needs of and changes in business, especially the SME sector, and with young people to help raise their aspirations.

7.9 Technical and vocational education has been under-developed within secondary level education. The Further Education Colleges appear to have taken over the role of delivery in this area, whereas more emphasis on it within the curriculum in post primary schools would give young people a stronger foundation for their tertiary education.

7.10 With respect to underachievers in the education system, the secondary schools have faced criticism for producing young people without the basic numeracy and literacy skills needed for life, not just for work. The root of these problems lies at primary or even pre-primary level. More rigorous efforts need to be made with underachievers well before they reach secondary school where they will quickly be left behind and inevitably either drop out or become disruptive.

7.11 In addition, by making employability the key outcome of education, and with a curriculum, in secondary level schools, more relevant to the aspirations of non-academic pupils, it would be hoped that the problem of underachievers could be overcome in due course.

7.12 The Institute believes that resources for raising standards and the quality of the education experience in secondary schools could be found from savings in administration costs. Representations by the Institute in the past have mooted the reorganisation of the current Education and Library Board structure. Recent research has indicated that absenteeism within the public sector is a considerable cost; attacking this and other efficiency issues could free up resources for schools. The removal of the Transfer Test system would, presumably, also involve some cost reduction.

7.13 94% of IoD respondents agreed that more resources should be allocated to secondary schools to enable them to raise standards.

7.14 Improvernent's in school performances would involve not only funding for teachers and facilities, but also support in relation to careers guidance, curriculum delivery and business links.

7.15 The present system of post primary education and transfer to it from primary school has created inequities in educational opportunities and achievements. Such a system is damaging to our young people and ultimately to our economic and social wellbeing. The Institute believes that the proposals put forward in this paper can redress these problems.

8. The Case for a Transfer System

8.1 We see only two reasons for the operation of a transfer system:

8.2 The first is to enable pupils to obtain an education which is best suited to their needs and from which they will derive the most benefit. This is an essential feature of any good system of education, which purports to serve the interests of its clientele.

8.3 The worst way of performing this function in our view is by way of the present transfer test system. The fairest, most accurate and most sensible approach in our view lies through assessment throughout the primary education process, relying on teacher's knowledge of pupils, which guides and leads to parental choice. External assessment of this continuous assessment process should prevent undue pressure being put upon teachers by parents with unreasonable expectations of their children's aptitudes. Research should be undertaken into appropriate assessment processes on an on-going basis.

8.4 The second reason for operating a transfer system is to enable schools to identify which pupils it should accept when demand for places exceeds supply. This could apply equally to the academic and vocational schools.

8.5 In principle, this is not a legitimate reason for having a transfer system which involves testing. The logical response to a situation of under-supply is to increase that supply, not to deny young people opportunities from which they could benefit. We make the point regarding the need to increase provision of high quality places in response to demand elsewhere in this paper.

8.6&nnbsp; Without further research, it is not clear what the level of demand would be for places in individual schools. Appropriate guidance at the end of primary education may result in more pupils seeking entry to either the academic or the vocational schools than is currently the case.

8.7 It is likely, however, that some schools will experience over-subscription. In time, the changes to the system will bring all schools up to a high level of quality, which will mean that parents and pupils will be able to choose from a variety of excellent schools. Over-subscription will become less of an issue. In the meantime, over-subscribed schools would have to select pupils by some means. It is suggested that schools could apply their current entrance criteria, which enable them to allocate available places on the basis of, for example, the presence of siblings already in the school, distance from home to school, etc.

8.8 The main weakness of the present system of transfer from primary level education is that it creates a sense of failure amongst those pupils who do not obtain a grammar school place.

8.9 This sense of failure arises from the fact that the perception of secondary schools is that they are 'second best'. Yet many successful people in business and the professions have 'failed' the eleven plus or transfer test, but have been anything but failures in later life. This perception will continue unless fundamental change to the secondary schools makes them a true alternative to the academically focussed grammar schools.

8.10 74% of IoD survey respondents agreed that selection by examination should not continue as at present and that continuous assessment provides a more accurate measure of a child's ability.

9. 'Vocational', 'Academic' and 'Parity of Esteem'

9.1 The IoD attaches much importance to the quality of all aspects of education in Northern Ireland including the quality of vocational education.

9.2 For the purposes of this paper we define 'vocational' education as education which is in general occupationally specific, which has a strong practical dimension, and which will generally lead young people to training, to a career or to the world of work, rather than to higher education. Vocational would include 'technical' education. We define 'academic' as involving the acquisition of knowledge and the development of cognitive skills, which are not necessarily career specific at the time they are imparted but which may well be essential to an occupational choice at a later date, usually following higher education.

9.3 The Institute is most concerned at the lack of esteem accorded to people working in 'blue collar' as compared to 'white collar' jobs. Not just Northern Ireland business and the economy, but also the quality of life of the public at large, depends on people who can make and supply goods and services, just as they depend also on those who can extend the boundaries of knowledge.

9.4 90% of respondents indicated that equal value should be accorded to academic and
vocational career paths.

9.5 This lack of 'parity of esteem' flows essentially from disparities in the quality, depth and range of what is offered educationally, and from perceived differences in the advantages that result. These disparities need to be addressed. The chief way of doing so is to ensure that the 'vocational' offers comparable benefits to the 'academic' and that the associated educational experience is as satisfying, enjoyable and generally fruitful.

10. Some Comments on the Nature of Disadvantage Within the System

10.1 The Institute regards the disadvantage that exists for some pupils within the system as flowing from a number of elements. We would highlight the following points:

10.2 In effect a two-tier system is in operation based upon secondary schools and grammar schools. The latter offer an education, which is academic in nature. The former place more stress on a vocational dimension.

10.3 It is not inherently wrong or necessarily disadvantageous that some schools should specialise in academic subjects and others in vocational ones. On the contrary, it is essential that the system should enable pupils with an academic or a vocational bent to have the fullest opportunity to develop their potential.

10.4 A strong case can be argued, supported by experience elsewhere (e.g. the dual system in Germany and the Netherlands) and to some extent by the Gallagher observations, that specialist schools or systems that offer the possibility of providing concentrated levels of specialist expertise, equipment and facilities and which can develop high quality peer groups in their fields is a good way by which that objective can be achieved.

10.5 It is both wrong, however, and inherently disadvantageous for one part of the system not to offer levels of achievement and opportunity comparable to the other, especially where access is determined other than by choice.

10.6 Moreover failure to achieve equality in those terms, inevitably leads to one part of the system being seen as superior to the other, since pupils, parents, and the public at large naturally will tend to value most those parts of the education system which they see as offering the best opportunities for advancement. It is vital in any education system to remember that the key customers are not necessarily the young people but rather their parents. Persuading them that their child is being offered the best possible education, suited to his or her aptitudes and aspirations, is essential.

10.7 As noted above, grammar schools have a good track record in delivering success in examinations and a high percentage of their pupils go on to higher education which is seen as the main gateway, if not the only one, to well paid employment and progressive careers.

10.8 That track record ought to be matched, in our view, by correspondingly high levels of attainment and outcomes at schools offering vocational subjects as alternatives to a more academic route. At present it appears that this is not the case. The range of vocational courses is limited. There is little as yet which directly corresponds to the academic GCSEs and A levels (notwithstanding the availability of some GNVQs which is as yet limited) and prospects and routes for further progress thereafter are insufficiently clear. Hence the problem of 'parity of esteem'. The qualifications framework on which work has recently been undertaken, must be developed more fully and continually promoted to employers.

10.9 Thus the system does not offer all Northern Ireland pupils the fullest opportunity to develop their potential. On the one hand, there are insufficient places for those whose preference is for the academic route in what are seen as our best schools. On the other what is available for those whose talents lie more towards practical subjects is variable and limited.

10.10 That situation is central to the currently perceived need for transfer testing, since a system, which does not offer, full opportunity for all requires a means by which it can be decided to whom opportunity should be given.

10.11 The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that more good quality academic places need to be made available and that the level, quality and range of vocational courses and career paths thereafter need to be drastically improved. If that could be achieved the need for a transfer system as we now know it would be very different.

11. Change

11.1 The Institute put to its members in the survey questionnaire, the five options proposed in the Gallagher Report and asked them to indicate their preferences.

11.2 IoD members overwhelmingly supported the models which proposed that a two route system be introduced for post primary education. There was very little support for a comprehensive system.

11.3 2% favoured a comprehensive system

31% selected the common junior high option to 14 with differentiated schools thereafter

8% chose the common lower secondary and differentiated upper secondary option

35% opted for differentiated secondary schools (at 11) with distinctive academic and vocational/technical routes, and

25% preferred the status quo with selection at 11

11.4 Since the preference of IoD members is for a dual route system of post primary schools, this response will put forward views on the characteristics of such a system.

11.5 40% of responding members indicated a preference for transfer at age 14 or 15

56% opted for earlier transfer with 11 being the favoured age

12. Multiple Opportunity

12.1 IoD members have expressed their concerns that any change to the post-primary education should be manageable, cost effective and carefully implemented. There is an impression that schools and teachers have been subjected to an increasing catalogue of curriculum and administrative burdens over many years. Along with the discipline problems faced in many schools, the result has been low morale and difficulty in attracting high calibre career teachers. The Institute would caution against precipitate action on such a potentially far-reaching issue as post-primary education reorganisation.

12.2 Building on the base which now exists, it will be relatively simple to develop a system which offers extensive and multiple opportunity based on primarily vocational or primarily academic routes, along lines which in some respects are similar to what has been successful in the Republic. Under this option, the current secondary level schools would become part of a single body of post primary schools, without the labels of grammar or secondary. All schools would offer a range of opportunities, some of which would be common to all, and some of which would vary as between a more academically or more vocationally orientated emphasis.

12.3 What school a pupil entered would be a matter of choice, involving the parent and the pupil with trained teacher guidance designed to establish, through assessment during passage through the primary school, that the child is likely to be able to benefit from the type of education chosen. There would be no transfer system by examination.

12.4 Progress at school would be carefully monitored. Where it is shown that a pupil is unable to cope with the chosen educational route, explanations would be sought from the sponsoring primary school and consideration would be given to what additional help or support the pupil might require.

12.5 The Institute would emphasise that this is not a continuation of the status quo. There would be no selection or testing as part of the transfer procedure to post primary education. Resources would be allocated to ensure that a high quality of education would be provided to all pupils. The move to a predominantly vocational or academic school would be a matter of choice informed by continuous teacher assessment and guidance at primary school level.

12.6 The choice of school would be made at age eleven. A further choice would be made, however, as part of on-going careers guidance at age 14 when the pupil, with advice and assistance, would decide whether to follow a vocationally or an academically weighted route. At that point it would be possible for a pupil to transfer to another school if that would enable him/her to pursue better the chosen route.

12.7 On opting for change, it would, if necessary, be possible to undertake a 'transition year 'in order to adjust to the change of direction decided upon.

12.8 A broad, common curriculum would be applicable to all schools.

12.9 Within the common curriculum there would be certain core subjects which would be compulsory for all pupils - covering, for example, literacy, numeracy, communications and key life skills, etc. Beyond those core subjects there would be a wide range of vocational and academic subjects with a specified syllabus, which would be compulsory where that subject is offered. Research amongst local companies suggests that the needs of business are reflected in these core skills.

12.10 Resources must be made available to enable the curriculum to be delivered to high standards in all schools - this means investment in facilities, teachers and, where necessary, remedial support for underachieving pupils.

12.11 The existing schools would be enabled to broaden the options they offer by the inclusion of wider range of vocational or academic choices, modified, in the light of experience, by the extent of uptake. Schools would be resourced accordingly.

12.12 Each school would be allowed to specialise in a more academic or a more vocational emphasis in terms of the range, depth and quality of the courses that they offer.

12.13 The potential career paths of vocational courses would be identified and course content would be integrated with the subsequent training, further or higher education that would be required to enable a path to be followed.

12.14 Every school, without exception, would be required to offer clear routes to advanced training, further and higher education and to a choice of potential career paths for their pupils

12.15 In doing so, courses would be supported by an examination structure, involving GCSEs and A levels with vocational versions or GNVQ equivalents, which would be recognised as meeting entry requirements to relevant vocational training and/or to institutions of further or higher education.

12.16 All schools would be required to offer qualifications at these levels to all their pupils. In order to do so, they would be encouraged where appropriate to form alliances with specialist providers - e.g. Institutes of Further Education.

12.17 The number of places at a school specialising in an academic or vocational emphasis would be expanded, or contracted, to respond to the demand for places, by the adaptation of existing schools, but, if necessary, by the creation of new schools and/or the closure of existing ones. The aim would be to provide access for all pupils to their educational preference, subject to their demonstrating (assessed as above) during the course of their primary education that they are capable of benefiting from it.

12.18 The normal expectation would be that all pupils under this dual route system - whether from within the more academically or vocationally orientated elements - would proceed to high quality training (eg a Modern Apprenticeship) or further education with the option in due course of higher education for those who require and are able to benefit from it. The same strenuous effort would be made to ensure that no school leaver enters unemployment.

12.19 Likewise performance and progress throughout the system would be monitored and benchmarked against the best international standards.

12.20 Schools found to be performing at comparatively low levels of achievement would be identified. The reasons for this underachievement would be established and remedies proposed. Additional financial help and staffing support would be made available, where required to achieve better outcomes - for example to counteract problems associated with deprivation or social disadvantage.

12.21 All schools would be encouraged to have close links with employers for the purposes of work experience and learning in a practical environment. All would be part of a 'seamless robe' of learning opportunity leading to employment underpinning future quality of life and personal fulfilment.

13. Advantages of the Multiple System

13.1 The advantages of this education system would include the following:

13.2 By abolishing selection by examination and substituting choice supported by assessment and professional guidance, this system would remove the stigma and social exclusion occasioned by the current transfer system and it would stimulate equality of opportunity.

13.3 By extending both the quantity and range of academic and vocationally orientated provision, it would enrich choice within the system and would increase flexibility.

13.4 By allowing specialism in the vocational or the academic and by insisting on equally high standards, it could induce high levels of expertise and achievement in both.

13.5 By offering high standards with continuing good quality opportunities in both the vocational and academic elements, it could help promote 'parity of esteem.'

13.6 By developing on the present base of existing systems it would avoid 'big bang' change with the potential for dislocation and destruction which that entails.

13.7 It would not threaten the strengths of the present system but would radically improve those parts of the system, which are now seen as second best.

13.8 By widening the choices at schools and by removing the existing labels, it would remove the pejorative distinctions, which are now made between types of schools.

13.9 It has been suggested that a comprehensive system of education would result in advantages from the mixing of social classes. The Institute believes that the opposite would happen. At present, grammar schools provide children from every social class with equal access to an academic education. Many secondary schools also exhibit this cross-section of pupils. Creating comprehensives would be more likely to result in parents moving house to ensure their children could attend the perceived 'good' comprehensives (this applies to the less well-off family, which will make sacrifices, as well as the better-off parents), leaving many schools with a higher proportion of pupils from poorer backgrounds.

13.10 In this system proposed by the Institute, the improvement over time in the quality of education provided in all schools would ensure that all establishments are regarded as good schools and parents will be happy to patronise any school that will meet their children's educational needs and aspirations

14. Integration

14.1 Any administration, which seeks to promote excellence and cost effectiveness across the education system, ought to consider seriously addressing the segregation that now exists as between the so-called 'maintained' and 'controlled' sectors. We urge the Minister to do so.

14.2 Segregation is not only socially, politically and culturally divisive. It is also inimical to equality of opportunity and to the development of quality. By requiring the existence of two separate systems of education and administration, it wastes resources. By impeding access for pupils in the controlled sector to the best teachers and facilities in the maintained sector (and vice versa), it is inimical to equality of opportunity for individuals and it restricts achievement. By keeping talented students in both sectors apart, it obstructs the development of the strongest peer groups. The list could be continued.

14.3 The Institute recognises that the introduction of full integration in the education system of Northern Ireland will require significant changes in attitudes throughout the community. It is unlikely that such a change could be made in the short or medium term. The IoD would urge that consideration of full integration be kept at the forefront of thinking by the Department of Education as it produces its strategic plans for the future.

15. Conclusion

15.1 The IoD supports, in principle, the case for far reaching change, which would improve the quality of post primary education right across the system on the basis of choice and equality of opportunity, and the demanding of high standards, outcomes and opportunities inducing parity of esteem for both the vocational and the academic.

15.2 Change must be implemented in ways that do not threaten or destroy the strengths of the present system.

15.3 The Institute would like to see the reports of other on-going research into relevant education issues, such as benchmarking with international comparitors, before action on changing the post-primary education system is taken.

15.4 Curriculum change and integration with the strategic planning for the tertiary sector must also be part of an overall review of post-primary education.

15.5 Change must include the ending of selection for transfer from primary to post primary education.

15.6 Transfer should be based on choice, guided by continuous assessment by primary school teachers.

15.7 In order that a true choice can be made between an largely academic or largely vocational career path, all secondary level schools should be resourced to a high standard. Special measures will be required to provide the necessary high quality facilities within schools with a vocational or technical emphasis.

15.8 Parity of esteem for the vocational and academic career paths must be assured not only within the education system but also within the business community and the wider community.

15.9 The Institute looks forward to participating actively in this on-going consultation process and would request the opportunity to develop these proposals directly with the Review Body in an oral presentation.

The Institute of Directors

The IoD has 54,000 individual members in the UK and 820 in Northern Ireland, representing the full range of industrial sectors and company size.

The IoD aims to be the prime organisation helping directors to fulfil their leadership responsibilities, in creating wealth for the benefit of business and society as a whole. To achieve these aims, the IoD has the following objectives:

nTo develop policies on issues which affect directors and business, and to represent members' interests by influencing public policy makers and opinion formers in the UK and the rest of the EU.

nTo raise the professional standards of directors and help them attain high levels of expertise and effectiveness by improving their knowledge and skills.

nTo expand its membership so as to increase its influence and ability to service its members and business in general.

nTo provide a range of business and individual services for members, both centrally and through the branch network.



INTO has over 6,000 teacher members across all sectors and levels throughout Northern Ireland and approximately 23,000 teacher members in Primary Schools in the Republic of Ireland.

INTO has been at the forefront of the Campaign to end selection at 11. Since the introduction of the selection procedure and throughout its many guises over the past 40 years, INTO policy has remained intrinsically the same, that the process of Selection at 11 years of age is unjust, discriminatory and fundamentally flawed. INTO has consistently called for the abolition of selection at age 11 and the introduction of a non-selective system of post-primary education.



Q.1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

A.1. INTO believes that the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school must be changed.

The current system of transfer, as evidence in the "Gallagher & Smith" Report distorts the primary curriculum in varying degrees throughout the schools in Northern Ireland. The high level of concentration on the three tested subjects, English, Maths and Science give the pupils the false impression that these are the only subjects of value in the curriculum. The procedure also causes unnecessary stress and trauma for children, and their families, at age 11 with possible repercussions throughout their lives.

Q.2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?

A.2. No, INTO is of the view that children should be able to go to the school of their choice not to be subjected to some form of selection.

This could be done in a similar way to the process of election to Primary Schools. All post primary schools should have equal status.

Q.3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

A.3. Yes, the "Gallagher & Smith" Report accurately reflects many, though by no means all, of the effects of the Selective System of education. The scope of the research is only representative. The report does, however, confirm much of the anecdotal evidence of teachers, parents and pupils over the past few decades; disruption of the curriculum, particularly in the primary school; the poor self-esteem, motivation of pupils who have 'failed' the 11+; the social attitudes of the 'passes' and 'failures'; the effects of selection and open enrolment on post primary schools, society's view of the education system and the impact of selection.

Q.4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

A.4. Yes, the current system has increased the gap between the more and less advantaged sections of society. The more advantaged pupils who have access to a wide range of resources both at school and at home are more likely to pass, go to Grammar School and onto 3rd level education, etc. The less advantaged pupils who can't afford tutoring and don't have access to the internet, and other resources are more likely to 'fail', go to Secondary Schools and leave at 16 with little or no qualifications.

Q.5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

a. Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

c. Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

d. A system of continuous assessment.

e. Parental Input.

f. Combination of the above options.

A.5. INTO believes that the current system should be abolished. All these methods detailed have been tried from 1947 onwards and all have failed.

transition to post primary school

Q.1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

A.1. In a non-selective system 11 is still the most appropriate age for transfer given the current Primary/ Post-Primary system.

Q.2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

A.2. The transfer test distorts the delivery of the curriculum at Key Stage 2, with much of Year 6 and the early part of Year 7 taken up with preparation for the tests. This is compounded by the fact that the level and extent of knowledge pupils are expected to achieve are unrealistic within the framework of the statutory curriculum. To achieve these teachers are forced to concentrate on the English, Maths and Science to the detriment of the other, also statutory subjects.

Content of the 3 subjects at Key Stage 3 is similar if not identical to areas covered at Key Stage 2 for the transfer which can also cause difficulties.

Q.3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

A.3. INTO believes that parents should be given real choice in the schools their children attend.

The Government espouses 'parental choice' within the education system. However in reality parents have little or no choice of post-primary school for their children but are dependent on the outcome of the transfer test.

Q.4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post-primary schools?

A.4. The transition from Primary to Post-Primary School should be seamless and as painless as possible. It should emulate the transition process between Nursery School to Primary School. In this process children are not selected by ability or aptitude and there is direct contact between the schools, often with the Nursery teacher accompanying the nursery pupils on a visit to their prospective primary school and meeting the teachers etc.


Q.1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A.1. All pupils should have the right of access to the same curriculum but it is not necessary for all to follow the exact same curriculum. A degree of flexibility and choice must be built into this curriculum to allow pupils of all abilities and interests to achieve their full potential.

Q.2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

A.2. Pupils should be able to choose from both academic and non-academic subjects. Restricting the choice to one or other is denying pupils the opportunity to develop their interests and achieve their full potential. Currently the opportunities for pupils to choose from non-academic subjects/training are limited. This is especially true in the Grammar Schools.

Q.3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

A.3. Yes both academic and non-academic subjects, training and achievement should be valued equally.

Q.4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A.4. Sir Ron Dearing advocated an Overarching Framework of qualifications. Within this framework all qualifications academic and non-academic, were to be weighted within a common scale thereby ensuring equivalences were clearly visible. There have been difficulties in the past, some of which persist, with equating NVQs, GNVQs, GCSEs, A levels and many other qualifications. The trend has been for non-academic subjects/qualifications being considered of lesser value than academic subjects among the Higher Education Institutes and employers.

To redress this, requirements for entry to Higher Education Institutes and criteria for jobs need to change to reflect the equal value of academic and non-academic qualifications/training.


Q.1. What are your views of:

a. A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish System).

b. Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

c. A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

A.1. a. INTO advocates the introduction of a Comprehensive System of Education for Northern Ireland as the best system for all pupils.

b. INTO believes that Delayed Selection only postpones the problems which are currently inherent in the present system.

c. INTO is of the view that a more differentiated system of post-primary schools would force children to choose one particular route instead of providing them with the flexibility to mix and match from all routes. This option restricts choice and potential development.

Q.2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

A.2. To change our present system of education to any of the options will have manpower and financial implications. However this is the opportunity for NI to examine its system of education and make changes to place us at the forefront of education in the 21st Century thereby justifying the manpower and finance required to do so.

Q.3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

A.3. The implementation of change requires careful consideration and should be carried out as soon as realistically possible. In changing to a Comprehensive system of education it would be useful to contact the Department of Education in Scotland to learn from their experience.

Q.4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable? What are the manpower/financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

A.4. INTO believes there would be merit in investigating the possibility of integrated, open-access 6th form colleges.


Q.1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How could these be achieved?

A.1. The CCEA Review of the Curriculum proposes a new aim, objectives and values for the education of children in Northern Ireland. These aims, objectives and values delivered in comprehensive schools in Northern Ireland with academic and non-academic qualifications valued equally would enable pupils to maximise their potential.

Q.2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

A.2. The objectives as proposed in Phase I of the Northern Ireland Curriculum Review underpinned by the proposed values.

written submission by:
professor pamela munn
university of edinburgh

1. Why has comprehensive education been apparently regarded more positively in Scotland than it has in England or Wales?

nThere has been a tradition of 'omnibus' schools in Scotland outside the cities. These schools traditionally took all children in the local area although they were streamed on entry. The move to comprehensive education was thus not regarded as very radical.

nThere has been confidence in the success of the system to raise levels of achievement especially for children from poor backgrounds.

nThere has been sustained confidence in teachers as competent and successful professionals.

There is a broad consensus among Scottish political parties about the positive attributes of a comprehensive system and no party is seriously campaigning for a return to a selective system.

A brief outline of the historical traditions is given below.

1. Education is traditionally regarded as one of the three institutions, which mark Scotland's cultural distinctiveness from England. (The others are the law and the church). Many commentators have described one of the key features and myths of the education system as promoting equality of opportunity, whereby the 'lad o pairts' with ability, from a poor background, could progress from school to university. Thus one sense in which Scotland likes to think of itself as different from England is that it is more socially egalitarian. Class background is believed to be no barrier to progression through the system and entry to the progression through the system and entry to the professions in Scotland. A comprehensive system of education fitted this myth of equality of opportunity, albeit in a new way, abolishing the intelligence test as a structural barrier to equality of opportunity. A series of research studies showed the association between low social class and poor performance on the test and questioned the notion of intelligence as fixed and innate.

2. A second tradition was that of imposing cultural uniformity which can be traced back to the Reformation. Comprehensive education conformed to this tradition by providing a common curriculum for all children regardless of their ability. Curriculum and assessment reforms in the 1970s provided an 'entitlement' to a broad and balanced curriculum based on seven (now eight) modes of study.

3. A third tradition, which again can be traced back to the Reformation, was to see education as a public good as much as a private right. The social and economic arguments for a comprehensive system were seen as congruent with this tradition.

The demand for comprehensive education was apparent before the Second World War and the Advisory Council for Education published recommendations for a comprehensive system with a core curriculum and a common examination in 1947.

About one fifth of schools were already comprehensive by 1965 when the policy was officially adopted in Britain, although these schools streamed classes on entry. The main resistance was in the cities where it meant the end of old direct grant schools who had to decide whether to go independent and where housing policy had a direct effect on a school's catchment area. It became common for middle class parents to buy a house in the catchment area of the comprehensive schools, which had been selective senior secondary schools.

2. How effective is the use of banding and setting in schools? To what extent is streaming used in organising schools in Scotland? What are teachers' views of banding and setting versus mixed ability teaching?

Practice in banding and setting varies in secondary schools across Scotland in the first two years of secondary schooling. Many schools would avoid banding or setting in the first year and teach a common course with differentiation inside the classroom using group work, learning support staff and classroom auxiliaries to help children with different abilities and special educational needs. Where setting is most likely to take place in these years is in mathematics. HMI have reported their concerns at the lack of academic progress demonstrated by pupils in S1-S2 and associated this lack with the failure to set pupils in the early years of secondary. There is a continuing healthy debate about this with mixed views from teachers on the strengths and weaknesses of mixed ability teaching. The Scottish Council for Research in Education perhaps best sums this up in a research review:

The challenge is to find some way of catering for pupils' individual needs. The that for many, ability grouping reduces both their motivation and the quality of education they receive. On the other hand, mixed-ability teaching which denies the differences between high and low ability pupils is not the answer.

There is more consensus about setting and banding in S3-S4 where pupils are allocated to Foundation/ General, General, or General/Credit bands in terms of their Standard Grade courses. The number of bands depends on class size.

There is no steaming as such.

3. Could you evaluate the success of the 'community comprehensive' system, perhaps giving some commentary on the incidence of pupils opting not to choose 'less popular' comprehensives?

In general, the comprehensive system has been successful. It has raised attainment for all social class groups, but has raised it more for working class pupils.

The schools were originally envisaged as drawing their pupils from their local catchment areas --zones defined by the education authority. In many areas of Scotland, because of geography, there is only one secondary school that it is feasible for children to attend.

In large towns and cities, before the introduction of legislation giving parents the right to choose the school their children would attend, many middle class parents sought to buy houses in the catchment areas of the old senior secondary schools which had selected pupils.

Since parental choice legislation there has been a decline in the notion of the local comprehensive with placing requests being used to the detriment of those schools in disadvantaged areas whose pupils are 'creamed off'. Changes in demography have created overcapacity in schools especially in the cities. Glasgow, for example, has undergone a programme of school closure allied to the development of particular schools as specialist in music, drama or sport. This, together with changes in transport policy for children, is challenging the traditional notice of a local comprehensive.

It is also worth mentioning that some mainstream schools have special units for children with special needs. Some local authorities have closed their special schools and so some secondary schools have particular expertise in deaf or blind education.

4. How is vocational education and training approached in Scotland? To what extent do schools and industry liaise? How effective is this relationship?

Within the school sector the reforms of the upper secondary school curriculum, Higher Still, are designed to give parity of esteem to academic and vocational education via a common system of assessment. It is too early to be able to comment on the effectiveness of this reform.

There is a flourishing further education sector, which provides vocational education for youngsters at 16+. The 43 FE colleges provide a wide range of courses from basic literacy and numeracy to Higher National diplomas and degrees. The sector also works with schools to extend curriculum provision for 14-16 year olds who are not experiencing success in the traditional school curriculum and there are many examples of partnerships between schools and colleges in terms of more general curriculum provision.

Work experience is part of the common curriculum for all pupils at 14+ and this involves liaison between schools and local industry and business. Some schools use their links with European networks to provide work experience in Europe.

The importance of Education Industry links has been highlighted in a number of policy statements, as has education for work. Practices vary and include staff exchanges between school and industry, mini companies being established in schools, and extended work experience involving mock interviews and pupil reports on their experience.

Scotland's equivalent of City Technology Colleges, Technology Academies, have failed to materialise.

5. Do you believe that there is a higher degree of social inclusion in the Scottish education system than in other systems in England, Wales or Northern Ireland?

This depends on what counts as social inclusion. If we take the provision of common schools as an indicator then Scotland has a small independent sector, with less than 4% of the school population attending such schools. However, it should be noted that this figure disguises large variation in different parts of the country. In Edinburgh, for example, it is usually reckoned that about 25% of the secondary school population attend independent schools. The proportion of pupils in special schools remains fairly steady at around 1.8%. Separate provision for Roman Catholics in the state sector remains. There are very few single sex schools. There is thus less fragmented provision in Scotland than in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

If we look inside Scottish state schools at socially inclusive practices, there is a common curriculum 5-16 and a common system of assessment at Standard Grade and Higher Still. There is no streaming but there is setting from 14+ and this pertains to some extent at 12+. There is concern in Scotland as elsewhere about the level of exclusion from school. Four times as many boys than girls are excluded and there is a general concern about the underachievement of boys. Schools are increasingly aware of the importance of a positive ethos and over 1000 schools are members of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network (which I direct). This focuses on practices to evaluate and develop a positive ethos in terms of positive relationships amongst the school community. The current focus of the network is in sharing good practice amongst schools in involving pupils in decision making. (Information about the network and certain key publications have been distributed in N Ireland). In Scotland as elsewhere there is concern about bullying and a network has been established to share research based information about good practice.

Thus, I think in terms of provision, Scotland is probably more socially inclusive. In terms of day to day practices, it is my impression that Scotland has very similar problems to those of other parts of the UK.

6. Is there any evidence of concern on the part of teachers, higher and further education institutions and employers regarding the introduction of the new Higher Still exams?

There as been widespread concern about the maladministration of the examinations and in particular with the failure of the SQA to cope with the volume of internal assessment marks provided by schools. Much of the subsequent debate has concerned the role of internal and external assessment.

There has also been concern about the intellectual integrity of 'chunking' up knowledge into discrete units, which are assessed separately.

More generally teachers have felt excluded from the policy process by which Higher Still was developed and implemented. Although there was widespread consultation about Higher Still, there is little evidence that serious attention was paid to responses. Warnings from teachers were ignored. These concerned the problems they were experiencing with SQA about the accurate recording of their internal assessments.

There have been SQA and parliamentary enquiries into the widely reported disaster of the examination results of 2000.

7. What would you identify as the main challenges facing Scottish education?

I confine my remarks to secondary schools and teaching.

nAn overcrowded curriculum dominated by subject specialisms, which look increasingly out of date.

nThe need to modernise initial teacher education and take seriously the continuous professional development of teachers.

nThe serious consideration of ICT's contribution to learning and teaching and the potential to meet the needs of individual learners more effectively.

nThe underachievement of boys.




written submission by:
national association of headteachers (ni)

The National Association of Headteachers (NI) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Gallagher and Smith Report on The Effects Of The Selective System Of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland. A group representing Heads and Deputies in Controlled and Maintained schools in the primary and post-primary non-selective sectors met recently in the NAHT (NI) Regional Centre to discuss it and formulated the following response. The views expressed are representative of NAHT (NI) Heads and Deputies throughout Northern Ireland in controlled and maintained schools in the Primary and Post-Primary non-selective sectors.

Since its introduction, the selection process in N Ireland has been exclusive. It has identified a percentage of pupils to potentially benefit from a particular type of curricula. This selected group was then expected to progress to higher education. The remainder were not expected, nor encouraged, to remain in secondary education beyond the statutory leaving age. The system was designed to separate and in that it achieved its objective. In our opinion it is educationally unsound, inaccurate, unfair and socially biased. The process is futile, wasteful and immoral and results in extensive emotional and motivational damage to many children. If, as a society, we claim to care about our children, we must no longer perpetuate this annual form of child abuse.

Selection at 11 is now outdated, outmoded and not suited to present day needs. It is no longer needed because there are systems already in place which have shown that children, without being selected/separated, can receive high quality educational experiences, delivered through structures which cater for all abilities. There is evidence that where there is an alternative, there are parents and pupils who will opt for it.

We strongly believe selection at 11 must be abolished and the reasons we advance to support that view are set out below.

The Curriculum

The argument that 7 years experience of primary school can be tested by two examination papers each of one hour length is no longer sustainable.

Testing children at 11 is not a valid test of ability.

It is not an accurate predictor of the future performance of any young person.

It is difficult to quantify what it is measuring.

It 'skews' the primary curriculum which, in practice, is abandoned for two years or more.

It is incompatible with, and a barrier to Curriculum development in the Primary School.

It fails to focus on the educational needs of the child.

It has not met the changing needs of society and the economy.

The reasons which have been advanced are supported in the report, "Testing The Test - A Study of the Reliability and Validity of the Northern Ireland Transfer Procedure Test in Enabling the Selection of Pupils for Grammar School Places" by John Gardner and Pamela Cowan. One of the Key Findings states that:

"Since the Test does not measure a singular attribute of candidates, it cannot be used as a proxy for any particular attribute, for example, children's ability or their potential to benefit from a Grammar school education."

That being so, the 'fitness for purpose' of the Test is brought very much into question. the phrase 'potential to benefit from a Grammar school education' re-appears in the last of the Key Findings which states that:-

"The published information on the Test does not meet the requirements of the International standards on educational testing, both generally in the provision of standard reliability and validity information and particularly, for example, in the validation of the Test outcomes in relation to its predictive power (eg 'potential to benefit from a Grammar school education') establishing norms, providing information on potential misclassification and accommodating disability."

Referring to Test Accuracy it states:-

"The evidence she (Sutherland 1990) found suggested that at best 1 in 7 and at worst 1 in 5 candidates were misplaced by the tests."

At a later stage in the report the question, "What does the Test measure?" is asked and the following answer given.

"Strictly speaking, it is not officially known what the Test measures. The Department of Education states only that the Test is designed to assist schools in allocating places. It is not claimed to be a single measure of anything; not ability, intelligence, general reasoning or anything else."

We believe the reasons we have given are educationally sound and therefore sufficiently compelling for prompt action to be taken and selection at 11 to cease.


All schools are responsible for the Pastoral care and welfare of their pupils. Selection at 11 can undermine the ethos of a school and the principles upon which any system of pastoral care is built for the following reasons.

It is immoral to put children of that age under such stress.

It devalues the majority of children.

It does not provide for the development of the whole person.

It fails to foster the concept of inclusiveness through which all children feel equally cherished by the education system.

It ignores the fact that boys mature later than girls.

It does not provide equality of access to life opportunities for all pupils.

personal development/self-esteem

For any school which strives to build and sustain a unique, distinctive ethos, a fundamental objective is to encourage pupils to develop confidence in themselves and in their own ability and have a strong sense of self-esteem and personal worth. We firmly believe that the concept of selection and its application are in direct opposition to this in that it:-

-can significantly damage self-esteem at a crucial stage of a child's emotional and educational development;

-creates and perpetuates a feeling of failure in many pupils;

-damages personal self-confidence and self-worth;

-can create feelings of inadequacy.


Transfer to post primary education should continue to take place at 11 (a minority would see benefit in transfer taking place at the end of Key Stage 3) following a process of parental consultation, professional guidance and external moderation.

A balance must be found to accommodate, for example, urban/rural differences.

In parallel with the abolition of selection at 11 there must be an examination of alternative school structures.

Such an exercise must recognise and acknowledge that various pathways can be, and are already, delivered in one school system.

The potential benefits for movement across different pathways must also be recognised and provision to facilitate a process of transferability would therefore need to be made. This would be eased when all provision was on one site.

Whatever system is put in place must command the wholehearted allegiance of teachers, parents, pupils, business, industry, commerce and society at large.

It must be thoroughly planned, generously resourced and be seen as investing for the future.

Debate on the development of partnerships with industry and business in funding education must be vigorously promoted with potential benefits identified.

Such a system/structures must seek to create the opportunities which will offer economic prosperity for all and social and environmental development in a more politically stable N. Ireland.

We must move to a system in which:-

-the brightest continue to be challenged and all children achieve to the maximum of their ability;

-equality of status between the Academic and Vocational paths is paramount;

-the concept and definition of 'Vocational' is understood and articulated in its broadest sense eg to include areas such as ICT/Business Studies;

-access to all, parity of status and inclusiveness for all abilities are a reality;

-there is a continuum in curriculum terms to ensure continuity from KS2 --KS3;

-a two-way programme of primary/post primary links is encouraged.

For the above ideals to be realised we recommend a rigorous and radical evaluation of the appropriateness of the Common Curriculum, and the putting in place of a package of curriculum reform which is the result of a genuine consultation process with a wide range of practitioners.

The guiding principles which determine what happens must ensure that:-

-there is equity of access for all;

-appropriate consideration is given to the impact of delayed maturation;

-parity of esteem is accorded to all young people, irrespective of ability;

-the educational experiences of all young people are valid and relevant;

-equality of status between the Academic and Vocational routes is a reality;

-there is a genuine concept of inclusiveness.

Decisions at all stages will be based on:-

-Professional guidance;


-pupil aptitude, ability and choice;

-parental consultation/input.

Whatever system/structures emerge must not be constrained by existing structures. They must meet the educational and other needs of all young people and ensure equality of status and parity of esteem if they are to gain widespread credibility, respect and success in what must become a new educational dispensation.

national association of schoolmasters and
union of women teachers


Q.1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

A.1. The current transfer procedure has been shown in research findings to be inefficient and arbitrary. It does not provide genuine equality of opportunity and results in the majority of children being unfairly stigmatised and demotivated.

Q.2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?

A.2. NASUWT is opposed to institutional selection. It agrees that selection within an institution, in the form of setting and streaming, may be justified on educational grounds. The Association would have serious concerns regarding the use of mixed ability teaching in key stages 3 and 4.

Q.3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

A.3. The Gallagher Report gives a reasonable summary of the effects of the selective system in Northern Ireland.

Q.4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

A.4. The current system stigmatises those children who are awarded the lower grades. It accentuates the problems of social need and underachievement.

Q.5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

a. Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

c. Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

d. A system of continuous assessment.

e. Parental Input.

f. Combination of the above options.

A.5. a. The inclusion of Science in the current tests creates difficulties in the primary school sector because of the lack of teachers with the requisite expertise in this discipline. This problem would also apply if other teaching specialisms were to be included in the transfer tests.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own tests would aggravate social inequality and would intensify the levels of stress to which year 7 pupils are exposed at an impressionable age.

c. The experiment, in the early years of the transfer procedure, involving teachers and principals of primary schools in making recommendations was a disaster. It left teachers and principals vulnerable to intolerable pressure from parents and would be a totally inappropriate selection mechanism.

d. A system of continuous assessment would be an effective statement of achievement but would have dubious value as a predictor of future ability.

e. The Association is at a loss to understand what is involved in a system of parental input or how this could ensure objective and equitable decisions.

f. A combination of the above options would be a cumbersome mechanism and would be unlikely to guarantee real equality of opportunity.


Q.1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

A.1. The Association would have an open mind on whether 11+ or 14+ is the most appropriate age for transfer.

Q.2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

A.2. Because of the excessive coaching and preparation which it fosters, the transfer system has a debilitating effect on the final years of key stage 2.

Q.3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

A.3. Parents are entitled to exercise choice of post-primary school within the selection criteria operated. If parents were to insist on having the school of their choice, this would make effective educational planning impossible and would result in some schools being overcrowded and other being closed.


Q.1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A.1. The current prescriptive curriculum through to key stage 4 is determined by the needs of the GCE A-level system. There must be flexibility for those pupils who wish to follow a GNVQ route and for those who would wish to concentrate on skills based courses.

Q.2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

A.2. Vocational education is of considerable importance but has been marginalised in the present curriculum which is largely dictated by the GCE A-level examination system. This is reflected, for example, in the transformation of CDT into an academic subject, Technology.

Q.3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

A.3. It is imperative that vocational education courses are given parity of esteem and treatment with the GCSE and GCE A-level system.

Q.4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A.4. Parity of esteem can be secured by means of a programme of joint publicity statements involving the Department, CCEA, the employing authorities, the CBI and the unions.


Q.1. What are your views of:

a. A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish System).

b. Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

c. A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

Q.2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

Q.3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

Q.4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable? What are the manpower/ financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

A.1.-4. The NASUWT believes that the imposition of one generic system would polarise opinion and would lead to some grammar schools considering leaving the state system. The Association's policy, reiterated at its 1995 Northern Ireland Conference, seeks the abolition of selection and the implementation of a system of comprehensive education in Northern Ireland. NASUWT believes that there should be flexibility of choice on specific comprehensive proposals implemented by means of the statutory consultation involved in Development Proposals.


Q.1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How could these be achieved?

A.1. There is a competent state of the objectives in the Executive's Programme for Government -

nseeking to provide high quality education to all, with equal access for all;

nseeking to ensure that all our young people have the skills and qualifications to gain employment in a modern economy;

nenabling people to update their knowledge, skill and qualifications; and

nassisting and supporting the socially excluded to enable them to enter or return to the workforce.

Q.2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

A.2. These objectives can most effectively be delivered if the Executive will commit itself genuinely to a policy of partnership with the key players in education, involving them fully in consultation at all stages.

written submission by:
north west institute
of further and higher education

I refer to your letter of 23 February 2001 and thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Review of Post-Primary Education in Northern Ireland.

The Institute views the current transfer system for pupils from primary to post-primary school as being in need of change. The current system is loaded against pupils from disadvantaged background and the current test methodology creates a concept of failure at an age where it can have an adverse effect on the personal development of the young person.

The Institute notes the "Gallagher and Smith" report and would not dissent from any of its major findings. It is the view of the Institute that young people from a working class background, particularly those from disadvantaged areas, are significantly disadvantaged by the current system. The evidence, in terms of young people leaving post-primary education with low levels of educational attainment, would support this contention.

The Institute does not believe that the retention of the current selection system can be modified by a different mechanism of selection. The continuation of secondary and grammar schools would lead only to a different testing system at the age of transfer and it is the issue of testing which is central to the current debate.

In terms of transition to post-primary school the Institute would suggest that the method of transfer is more important than the age of transfer. The ideal transfer age is probably in the thirteen or fourteen age cohort but such a proposal would lead towards the concept of junior schools, middle schools and upper schools and has a significant resource implication.

In terms of the impact of transfer arrangements on the delivery of the curriculum, evidence from the primary schools suggests that it leads to a significant skewing of the Key Stage 2 curriculum and to mugatory training for the tests.

The Institute is not in a position to make specific comments on the role of parents in any new process until details of that process become public. However, the Institute supports the principle of parental involvement and in a non-test transfer situation it is conceivable that parental input would be significant.

In terms of the post-primary curriculum, the Institute believes that the principle of the same curriculum being taught to all pupils is a cause of the current problem of pupil under-achievement. The Institute would support different pathways being available but those pathways must fit the needs of the young person and fit into the wider remit of economic and community development.

The Institute believes that vocational education is central to the needs and aspirations of many post-primary school students. However vocational education must deliver genuine vocational skills by competently qualified vocational staff. This could be delivered by better linkages with the further education sector rather than by devocationalising the vocational curriculum which is current practice.

The Institute support strongly the concept of parity of esteem between academic and vocational achievement and believes that proposals for future developments might benefit from examining the positive aspects of the dual system of German education.

In terms of the alternative structures and systems outlined in your letter the principle of a comprehensive system is one which would have Institute support but is unlikely to be feasible if voluntary grammar schools continue to exist. The delayed selection option is only beneficial if the post transfer model creates real options, based on the needs of the student cohort, and there is no evidence that this was a result of the Dickson plan. A more differentiated system is attractive but there are cultural aspects linked to the German system which could not be easily replicated in a Northern Ireland situation.

In essence the Institute would suggest that there may need to be wider consultation on other structures but believes that it is difficult to discuss options until there is clear commitment in terms of resources to allow for the delivery of a new system.

In terms of the purpose of the education system the Institute would propose that, at a macro level, education should be structured so as to allow the system to produce suitably trained individuals to deliver the economic and community development requirements of society. At a micro level it should provide a curriculum which allows all young people to develop their potential for making a maximum contribution to the wider society.

I hope the above is helpful but if you require additional information do not hesitate to contact me.




NIBEP is an organisation designed to bring together the worlds of work and of education. Its specific tasks are to enhance the educational experience, employability and entrepreneurial attitudes and skills of young people. It is made up of businesspeople and educationalists who share a common vision of the future.

Our vision sees the fields of industry, trade and commerce as linked in the most fundamental way to the rest of society. As human beings, work is how we structure and define our material environment. As producers and consumers, the level and character of economic activity determine our standard of living. As citizens, the way in which we relate to each other within the world of work and how the costs and fruits of our labours are distributed are central issues for our democracy.

Business, then, is not just about the production of wealth, important as that is. It is also about good and productive human relations, a sensible and sustainable attitude towards the environment, a desire to meet customers' needs and a willingness to contribute to general social development. The effective and profit-making businessperson is one who realises the interdependence of business and community and seeks to harmonise their interests and goals.

It is for these reasons that industry and commerce wish to attract the brightest and best of our sons and daughters to work with us. We need the highest quality work, the wisest decisions and the clearest vision. Yet this is not an elitist position. The modern economy requires higher standards from all and an increasing diversity of skills and abilities. Today, the 'brightest and best' must refer, not to a small elite but to the generality of our young people. In different ways, but with a common emphasis on improved ability to learn and process information, everyone must aspire to develop their potential to the full.

Furthermore, as owners, managers or employees, we are all citizens. We require active citizens - people who are fully conscious of both their rights and their obligations, secure in their own identities but respecting diversity, prepared to excel individually while working collectively. The decisions that citizens make in the world of work may often be as important as those they make in the world of politics. The extent to which the values of active citizenship are implemented in the economy is the extent to which they underpin our activity in the rest of civil society.

Selection at age 11, and particularly by means of the 11+ competition, is educationally and socially divisive creating a serious gulf between a minority of those who are held to be "successes" and a majority of those seen as "failures". This is socially and economically divisive.

nFlexibility and openness. Academic selection at 11 offends directly against this principle. A door is closed on the majority of our children's futures. Although there is a common curriculum from ages 4-14, 65% of our children follow this course within the disadvantaged context of secondary schools. Furthermore, there is a clear effect of hindering the academic advancement of these children. Grammar school pupils tend to pursue a route through 'A' levels to higher education while the structural position and ethos of secondary schools make this route much harder for their pupils.

Many teachers and educationalists believe that 11 is too early an age to make academic judgements about the future of children. Moreover, the nature of the test itself is problematic. It appears that the grading system applied to test results has the potential to misclassify pupils by up to three grades above or below their given grade.[1] The procedure also fails to test higher order thinking because questions are confined to tasks which yield right or wrong answers that can be clerically marked. In addition, the 11+ is the only examination that cannot be retaken. This restricts openness and flexibility and offends against the principle of life-long learning.

Selection at 11 and the nature of the 11+ competition decrease flexibility and openness, restricting the ability of most children between 11 and 14 to develop in the ways that best suit them. The test itself is limited and unreliable.

nEqual valuing and resourcing. In practice, the only measure of value used when assessing our schools is academic. The school 'league tables' are published in order of academic achievement, a school's prestige depends upon its 'results' (meaning academic credits only) and academic criteria dominate the value systems of children, parents and teachers. Yet our school system is divided on academic grounds (though based on a test of doubtful validity) when children are still unformed and their abilities undeveloped. The 'lower' two-thirds of the system, those schools that take the academic 'failures' are therefore structurally undervalued. They are tested against an academic criterion that their pupils are already assessed as having failed.

The Department review makes very clear how this confuses and demoralises teachers. "Secondary teachers felt that they were expected to fulfil a number of different objectives in their schools due to the wide range of ability among their pupils", notes the Report. We think this is quite right, as our emphasis on breadth and variety in education should make clear. However, teachers fell betrayed by the system. "..there was a barely disguised resentment at what they felt was a lack of acknowledgement among the wider public on the challenges and difficulties they faced. Secondary teachers feel that the status of schools is largely influenced by academic performance and that they are judged in comparison with grammar schools on this academic criterion".[2]

Attempts to broaden the curriculum, to develop high order skills some elements of which are not recognised by academic criteria and to provide excellent vocationally directed education are undervalued and constrained. It has been argued by Dr Leslie Caul that the continued existence of selection has constrained efforts to improve vocational education by confining the educational system to a strongly academic framework, "with the dominance of selective schools working at the expense of a non- selective sector".[3]

We do not think that this is the place to engage in full discussion of the funding mechanisms of the school system. Nonetheless, it is our view that the selective process does discriminate against the secondary school sector. As we have seen, to select on academic criteria also means, inevitably and unavoidably, to select on social or class grounds also. Grammar schools, therefore, will, by their nature, have a more advantaged group of pupils and parents. Their desire and ability to assist the schools financially will be much greater. Some grammar schools charge fees, which, on top of their government funding, can have a dramatic effect on their disposable resources.

Furthermore, the impact of selection combined with open enrolment was to increase the numbers, and hence resourcing, of those going to grammar schools.[4] Conversely, the numbers and ability profile of children going to secondary schools decreased. This "produced a less stable context within which secondary schools were operating", says the Department's report, "and added to the difficulties they say the selective system had already created for them".[5] It is clear that under-performance is directly related to the under- resourcing of secondary schools, which raises a major question of equality.

By its very nature, the selective system fails to value educational objectives equally, discriminates against a majority of the school system in terms of resourcing and thereby restricts the variety and level of educational outputs.

nRounded education. Only a rounded education can produce the rounded personalities we require as colleagues of the future. We have emphasised how a skills mix is now essential and this must include a high proportion of 'people skills'. This is not an argument for the classic liberal 'broad education', much less is it a plea for more narrowly vocational education. On the contrary it is a question of meeting the needs of today's economy through ensuring that pupils have a wide and varied educational providing them with the 'soft' and 'hard' skills they will need in the world of work.

The main implication of this stance is that business has a direct interest in the character of our education system. For it is the main process by which citizens are developed and shaped. Our colleagues of the future are today being formed in the schools of our country. Our views are strong and we articulate them below, but we wish to reject a view that sees this interest as denoting a desire to 'commercialise' education.

Our perspective on education is not that there needs to be narrow vocational specialisation nor that the profit motive should be an overriding value. We need well-rounded human beings, able to lead and be led, and to work in respectful harmony with other people. We also require citizens with a lively appreciation of the fullness of social life and the interconnectedness of the social and economic. We reiterate that modern business does not want regimented toilers but rounded personalities with the ability to bring their initiative and knowledge to bear on workplace issues.

Our approach in the rest of this paper is, first, to examine the needs of and what is valued by the modern economy, second, generate from these the core elements of an educational strategy that could match them, third, examine how the current education system, structured as it is by the 11+ transfer system, measures up to these elements and, fourth, consider what changes or alternatives might answer our needs better.

The needs of the contemporary economy

From our experience and information available to us, it is possible to draw out some major characteristics of the contemporary economy with relevance for the nature of the workforce required and hence for the education system.

There is a high and increasing demand for a skilled workforce. In the latest edition of the Labour Market Bulletin, one article refers to the 'lively debate' in the 80s as to whether technological change would de-skill or up-skill jobs. "That debate is over", declares the author, "skill demands are rising".[6] There are a number of reasons for this and they imply that the process will continue into the foreseeable future. They also point to the changing character of skills required, points we will pick up below.

Technological change is clearly a main motor of up-skilling. As material technology becomes more complex, carries out more complicated processes and is applied in more areas, the need for persons skilled in its production, use and maintenance grows.

The information revolution, created and structured by the developments in information technology, requires an increased ability to assess, collate, manipulate and present data of different kinds.

Globalisation has a clear effect through the increasing international division of labour. High skill content industries, requiring highly educated workforces, will tend to gravitate to those developed countries which have a 'start' in this respect. At the same time, 'traditional' low skill, manual industries are declining or will move to areas of lower labour costs. The proportion of jobs requiring high skills in an economy like ours will therefore continue to be increased by both factors.

Changes in management techniques are tending to put more demands on individual employees and to change the skills required. Some examples are 'delayering'. continuous personal development, team-based working, multi-skilling, 'just-in-time' production and total quality management. Most of these emphasise the need for increased individual skills and also the ability to work collectively.

The increasing importance of the personal service sector. In much of this sector, the product being sold is the packaged and structured skill of one or more individuals, whether, for example, a chef, a personal trainer or a security consultant. Clearly, success in this sector depends on skill level.

Rising consumer power demands that services designed to enhance purchasers' experience pre and post sale or at the point or consumption also increase. In some circumstances, the quality of such services can be an important source of competitive advantage.

All these factors play a part in producing the undeniably significant increase in the skills levels our economy requires. They also point to the following characteristics of skills required.

There is a need for an increased diversity of vocational skills, though with a significant common core. The economy is becoming more diverse, with new products, material and service, proliferating. The extent and character of the skills required in these different areas will grow and change. There is also, however, an increasingly significant common core to many new vocational skills. This core is made up of skills clustering around the areas of literacy, information processing and inter-personal relations.

There is a need for individuals to possess an increased breadth and flexibility of skills. The new economy places greater demands on the individual. Workplace tasks are becoming more complex requiring each worker to have a more extensive and flexible armoury of skills. The number and variety of tasks demanded in particular jobs are increasing. Furthermore, in a lifetime of work, an individual is likely to be employed in a greater variety of specific jobs. Careers are now much less likely to be pursued within one pattern of job specific skills.

'Soft skills', largely within the areas of interpersonal communication and personal abilities, values and attitudes, are becoming as important as technical skills. What have hitherto been mainly thought of as management skills - 'getting things done through other people' - now extend much further into the generality of jobs, if defined as 'getting things done with other people'. The ability to communicate effectively with and motivate other people is now much more widely valued. Furthermore, personal qualities such as motivation, leadership, enterprise, judgement and initiative are becoming relevant in a greater range of occupations. Reasoning, making judgements and decisions, planning and managing work processes and 'operationalising' ideas are more significant in an increased number of work locations.

Elements of an educational strategy

From the above discussion, it is possible to outline the broad elements of an educational strategy. It is our view that, in principle, the strategy should come first and the structures that best implement it should then be developed. We understand the constraints that the fact of existing structures puts upon us all, but we insist that structural issues should not predominate in the discussion. We also ought to note that we do not regard formal education as the only way in which people are prepared for the world of work; we understand that the kind of workforce we have described above will only be produced by a culture of lifelong learning. It is our policy to support and encourage such learning, within and outside the workplace.

We begin by listing the desired outputs of an educational system from the economic point of view.

nA high and increasing proportion of people leaving school with high level qualifications and certified competencies. We need as many highly qualified people as ever and many more very well qualified and skilful people.

nA wide variety of vocationally relevant skills represented in the population leaving school each year.

nPeople with a common core of high-level competencies. Each person needs high standards of literacy, knowledge of information technology and understanding of inter-personal relations.

nFlexible individuals with a wide range of knowledge and competence.

nPeople who are well motivated, but who like, respect and can work with other people in all their diversity.

nCitizens with a lively sense of democracy, the importance of human rights and equality and a preparedness to participate in constructive debate and decision-making. Active citizenship is no longer something to be tolerated or regarded as an optional extra in industry. Today's workers need to have initiative, ideas and enterprise and to understand the vital fact of interdependence amongst all sort of humanity. School must help their pupils prepare for their aspect of life.

We think that the above desired outputs imply a clear set of principles for an educational strategy:

nAll-round high achievement. The 'productivity' of the educational system must constantly increase. The skills of staff, the resources available in the classroom, the school estate itself, the range of experiences and skill opportunities available to pupils - all should be subject to constant improvement. We need a culture of excellence, at all levels, in all subjects and for the testing of all competencies.

nSocial Inclusion. We use this term to express the principle that schools must aim to achieve success for each and every pupil. It is economically and socially divisive for there to be a high proportion of 'failures' produced by the school system. The education process should aim to achieve the maximum possible extent of high achievement at every level and in each area.

nFlexibility and openness. The above kind of achievement will only be possible with maximum flexibility in the school system. This means, on the one hand, openness to a varied learning culture, including out-of-school experiences, many of which can be offered by employers, seeing itself as the beginning of lifelong learning. On the other hand, it means minimising the extent to which, at any stage and in any area, doors are closed to further achievement. Any evidence adduced to justify the closing of any educational route to a person must be of impeccable integrity and accuracy.

nEqual valuing and resourcing. The outputs of the education system must be of uniformly high quality but of great individual variety. Within the world of work different skills and qualities are dependent upon their combination to be effective and productive. This interdependence should lead to equal valuing of them and the ways in which they are produced. We need diversity and variety in our schools, but all the different aspects need to be equally supported, particularly in terms of resourcing.

nRounded education. High-level specialisation is necessary in some skill areas in order to acquire the depth of knowledge and experience necessary. There is a serious opportunity cost, however, if it means missing out on the 'roundedness' of education. For us this means a number of things. It is partly about keeping in touch with the "two cultures", as C P Snow called them, of science and the arts. It is partly about recognising the value of, and combining where possible, both the academic and the practical. It is also partly about understanding the pervasive impact of the information revolution, the skills of literacy in the broadest sense that it demands and the potential and limits of the technological advance that drives it. Finally, it is also about understanding the significance of human interaction and communication both in work and in life in general. The implications are, first, that the education system needs to provide this roundedness in its structure and, second, that specialisation should generally be either deferred until it is unavoidable or deliberately accompanied by opportunities to keep in touch with other areas and skills.

Selection at age 11 tested against the principles of an educational strategy

nAll-round high achievement. The evidence presented in the Department of Education report and elsewhere suggests that our selective system in Northern Ireland leads to significant under-achievement. In terms of the standard academic criteria - numbers of Year 12 students gaining the equivalent of five or more GCSEs at grade A* - C - selection appears to produce a long tail of low-achieving schools. In general, selection disadvantages the entire secondary school sector, with lower resources, demoralised teachers, children who feel characterised as failures and under-valuing of non-academic success. Two thirds of our schools - and their pupils - are prevented from achieving their full potential. Amongst other problems, this can add to industry training costs when recruits have deficiencies in basic numeracy and literacy skills.

We note below that selection at 11 has a distorting effect on the primary school curriculum with the later years dominated by preparation for the test. This is bound to have a detrimental effect on achievement of some children at least at this early stage in their development.

Selection at age 11 clearly fails to produce all-round high achievement

nSocial inclusion. The evidence is that whole areas of our educational system are unproductive or are, indeed, producing 'failures'. This is far from the ideal of seeking high achievement for each pupil. The situation is socially worse and more dangerous because selection on academic criteria also reinforces social segregation. The evidence is that secondary schools contain a much higher proportion of socially disadvantaged pupils than grammar schools. All the negative features of demoralisation and sense of failure noted in the literature compound that social disadvantage. Secondary school teachers report that their first task is to try and re-instil in Year 8 pupils a sense of self-worth and self-esteem destroyed through the negative impact of selection at age 11.[7]

Furthermore, though secondary school pupils start off graded lower academically by the 11+ their experience of second level schooling will put them at a further relative disadvantage to those attending grammar schools. Gallagher and Smith calculate this effect to be worth 16 GCSE points - equivalent to three passes at level C.[8]

This reality has a particularly negative effect on the vocational motivation of the young people who end up in secondary school. Their horizons are reduced and their vision of their future careers is curtailed. Sir George Quigley has argued that in reinforcing the 'class divide', the selective system has a negative impact on the economic aspirations of more than half of the population of Northern Ireland.[9]

All of these features are exacerbated by the effect of the growing number of parents who withdraw their children from the tests. Ironically, this increases the 'pass rate' in the 11+ as the proportion allocated within each band is based on a percentage of the number of children in the year, not of those that take the test. As a recent ruling by the High Court has made clear, the 11+ is a competition rather than an assessment exercise. This is one of the causes of the shift of pupils and resources to the grammar school sector described below.

Selection at 11 effectively prevents this kind of education. The problem starts in primary school. There is much evidence of the distortion of the last two years of the primary curriculum as all the emphasis goes on preparing for 'the Test'. The Education and Training Inspectorate has concerns that the upper stages of primary school are unduly influenced by the Transfer Procedure. "The main concern is that teaching styles and strategies are narrowly geared towards test preparation and that, in consequence, pupils are not receiving the broad and balanced experience envisaged by the statutory curriculum".[10]

Secondary and grammar school Heads of Department confirm that pupils come to them with a narrow understanding of the curriculum. 'Teaching to the Test', means that second level schools almost have to re-run the previous two years teaching to get their pupils up to standard in terms of a broad understanding of the curriculum.

At second level, the binary system undervalues a rounded education in two ways. In the grammar schools, the emphasis on academic excellence alone tends towards concentration on the more 'academic' subjects and, in general, leaves little space for those studies that can put academic knowledge into context. In the secondary schools, there is still a push to achieve academic distinction, given the narrow criteria for educational success we have described. Alternatives are more available, but are also undervalued. Pupils see more vocational or practical skills based courses as second class alternatives condemning them to a working life of routine and boredom. Motivating people in these areas becomes particularly difficult; when the reality is that we need high achievers in these sectors too.

'People skills' get hardly any emphasis in this value system, dominated and determined by selection on academic criteria. We make it quite clear that, as employers, we value the skills and experience that children gain in sports, of all kinds and all levels, in the arts, in all forms of personal expressions and in social service. Given the fact that, as we have stressed, the ability to work with people is a prime core skill, these areas should not be pushed to the margins of the curriculum. They are not optional extras, they are essential.

Selection at age 11 narrows the educational curriculum and helps prevent the development of a rounded education necessary to provide the mix of skills and experiences our economy needs.

Tested against the principles of an educational strategy that would deliver the abilities and skills our developing economy requires, selection at 11 and the 11+ in particular fail on all counts. It is a poor test, it is carried out too early and its consequences so distort the education system that it is currently failing to provide what we as a society need for the future: an increasingly skilled, motivated, responsible and flexible citizenry.

Alternative Strategies

We have made our opposition to the selection at 11 clear. In approaching the question of alternative strategies, we would like to be active participants in the debate, rather than partisans for a particular structure. We believe that, above all, it will be important to break the restrictive effect of narrowly academic criteria on the education system and to give higher comparative value to additional skills and to combinations of skills. Clearly, we would also wish to see any educational strategy embodying the principles we have enunciated above. In that light, we can perhaps make a few initial points in relation to alternative strategies.

First, we are opposed to selection at age 11. That means that selection must either be delayed or done away with. Second, as we are opposed to purely academic selection at any age, the delayed selection process, as practised in Craigavon, holds little appeal. Third, we value the high academic standards to be found in our grammar schools, especially their sixth forms, as well as the varied opportunities available in secondary schools and colleges of further education. Fourth, we look for more variety, more specialisation to achieve high standards (within a 'rounded' context), more choice and more flexibility.

If those points are a summary of our desired specification for a new system, we realise that any change incurs costs. We are keenly aware of the impact of structural disruption upon education and that our system has suffered a succession of changes in the recent past. In so far as is possible, we would wish to keep the best of the present system yet, with a minimum of structural disruption, make the changes that we believe are necessary for all our futures. As an organisation we would wish to be fully involved in debate around the nature of any proposed structural developments.

The purely financial costs of change must be fully borne by the public purse without deleterious effect on the funding of schools. Like any other decision on resource allocation, this will involve opportunity costs, but we believe it is hard to overestimate the priority of education.

We also understand that removing selection at 11 is not a panacea for all the shortcomings of our educational system. Development of the curriculum to meet the needs of the emerging new economy is also necessary. We welcome the proposed changes in the curriculum that give greater emphasis to the development of employability skills and the increased flexibility that disapplication can provide. It is our view that the current review of the transfer test should coincide with the review of the curriculum to maximise the educational benefits that may arise. The strategic principles we have enunciated, especially with regard to openness, flexibility and opportunities for life-long learning, as well as the necessity to develop a broad understanding of particular issues and skill sets within a wider context, have as much relevance to overall curriculum development as to selective and structural issues.

A particular point we would like to make is that the strategic involvement of stakeholders in the education system, particularly parents, is limited. While school level engagement of parents is extremely important, we do not believe it is sufficient. We suggest that the establishment of overall Parents Council for the primary and secondary sectors would be a progressive development.

In conclusion, we do not have a naïve belief that competition, selection of learning routes and assessment of attainment levels can be eradicated from an education system. Nor do we think that desirable. Competition should, however, be about the possibility of achieving excellence in a wide range of contexts rather than an all-or-nothing, win-or-lose contest. Selection should be much more about choice amongst equally valued options and assessment of attainment should be objective within a spectrum of skill mixes and achievements. An educational system that achieves these things will be one that meets the needs of industry and will be fully worthy of our children.

northern ireland council for integrated education

1.0 Introduction

1.1 NICIE, in its capacity as the representative body for integrated schools welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the current debate on the effects of the selective system of secondary education in Northern Ireland.

NICIE acknowledges the diligent work on the part of authors Gallagher and Smith that led to the production of this wide ranging yet accessible report and furthermore applauds the effort of the Review Body to consult with all members of the community through the organisation of public meetings and the promotion of open dialogue.

1.2 Development of Responses

In order to draw together the range of opinions on this topic from across the integrated sector, NICIE itself has entered into a lengthy consultation process with its member schools. NICIE is aware that many integrated schools have already made submissions to the Review Body (Appendix 1) but would draw the Body's attention to the fact that this paper represents the current position of NICIE.

In addition to consulting with member schools NICIE also established a small working party to consider the formulation and drafting of this response as well as commissioning a short-term piece of research through Queens University which summarises the strategies used in integrated colleges to deliver an all-ability education. A summary of this research will be forwarded to the Review Body as soon as it is available.

1.3 Purpose of Education

NICIE welcomes Gallagher and Smith's comments that a starting point for discussion ought to be the "social, educational and economic objectives young people should achieve from their education experience". NICIE feels strongly that the focus for this debate should be the needs of all our young people and that school structures should ensure that no pupil leaves school the worse for his/her experience.

The NICIE Statement of Principles (see Appendix 2) states that the core aim of the integrated school is to "provide the child with a caring self-fulfilling educational experience which will enable him/her to become a fulfilled and caring adult".

A society which imposes a selective system on its young people, one which discriminates in favour of the top 35%, can not expect its adults to be the skilled, socially interactive citizens that we would like to see contribute to the development of a post-conflict society in Northern Ireland. If society desires such citizens it must ensure that our young people leave school with not only employable skills and aptitudes but also a strong self image, an open mind and an ability to adapt and evolve within a rapidly shrinking world. This focus on whole child development is central to the operation of every integrated school.

1.4 Integrated model of all-ability education

When Lagan College, the first integrated school, was established in 1981, the founding parents had already acknowledged the inherent weakness of a selective system which effectively categorised and stigmatised children at age 11 as successes or failures. Lagan was built on the foundations of the integrated all-ability principle which has successfully been re-visited in those integrated schools which followed in Lagan's footsteps. There are now seventeen integrated colleges throughout Northern Ireland.

Of the thirteen which were developed as brand new schools, nine have already established sixth forms and the remaining four will do so when their student profile develops to the appropriate 16+ level. It is the intention of most second level integrated colleges to offer a full and varied curriculum for all its pupils from the ages of 11-18. NICIE would again wish to draw the Review Body's attention to the fact that over the last 20 years integrated colleges have successfully delivered all-ability education in a non-selective environment and would present these schools as a model to be considered further within the selection debate.

2.0 Current System

2.1 It is increasingly apparent that the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary should be abolished.

nThe present system of selection in reality is not about assessing the suitability of children for different types of education, nor fundamentally at all about the educational needs of children. It exists rather to control competition for a limited number of places in selective schools. It is not therefore based on any sound educational principles.

nThe present system of selection violates principles of equality and inclusion and therefore directly contravenes both the Belfast Agreement (in particular "Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity" page 16, paragraph 1) and the Draft Programme for Government (in particular "Investing in Education and Skills" section 4.1 and 4.2).

2.2 Having consulted with our schools, NICIE is satisfied that the Gallagher/Smith report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland. It is unfortunate though that the report did not explore those schools in Northern Ireland presently operating on the basis of all-ability intake.

2.3 The identified tail of underachievement referred to in the report clearly places many of our young people at a disadvantage. It is a poor reflection on our social inclusion policies that a high proportion of those young people are recognised as coming from communities which experience high levels of social deprivation. Given that all children follow the Northern Ireland Curriculum throughout their time in second level education there is no need to select them into different second level schools. The best quality teaching and learning should be made available to all pupils.

2.4 Only if the whole educational community embraces an all-ability system can individual schools deliver real inclusion. NICIE contends that children in all-ability schools benefit from a learning experience which gives them self-esteem and transferable skills to equip them for employment within the wider European market and a broader social experience for life in the 21st century.

2.5 NICIE affirms that the current selection system is inherently flawed and unfair. Various suggestions have been made with regard to determining other means of selection, for example, continuous assessment, parental input, individual school entrance tests. NICIE feels it could not lend its support to any alternative method which would simply continue to propagate a fundamentally defective system.


Integrated Schools submitting written responses:



Bangor Central CIPS

Castle Street, Bangor, Co Down

Braidside IPS

87 Frys Road, Ballymena, Co Antrim

Bridge IPS

Ballygowan Road, Banbridge, Co Down

Enniskillen IPS

Drumcoo,, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

Hazelwood IPS

242 Whitewell Road, Newtownabbey

Portaferry CIPS

High Street, Portaferry

Rathenraw CIPS

Rathenraw Estate, Stiles Way, Antrim

Saints & Scholars IPS

Killuney Park, Portadown Road, Armagh

Windmill IPS

30-32 Old Eglish Road, Dungannon, Co Tyrone




Down Academy

12 Old Belfast Road, Downpatrick, Co Down

Drumragh Integrated College

1 Donaghanie Road, Omagh

Integrated College Dungannon

21 Gortmerron Link Road, Dungannon

Hazelwood Integrated College

70 Whitewell Road, Newtownabbey

Lagan Integrated College

44 Manse Road, Castlereagh, Belfast

Oakgrove Integrated College

Stradreagh, Gransha Park, Londonderry

Priory College

My Lady's Mile, Holywood, Co Down

Slemish Integrated College

Larne Road, Ballymena




The NICIE Mission Statement is:

"To promote the concepts and principles of Integrated Education and to help make available and support Integrated Schools in Northern Ireland for all children, parents and communities who opt for them."

appendix 2

nicie statement of principles

We the representatives of the integrated schools and their supporting trusts, gathered together as members of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, define integrated education in the Northern Ireland context as

"Education together in school of pupils drawn in approximately equal numbers from the two major traditions with the aim of providing for them an effective education that gives equal recognition to and promotes equal expression of the two major traditions. The integrated school is essentially Christian in character, democratic and open in procedures and promotes the worth and self-esteem of all individuals within the school community. The school as an institution seeks to develop mutual respect and consideration of other institutions within the educational community. Its core aim is to provide the child with a caring self-fulfilling educational experience which will enable him/her to become a fulfilled and caring adult."


1. that parents have the basic rights in determining the nature of their children's education as set out in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education;

2. that Christianity and Humanism alike demand that children be brought up to respect those who differ from them in creed, culture, race or class;

3. that children being brought up to live as adults in a plural and divided society should be educated in a context where they will come to know, understand, respect and appreciate those who differ from them and to recognise what they hold in common as well as what divides them;

4. that children brought up in a plural and divided society should be nurtured in their parents' religious and national traditions and identity, while respecting the identity and appreciating the traditions of others;

5. that children should prepare to take responsibility for their lives as adults;

6. that children should be helped to develop self-confidence and self-respect so that they can develop confidence in and respect for others;

7. that children should learn to use and trust non-violent methods of resolving conflict;

8. that children should be encouraged and helped to be open in social relations despite difference in creed, culture, race, class, gender or ability; and

9. that children should be encouraged to identify with those less fortunate than themselves, the oppressed and victims of injustice.

In the development of integrated schools for Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland we are committed to the principles that we:

10. must seek to make them places where parents feel happy to send their children, where parents will feel secure knowing that the religious and cultural values and beliefs of their families will be respected in the school;

11. must ensure that they are founded with the consent of the parents, recognising that separate school systems for Catholics, and Protestants are a basic right for families, parents and children who want them;

12. must ensure that there is opportunity for each child to be nurtured in his or her parents' religious and cultural traditions;

13. must seek to secure and sustain deep parental participation in the life and work of the school, and in particular in its government, in the formulation of its policy, in the creation of a working partnership with the teaching staff, and the promotion of good relations with the local community;

14. must plan the schools so that their integrated character is protected from the natural segregative tendencies of a divided society;

15. must ensure that each integrated school community welcomes, respects and cherishes the children of parents having other or no religious convictions while remaining loyal to its own essentially Christian character; and

16. must ensure that the integrated school is open in its relationships with Catholic and Protestant schools and with the local community.


In applying the above principles the governors, staff and parents of all integrated schools in Northern Ireland must make every effort to implement the following guidelines.


There shall be equality of status within the schools for the two main ethno-religious communities of Northern Ireland.

There shall be equality of respect and treatment for all children, regardless of creed, culture, race, class, gender or ability.

These commitments to equality shall be fostered both structurally within the Board of Governors, the staff and the pupils and culturally within the overt and hidden curriculum of the school. To achieve these ends all reasonable steps shall be taken to ensure that:

(a) at least 40% of the first year intake in any year are pupils of the Catholic tradition and at least 40% of pupils are of the Protestant tradition;

(b) at least 40% of the teaching staff are of the Catholic tradition and at least 40% of the Protestant tradition;

(c) at least 40% of the governors are of the Catholic tradition and at least 40% of the Protestant tradition;

(d) the Catholic and Protestant communities within the schools are accorded equal respect and standing;

and furthermore to:

(e) promote the learning of shared culture, beliefs and traditions;

(f) promote the learning of what is specific to the other tradition;

(g) nurture within each pupil what is specific to his or her own tradition;

(h) promote an atmosphere in which pupils will neither conceal or flaunt their own cultural identities;

(i) ensure that no symbol likely to be seen as offensive or divisive shall be displayed in the school premises or worn by pupils;

(j) ensure that when inviting well-known visitors to the school they are selected even-handedly, having regard to the perceptions of the two major communities within Northern Ireland;

(k) be democratic in all relationships between staff, parents and governors and, where possible, make decisions affecting school life on a consensual basis.


The school shall provide a Christian rather than a secular approach and context.

(a) The children shall learn together all that we can reasonably expect them to learn together.

(b) Where the school population includes significant numbers of children of a particular religious community, separate provision should be made to prepare such children for sacramental and liturgical participation in that specific religious community if their parents so wish. In addition the school shall encourage ministers of such religious communities to visit the school, take a pastoral interest in the children and get to know the parents and teachers.

(c) In a manner appropriate to their age and ability, pupils shall be introduced to the ideas, beliefs and practices of the major world religions and humanist philosophies.

(d) All parents should be encouraged to allow their children to follow the common elements in the religious curriculum.

(e) Where parents do not wish their children to be given any specific sacramental or liturgical preparation their wishes shall be respected and proper alternative provision shall be made for their children.

(f) In the selection of prayers, texts (c), (the text of the Lord's Prayer), readings and music for school assemblies and gatherings, care shall be taken to ensure equal prominence for the two major traditions and fair representation of other groups of significant size within the school community.

(g) Where there are significant difference in liturgical practice between the two major communities (eg in the making of the sign of the cross) children should be encouraged to continue with their normal practice.


The school shall promote and encourage parental involvement at all levels of school life.

(a) There shall be Parents' Council to mobilise and organise parental support and participation and to advise the Board of Governors of matters of concern to the parents.

(b) The Governors shall consult the Parents' Council when drafting or redrafting their statements of curriculum policy and discipline policy.

(c) The Governors shall ensure that the parents are briefed when major changes in the curriculum take place.

(d) The Governors shall consult the Parents' Council before determining the school calendar, start and end times of the school day, school uniform, homework policy and other such matters of evident import to parents.

(e) The Governors shall establish appropriate arrangements and procedures for individual and collective communication between parents and

(i) the principal;

(ii) other members of the teaching staff;

(iii) the Governors themselves.

(f) The Governors shall take steps to ensure that parents understand their obligations to play a full part in school life, for example:

(i) by regular attendance at school functions, meetings and events;

(ii) by helping during the school day;

(iii) be helping on school outings and at school events;

(iv) by taking an active interest in their children's schoolwork and homework;

(v) by encouraging their children to show respect for parents, teachers and other pupils by their manner and in their care for their appearance;

(vi) by seeing that their children attend school regularly and punctually; and

(vii) by taking part in fund-raising activities for the school.


(a) The school shall wherever possible be coeducational and all-ability in character and shall seek to educate each child according to his or her educational needs.

(b) Resources and teaching strategies shall be organised to accommodate the all-ability nature of the school. In particular the school shall provide special help:

(i) for children with particular learning difficulties; and

(ii) for children at the top of the ability range.

(c) The school curriculum shall reflect not only the external demands of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, the inspectorate and the economy but also the all-ability character and integrative purpose of the school itself. In particular the school shall make provision for:

(i) a history syllabus which reflects the historical roots of the two major communities within Northern Ireland so as to illuminate both their separate and shared history;

(ii) music and dancing which reflect the culture of both major traditions;

and, on an optional basis, for

(iii) Irish language;

(iv) Irish games.

(d) In selecting texts for English language, literature and drama, care shall be taken to illustrate the contributions both of writers born in Britain and those born in Ireland, North and South.

(e) The school curriculum and the manner in which it is delivered shall encourage the development of autonomous individuals with the capacity to think, question and research.

statement of principles charter

We, the representatives of the integrated schools and their supporting trusts, gathered together as members of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, define integrated education in the Northern Ireland context as:

Education together in school of pupils drawn in approximately equal numbers from the two major traditions with the aim of providing for them an effective education that gives equal recognition to and promotes equal expression of the two major traditions. The integrated school is essentially Christian in character, democratic and open in procedures and promotes the worth and self-esteem of all individuals within the school community. The school as an institution seeks to develop mutual respect and consideration of other institutions within the educational community. Its core aim is to provide the child with a caring self-fulfilling educational experience which will enable him/her to become a fulfilled and caring adult.


1. parents have the basic fights in determining the nature of their children's education as set out in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education;

2. Christianity and Humanism alike demand that children be brought up to respect those who differ from them in creed, culture, race or class;

3. children being brought up to live as adults in a plural and divided society should be educated in a context where they will come to know, understand, respect and appreciate those who differ from them and to recognise what they hold in common as well as what divides them;

4. children brought up in a plural and divided society should be nurtured in their parents' religious and national traditions and identity, while respecting the identity and appreciating the traditions of others;

5. children should prepare to take responsibility for their lives as adults;

6. children should be helped to develop self-confidence and self-respect so that they can develop confidence in and respect for others;

7. children should learn to use and trust non-violent methods of resolving conflict;

8. children should be encouraged and helped to be open in social relations despite difference in creed, culture, race, class, gender or ability; and

9. children should be encourage to identify with those less fortunate than themselves, the oppressed and victims of injustice.

In the development of integrated schools for Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland we are committed to the principles that we must:

10. seek to make them places where parents feel happy to send their children, where parents will feel secure knowing that the religious and cultural values and beliefs of their families, will be represented in the school;

11. ensure that they are founded with the consent of the parents, recognising that separate school systems for Catholics and Protestants are a basic right for families, parents and children who want them;

12. ensure that there is opportunity for each child to be nurtured in his or her parents' religious and cultural traditions;

13. seek to secure and sustain deep parental participation in the life and work of the school, and in particular in its government, in the formulation of its policy, in the creation of a working partnership with the teaching staff, and the promotion of good relations with the local community;

14. plan the schools so that their integrated character is protected from the natural segregative tendencies of a divided society;

15. ensure that each integrated school community welcomes, respects and cherishes the children of parents having other or no religious convictions while remaining loyal to its own essentially Christian character; and

16. ensure that the integrated school is open in its relationships with Catholic and Protestant schools and with the local community.


written submission by
northern ireland council for the curriculum,
examinations & assessment

Executive Summary

The Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) provides advice to the Minister for Education on curriculum, assessment and examination matters, conducts key stage assessments, GCSE and GCE examinations, and administers the transfer procedure tests on behalf of the Department of Education.

CCEA also has a regulatory role in relation to standards in GCSE, GCE and GNVQ examinations offered in Northern Ireland. CCEA provides information and produces teaching materials relating to the implementation of curriculum requirements and assessment arrangements for grant-aided schools. In seeking to produce materials to support teachers and to address other professional development issues, CCEA commissions and undertakes research and development projects.

The Council is made up of 19 representatives of the teaching profession, business and trade unions, each appointed by the Minister for Education.

CCEA is currently involved in a major review of the school curriculum and expects that this new curriculum will start to be delivered in 2003. We believe that this curriculum will drive the enormous changes required in what is taught in our schools to prepare our young people for the challenges of the 21st century. We anticipate that it will encourage a new approach to learning and to teaching, and it will be supported by new, and more comprehensive assessment regimes.

In particular CCEA looks forward to a wide range of vocational and academic options being made available to all pupils, and to the development of new, and internationally recognised qualifications.

CCEA recognises the wider outcomes that the community expects from education. Society demands that education helps deal with the impact of social deprivation, and CCEA advocates a radical new approach to early years education to target social exclusion.

CCEA believes that an innovative approach to the curriculum can deliver the educational outcomes which the community desires, and strongly advocates that school structures should follow the curriculum. The new curriculum should encourage the development of institutions which are different in emphasis but which have uniformally high standards.

CCEA shares the widely held concerns about the Transfer Test and the related procedures. In the longer term CCEA believes that all key educational choices should be made on the basis of an informed election involving parents, children and teachers.

In the short term CCEA recognises that some schools will continue to be oversubscribed and some means of transferring pupils between institutions will be required.

CCEA believes that some changes should be made to both the timing and style of the current Transfer Test immediately. However, we will be seeking to develop a new, more comprehensive and more relevant assessment regime to complement the new curriculum. This new assessment regime must be capable of providing first class information for teachers, children and their parents to ensure that the best pathways through education are identified for every child.

1. Introduction

1.1 Fundamental changes are occurring in almost all aspects of our society. There have been significant shifts in the place of the family in society, in the influence of the churches, in the patterns of work and recreation and, recently, in the system of government. Our economy is changing rapidly. The new economy will be built on knowledge - ideas, creativity, and the ability to change these into products and services.

1.2 Increasing prosperity in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland has brought much improved living standards to most of the population. At the same time there remain major problems of social deprivation and inequality of opportunity. There is increasing disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest. There are structural problems in the balance between the different sectors of the Northern Ireland economy and weaknesses in the match between supply and demand in the skills in the workforce.

1.3 Running through all of the current processes of change is the theme of increasingly rapid technological development. We have become culturally attuned to accepting that what may have been miraculous yesterday will be ubiquitous to-morrow. These developments will be revolutionary.

1.4 It will be perhaps the greatest challenge that our education service has ever experienced to adapt successfully to these dramatic processes of change and to continue to meet the high standards that we ask of it. In this context the present review of post-primary education is well timed. However this should be only part of a root and branch review of our education provision, running from early years, through formal education to lifelong learning.

1.5 Our objective must be to create a first class education service which caters for all. In recognizing what is important in the labour market, we must encourage our young people to become active citizens with a stake in society. We must provide them with not just an opportunity to work, but to have well remunerated and highly satisfying employment as a result of a well founded education. Leading this process of change in the school sector will be the curriculum.

2. Nature of the Submission

2.1 Given the context of change set out above, We begin by identifying what it is that society now requires of its education service and what this means in terms of the outcomes that we expect in our young people. From that, links will be drawn to the strategy of the curriculum review and the direction in which it is moving. Then consideration will be given to the possible implications for the structure of post-primary education. CCEA firmly believes that this is the correct sequence. We should design school structures to match the curriculum, rather than tailor the curriculum to fit a particular structure.

3. What Society requires from Education

3.1 There have been concerns expressed in recent years from people working in the education service that too much is expected of them in curing society's problems. The widespread breakdown of the traditional family unit and falling church attendances are examples of rapidly changing social norms. Schools have been put in the front line as providers of social and moral guidance. We need to clarify what we expect schools to achieve in this area.

3.2 In terms of the needs of the economy, it is clear that there are concerns among employers that education is not meeting their requirements, as illustrated by this extract from "Strategy 2010 Economic Review Strategy Recommendations", March 1999:

"Economic development in Northern Ireland has no strategic focus which has been translated into education and training imperatives. Solutions to the performance gaps cannot be effectively delivered without addressing the links within education, and between education and the workplace.. While education is as much about personal development as it is about earning a living, nevertheless people, governments and employers have a right to expect education to be 'fit for purpose'."

3.3 In "Learning for Tomorrow's World" DE, October 1999 there are indications as to what this fitness for purpose ought to mean:

'it will be important that those emerging from education should also have the wider attributes which society and employers increasingly expect - for example, problem-solving skills, the ability to work with others and a capacity for independent learning. It may be necessary to develop new means of assessing progress in these less tangible but important areas .."

3.4 The T&EA has linked this same concern with the development of wide-ranging skills with learning throughout life in "Lifelong Learning", T&EA, 1999

'If NI businesses are to meet the challenges of the new millennium with better skilled and more adaptable employees; if the basic skills of its people as a whole are to be raised to equal those in other countries; if individuals are to be given the opportunities for personal development and communities are to be helped to respond to social and economic change, then it is essential to create a new learning culture for all where people regard acquiring skills or updating existing ones as part of everyday life'.

3.5 We need for a new "contract" that sets out society's expectations of schools and teachers and CCEA intends that the curriculum review on which it is now embarked will form the basis of that new "contract". In doing so it will be conscious of recent developments within the field of education.

3.6 These developments include the increasingly accepted concept of multiple intelligences, initially developed by Gardner (Frames of mind : the theory of multiple intelligences). This has come to replace the previous model of a single intelligence closely linked to aptitude for academic study. Also, research into the development of the brain in young people has demonstrated the links between learning processes and the different stages of brain development, and the strong influence of the context in which it takes place. In its work on the curriculum CCEA must demonstrate what we have learned from this research, and how it can have practical applications.

3.7 In response to these educational, social and economic challenges, CCEA has developed a new curriculum and assessment framework which has already received a high measure of support. This framework will provide the basis for the most revolutionary change in schools in the last 100 years. There are three interdependent objectives:

Learning programmes should provide opportunities for each young person to develop as:

-- an individual;

-- a contributor to society; and

-- a contributor to the economy and the environment.

3.8 In the first of these, the needs of the individual should be addressed in a way that promotes their capacity to function in terms of literacy and numeracy, to understand and appreciate the world they live in, and to create.

3.9 The second is about the development of young people into aware and responsible citizens, capable of sustaining family units, democratic structures and understanding issues concerning equality and justice.

3.10 In the third, the focus is on the range of personal, interpersonal and functional skills that young people need to become successful employees or employers in a world of environmental threats.

3.11 CCEA believes that, at the core of the changes that will be emerging from the review, will be a seismic shift in the balance between "knowing" and "doing" in the curriculum. That is not to undervalue the importance of knowledge and conceptual understanding, but the needs of society in the 21st century will also require that we develop in young people a range of broadly based competencies rather than simply imparting to them a body of knowledge. In its publication "Opening Minds: Education for the 21st Century" the Royal Society of Arts says:

"If we are to transform education so as to serve the needs of the future, a new strategy must be found. The reforms of the recent years have focused largely on standards and structures. These are important - standards especially; but they have almost nothing to say about whether the system can help students become more capable of meeting the more complex demands that will be made of them in the future.

The RSA believes that real transformation can only be secured if we are clear what it is that students need to learn, that is what purpose education should serve. Reforming the curriculum so that it is competence-led, instead of information-led, is we believe the most effective strategy for doing this. .. Defining the necessary competence framework would effectively redefine what we mean by a well-educated person, as well as meeting the need for transparency of purpose."

4. Nature of the Outcomes

4.1 Our current qualifications system for school leavers is, by and large, knowledge orientated. There have been changes to the examination system with the introduction of coursework and greater attention given to understanding and application of knowledge. Nonetheless the traditional focus on reproducing subject matter that has been learnt for the purposes of examination remains central to the GCSE and GCE qualifications taken by most of our 16 and 18 year-olds.

4.2 However the development in the 1990's of the GNVQ qualification demonstrated that a different approach is feasible. The original units in GNVQ's were developed on a competence framework and the assessment was largely dominated by the collection of work in the student's portfolio that illustrated how he or she had demonstrated those competencies during the course. In addition, success was conditional on the student achieving a certain level of proficiency in the key skills of Communication, Application of Number and Use of IT. While some reform of the assessment regime has been shown to be necessary in order to ensure acceptable reliability, the philosophy remains of encouraging students to manage their own learning and to develop team working and problem-solving skills.

4.3 The number of young people achieving qualifications is important, but these qualifications must be useful and relevant. It is also at least as important to consider the impact of programmes and styles of study for young people particularly in terms of their motivation and the resultant transferable skills.

4.4 Evaluation of the new GNVQ qualifications drew attention to the problems of the assessment regime referred to above, but also recorded much improved levels of student motivation. The Education and Training Inspectorate have remarked, in particular, on the extent of this improved motivation following the introduction of the Part One GNVQ aimed at 14 to 16 year olds.

4.5 Teachers reported high levels of satisfaction from teaching the new courses, but also emphasised that they were very demanding of teachers and required an entirely different approach in the classroom.

4.6 CCEA believes that changing to a competence-led curriculum will require a new approach to teaching and learning. We should draw from the experience of GNVQ, encouraging teachers to become facilitators of learning rather than imparters of knowledge. Increasing use of ICT in the classroom is likely to make that transformation easier, but there is much work needed (of which the New Opportunities Fund training is the start) to ensure that teachers feel confident in moving in that direction. Significant training and other support for teachers will be required, including, critically, a fundamental shift in teacher training. All of this must be done in a way which encourages and motivates teachers.

4.7 The changes now taking place in GCE and GNVQ and the introduction of the separate Key Skills qualification will have the effect of bringing academic and vocational qualifications closer together in structure and in name. The intention is to ensure that the two types of qualifications are accepted as of equal standing. In this there is support from HE, at least as seen in the revised UCAS system. CCEA believes that such parity of esteem is essential and needs to be reflected in attitudes to the education of younger children as well.

4.8 It is worth noting at this point the present position regarding the outcomes of education in Northern Ireland. The main positive features are:

nhigh levels of attainment in children leaving primary school compared with England and Wales as evidenced by Key Stage 2 teacher assessments;

nhigh overall levels of academic achievement by comparison with England and Wales as evidenced by examination results;

na shorter "tail" of pupils leaving school with no qualifications (a much changed position over the last 10 years);

na high proportion of school leavers taking up places in HE.

However, there are a number of negative features:

nthe curriculum is too narrow;

nthe curriculum is the same in different types of schools;

nthe curriculum is too academic - there is no parity of esteem for vocational studies;

nvocational routes to further and higher education are unclear

nthe pathways into FE/HE for young people with special needs are especially difficult.

4.9 The quite proper satisfaction to be drawn from the positive characteristics must be further tempered by the knowledge that there is still evidence of substantial underachievement in some of our schools and there are well-established links between low attainment and social deprivation. CCEA is also concerned that some of our young people leave school with average academic outcomes to pursue inappropriate courses in further or higher education. We feel that there should be more places for post-18 education and training. However this provision should be relevant to both the young people themselves and to the needs of the economy. Young people need top quality advice when critical decisions are being made about career options. CCEA notes the objectives of the new Connexions Service in England and Wales - to make explicit for individual children the links between what they do at school, and their options for further education and in the labour market, including through work experience.

CCEA is aware that the Training and Employment Agency is currently reviewing careers advice provision in Northern Ireland.

4.10 It is important, therefore, that in looking to the future, we recognise that:

ncurrent levels of success in the present knowledge-based system are not automatically guaranteed in a changed competence-based one;

nsuccess in such a new system will require different approaches to teaching that will be challenging to all schools.

nin the process of change we must seek to retain the undoubted strengths of the present system - we have a very high proportion of excellent schools and a highly committed teaching force;

nwe must seek to ameliorate the impact of social deprivation on education, inasmuch as it is in the power of educators to do so;

nthere are substantial financial rewards to individuals from studying for and gaining qualifications;

nwe must deal with problems of underachieving schools from whatever sector;

nwe must provide a range of qualifications as outcomes of our education system that reflect the range of skills and competencies that young people will need, whether these qualifications are academic or vocational in nature;

nwe must involve all of the stakeholders in the decision making process.

4.11 In the next section CCEA will consider how it believes that we can take forward such an agenda in the context of the outcomes of the curriculum review.

5. How do we achieve these outcomes?

5.1 Earlier, reference was made to the new understanding of the learning process and new ideas about the nature of intelligences. These developments have their sharpest focus in relation to the earliest years of education. This stage will be considered first, followed by the primary and post-primary phases.

Early Years

5.2 In Northern Ireland the statutory age for starting school is 4. This is slightly earlier than the rest of the UK and considerably earlier than the rest of Europe. Formal instruction in reading and writing commences at that stage. Many parents regard the early acquisition of a reading book by their child as an indication of rapid progress.

5.3 Research by Lilian Katz, Christine Pascal, Ferre Laevens and others shows that a later start to such formal instruction may be beneficial to most pupils, especially boys. A carefully structured programme, which is designed to prepare children to learn, would lead to more rapid progress when formal learning does begin.

5.4 Among the anticipated benefits, should be the closing of the present "gender performance gap". The current problem is being made worse because boys are asked to begin formal reading and writing before they are ready to do so. Failure leads to demotivation, and sadly for some boys this is regularly reinforced throughout their formal schooling. We believe that a changed approach in early years should lead to a general improvement in standards of literacy and numeracy, including a major reduction in the numbers of those leaving primary school with difficulties in these areas.

5.5 Another objective is to create time for young children to establish good peer relationships and pupil teacher relationships before the process of formal learning begins. Building confidence and self-esteem in this way is, from evidence found elsewhere, likely also to reduce the impact of social deprivation on progress.

5.6 Any alternative programme will need to be very carefully explained to teachers, parents and others as one that is of benefit to all pupils and not just those who may be relatively late developers.

Primary Phase

5.7 In its initial proposals for the curriculum framework, CCEA has suggested that the change to a skills-based curriculum should begin with the application of a skills framework across all areas of the primary curriculum. More flexibility will then be given to teachers to choose the content that will provide the contexts within which these skills will be developed.

5.8 In the earlier reference to the objectives of the curriculum, stress was laid on the need to ensure that each child is functionally competent in literacy and numeracy. CCEA sees this emphasis as being wholly commensurate with the new approach, as competency in reading, writing and number is fundamental to a young person as an individual and as a member of society and as a contributor to the economy and the environment.

5.9 Research indicates relatively high levels of problems with literacy and numeracy in the Northern Ireland population, although there is evidence that the situation is better with younger age groups. Nonetheless, CCEA believes that it ought to be feasible to eradicate such problems almost entirely before children leave primary school.

5.10 Later in this submission reference will be made to the impact of the present Transfer Tests on the curriculum in upper primary school. At this stage it is sufficient to say that protracted rote learning for tests of this nature is incompatible with implementing the type of skill-based curriculum that CCEA believes now to be appropriate.

Post-primary phase

5.11 In CCEA's initial proposals for Key Stage 3, the framework continues to be one of a statutory entitlement across a wide range of curricular areas. To traditional subject headings have been added areas such as citizenship and personal, social and health education. Explicit reference has also been made to the skills needed to enhance employability. Currently, working groups are devising the proposals for the new curriculum orders within this framework. In doing so they are working to a brief that emphasises the central importance of skill development.

5.12 CCEA intends that, in each of these areas, support for teachers will be provided by model schemes of work. It will be these, as much as the new orders themselves, that will influence the process of change in terms of the new focus on skills and the types of teaching and learning approaches that will foster them.

5.13 Within the post-primary phase, it is again intended that teachers will have greater flexibility. This flexibility should enable pupils with different aptitudes and abilities to have different emphases within their curricula, differences that will be likely to lead to them taking different pathways once they reach Key Stage 4. CCEA believes that, at present, as the curriculum is specified almost totally in terms of the traditional academic subjects, schools are finding it difficult to create the necessary flexibility that will allow for the full range of differences among children.

5.14 At Key Stage 4, CCEA is now consulting on a proposed framework based around a statutory minimum entitlement consisting of:

nThe Key Skills of Communication, Application of Number, Use of ICT, Improving Own Learning, Problem Solving and Working with Others;

nPersonal development, including Citizenship and Career Management;

nA vocational or work-related element;

nA science or technology element;

nA creative element.

5.15 In addition, there will be a statutory requirement relating to Religious Education and it is expected that almost all pupils will take a modern language as well as one or more courses from the area of environment and society.

5.16 This is the first time in the UK that there will be a curriculum specified that is not based around a list of subjects. The intention, by setting this minimum entitlement, is to enable schools to develop a range of different pathways for different students. In some cases the pathway will be one that has a strong focus on academic subjects, while in others the principal emphasis will be vocational (in the widest sense of that word).

5.17 Referring back to the earlier mention of multiple intelligences, CCEA would stress that choice of pathway should not be seen as a reflection of a student's "ability" in the narrow sense that that word is frequently used. It is as important for options, in terms of different pathways, to be available to those currently in grammar schools as it is in secondary schools.

5.18 Opportunity for choice for young people must be accompanied by the best possible advice. Strategy 2010 recommended that career guidance provision should be enhanced to provide more informed decision making on the part of students, parents and teachers. The document went on to say :-

"Most schools have made considerable improvements in careers advice provision. Many young people, however, still drift through education in an uncertain way and those professionals currently offering advice too often have little experience of careers outside education or the public sector. With better information on skill needs and training priorities, as advocated above, careers guidance in schools will have a clearer focus. Provision in schools should be complemented by a careers service which is business-based and can offer independent, timely and well informed advice, particularly for those not following the academic route. There is no reason to assume that this service should reside within the public sector".


5.19 The success of these changes will depend on there being an appropriate range of highly regarded qualifications available to recognise attainment across this range of different pathways. It is expected that all pupils, probably from the age of 14 will have recognition of their competence in all six of the Key Skills.

5.20 In order to reflect the change of emphasis, even within the academic context, from content to competence, the nature of the assessment processes themselves will need to change. It will be necessary to have more emphasis on observation, group work and project work. Current developments in the application of ICT to assessment should assist these changes. They should also increase the opportunities for pupils to be partly responsible for their own assessment and, thereby, to take more responsibility for managing their learning.

Further and Higher Education

5.21 Qualifications must be appropriate for our young people in the context of our society and economy. But they must also be recognized outside Northern Ireland. Our job in CCEA will be to ensure that our local qualifications retain their current very high quality and international standing.

5.22 Developments of the type described above in curriculum and teaching approaches in schools will have to be matched with significant changes also in further and higher education. There must be appropriate routes available for young people emerging from the different pathways in post-primary education. Entrance criteria into institutions of further and higher education will have to reflect the change from content dominance of school leaving qualifications.

5.23 The Westminster government's recent decision to turn GNVQ (Advanced) into the Vocational Certificate of Education and the proposals to create the Vocational GCSE will assist in matching qualifications to pathways. The Graduation Certificate now being considered may well help in consolidating the key skills as the cornerstone of the qualifications system for school leavers. Furthermore, the introduction of the Foundation Degree may result in the creation of new courses that increase the options available to young people who want to develop further into a vocational area which they have studied at school.

6. Implications for Post-Primary School Organisation

6.1 Any major changes to the structure of post-primary schools should be undertaken with the utmost care not to put in jeopardy the very high standards of academic achievement and pastoral care evident to-day. Changes should be based on careful research and analysis that will establish, as clearly as is feasible, that there will be genuine improvement as a result. The Curriculum recommendations are being developed in the current post-primary environment. They are designed to transform that environment and its outcomes.

6.2 Structural change will take place in the context of a curriculum revolution, enormous changes in teaching approaches, and significant impact of new technology. Great care must be taken in the implementation of such a huge agenda for change.

6.3 In the context of improving the employability of young people, the speech by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, on 24 January 2001, demonstrates that the Westminster government is now fully committed to a major programme of change along the lines outlined above. In it he said:

"The extension of vocational and technical education... Introduces further diversity into the school system, allowing schools to build on their strengths, particularly where they have a relevant specialism. It opens up new choices for young people, enabling them to pursue individual programmes of study better suited to their aptitudes, abilities and enthusiasms. From 14 onwards, young people will be able to choose new vocational programmes, leading to high standard, well-understood and recognized qualifications."

6.4 The implementation for the revised curriculum is due to begin in September 2003. CCEA envisages a phased introduction. It will take some years before the changes are fully in place. Likewise, teaching approaches will only gradually begin to reflect the increased emphasis on skills and to make full use of the burgeoning availability of technology. CCEA expects that it will take at least 5 to 7 years to effect the radical agenda for change in curriculum and assessment, and in approaches to teaching and learning that it believes to be necessary.

6.5 CCEA also notes that predicted population changes will see a significant decline in the number of children attending post primary schools within 10 years. This is very likely to lead to reduction in the number of schools.

6.6 CCEA's recommendations for the revised curriculum are likely to call for wider provision for all children in post primary schools. This is also likely to create pressure for some of the smaller schools which are already finding difficulty implementing the Curriculum 2000 changes in their sixth forms. In this respect it may be helpful for further work to be done in order to establish, in the new context that will emerge from the process of curriculum change, what the optimal school size might be, or at least to identify a minimum size that is viable.

6.7 The current Transfer Test also causes significant pressures in Primary Schools. These pressures impact not only on children facing a "high stakes" decision at 11 years of age, but also in the teaching in schools. In the Northern Ireland Cohort Study, initiated by CCEA and carried out by NFER, it is reported that:

" frequent and widespread were the Transfer Test's impediments to the desired curriculum outcomes, that it seems appropriate to conclude by asking whether the exigencies of the Transfer Procedure could ever be compatible with the fundamental aims of the Northern Ireland Curriculum."

6.8 We speculate that the perceived "high stakes" nature of the selection process is, to a large degree, created by parents' poor view of the range of choice on offer - particularly since they lead to the same academic curriculum. The changes proposed by CCEA are intended to create more balance, to develop fully vocational and technological options for all, and to create the opportunity for highly academic students to combine depth of study with more life and work related skills. These changes, if combined with greater flexibility between institutions, will significantly alter the nature of selection for the better, shifting the balance more towards "informed election".

6.9 Apart from the curriculum impact of the current Transfer Tests CCEA is also aware of the recent research which calls into question the reliability of the grading process, if not the tests themselves.

6.10 CCEA believes that there are both long and short-term implications of curriculum change for school organisation.

6.11 CCEA believes that in considering change, a number of key principles should be set down in advance, and that they should include ensuring that:

nany change should be aimed at "optimizing upwards" towards the best that is currently available;

nalienation of young people from education, especially between the ages of 11 to 14, is combatted;

nfeelings of rejection in children because of the outcomes of selection are fully understood and eliminated;

nin all that we do we must boost the self esteem of children;

nyoung people are presented with serious but appropriate challenges.

Long term implications

6.12 CCEA does not believe that the curriculum changes in themselves point specifically to a single form of school organization. However, both banding by ability (streaming) within institutions and selection for institutions are envisaged as the practical realities of effectively managing choice, capability and standards. The outworking of a more flexible curriculum is anticipated to be more differentiation between institutions and therefore more meaningful choices for students.

6.13 At present parental pressure for grammar school places ensures that most of those schools are oversubscribed and a process of selection is therefore required. CCEA advocates a process of planned change. The current selection process will, over a period, change into a process of informed choice involving parents, pupils and teachers - a choice which may be between institutions with different offerings but the same standards.

6.14 We envisage a wider range of options to be open to all children than is the case at present. We are not, therefore, advocating two types of curriculum, one academic and the other vocational, provided by two types of institution. A system of that nature would limit choice rather than enhance it. Rather, we foresee diversity among institutions, with some degree of specialisation, but all operating to the same standards.

6.15 Not all schools will be able to provide all of the possible pathways. Hence, it is expected that some schools will specialise, perhaps with an emphasis on science and technology, or on languages or on the creative arts. There may be some schools that have a bias towards a major vocational area, be it engineering or sports, leisure and tourism. The impact of such specialization would mostly affect post-14 pupils.

6.16 We believe that parents should, as far as possible, have a meaningful choice when choosing a school for their child and also that there should be strong parental involvement in decisions about pathways made within schools.

6.17 Improved choice may be achieved through promoting inter-school links and also school-FE links. Such collaborations may not create a wider range of options within institutions, but would make it possible to offer more possibilities in terms of pathways to the young people in each of the institutions involved. These links could provide good pilot studies for more widespread structural change.

6.18 CCEA has considered the question of transfer from one phase of education to the next and the age at which it should take place. Options include the continuance of the present transfer from primary to post-primary at age 11; the extension of primary education to a later age; or a two stage process along similar lines to the so-called "Dixon Plan" arrangement in Craigavon.

6.19 CCEA is not convinced that there is sufficient evidence to establish which of these options is preferable. We recommend that further investigation is carried out, in order to see if a change from the present age of transfer is desirable, bearing in mind the altered curriculum and assessment context in which such a change would take place.

6.20 In saying this we are conscious of the real concerns that exist about the present Transfer Test, and the management of the Transfer Process. Apart from the curriculum impact of the tests on Primary Education, the paper by Gardner has questioned Grade reliability in the Test itself. In the longer term we envisage the selection process evolving towards a process of informed election. However, it is clear that in the short term changes need to be made to the Test itself and the management of the Transfer Process.

Short term implications

6.21 Long term CCEA envisages that the new curriculum, and the related new assessment schemes will allow for decisions on post-primary education to be made on the basis of informed election involving parents, pupils and teachers (including the receiving institution), aiming to match a range of attributes and capabilities to a range of opportunities. This recognizes that not all children are the same and that institutions will differentiate themselves.

6.22 In the short term, because some schools will continue to be oversubscribed some means of organising the transfer of children between institutions must be found, particularly if the system continues to allow for parental preference.

6.23 As already stated CCEA shares the widespread concerns about several aspects of the current Transfer Test. Additionally we are concerned about the management of the Transfer Process itself.

6.24 We do not understand why the tests must take place so early in the school year, eg. GCE candidates sit examinations in June, receive results in August and take up places in new institutions in September/October. We do not understand why parents and children are required to visit post-primary institutions without knowing the outcomes of the current tests.

6.25 If the current Transfer Tests need to be maintained in the very short run, rapid improvements must be made to grade boundary reliability. CCEA believes this to be achievable.

6.26 CCEA is absolutely committed to developing more relevant and reliable assessment regimes, but these will not be available until 2003/2004 at the earliest. The principle will be, given the impact on a child's future that as much information as possible should be used in arriving at decisions. This points to the involvement of the child's teacher. It also points to the timing of the process being as close to transfer as possible - the end of Primary 7.

6.27 A previous attempt to involve teachers in the selection process in 1978-81 was judged a failure However, we have since gained much more experience of teacher assessment in primary schools, and its regulation, through the Key Stage assessment arrangements. There may be a case for re-visiting the government's original intention, when introducing Key Stage assessment, to use it also for selection purposes. There may also be a case for considering the involvement of post-primary teachers in the process as well as the children's own teachers. These are issues that CCEA would wish to begin studying in some detail if we are asked to advise on the nature of a possible replacement procedure.

7. Summary

7.1 The worlds of work and society are changing rapidly and education must prepare young people to deal with these changes. Society requires that education contributes to improvements in economic performance and social inclusion.

7.2 Whilst the current reviews of the school curriculum and post-primary education are very important they should form only a part of a complete review of education provision as a whole.

7.3 Our current education system delivers high academic standards but we are concerned about the relevance and lack of breadth of what is currently taught and assessed.

7.4 There is a well established, internationally recognized link between educational outcomes and socio economic background. Research suggests that the impact of social deprivation is best offset by interventions at the earliest possible stage. CCEA advocates substantial investment in a radical new approach to early years provision to target social exclusion.

7.5 Education reform must be based on desired individual educational and societal outcomes. These outcomes will be driven by curriculum design, teaching methodologies, assessment regimes and qualifications.

7.6 The new curriculum will seek to achieve a better balance between knowledge and skills, will encourage a new approach to learning and will require a new approach to teaching.

7.7 The new curriculum will be supported by new assessment regimes and lead to more relevant, yet internationally recognized qualifications.

7.8 The new curriculum will ensure that a wide range of vocational and academic options is available to all pupils.

7.9 The new curriculum will allow for the development of institutions to provide differentiated offerings but at uniformly high standards.

7.10 CCEA shares the concerns of others about the current transfer test and has concerns about the management of the Process.

7.11 Speculation exists as to whether transfer at an age other than 11 would produce better outcomes. CCEA proposes that any such change would need to be preceded by further research, and we are happy to participate in such research.

7.12 Long term, in the context of a new approach to the curriculum and to methods of assessment, we anticipate that all decisions will be taken on the basis of an informed election by parents, pupils and teachers.

7.13 In the short term, because some schools will continue to be oversubscribed, some means of organising the transfer of children between institutions must be found, particularly if the system continues to allow for parental preference.

7.14 In the very short term improvements can be made to the current test and the transfer process, prior to the development of a suitable assessment-based process.

written submission by:

As part of the Committee's consideration you asked for the views of the Northern Ireland Higher Education Council (NIHEC). The Council discussed this request at its most recent meeting on 28March and has concluded that although, strictly speaking, this falls outside its remit it should nevertheless offer some comment, given that the supply of higher education students is mainly from this sector.

The Council has therefore asked me to convey the following points which the Committee may wish to note in formulating its recommendations on the issue:

nthe importance of developing clear pathways of progression to higher education through secondary and further education sectors;

nthe emergence of the Northern Ireland Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (NICATS) as a significant development in the system;

nthe need to ensure that whatever system is proposed in the outcome of the review that the performance of schools and individual pupils must be maintained and enhanced;

nthe need to ensure a co-ordinated approach by all education providers to widening participation in higher education from under-represented groups;

nrecognition of the close relationship between the universities and the teacher training colleges, and the need for the system to produce and retain well-trained teachers, especially in the areas of science and technology; and

nthe importance of a flexible approach to secondary education through which pupils' differing abilities and aptitudes can be recognised and developed, for example, the concept of a joint sixth form between schools.

Northern Ireland has a relatively high Age Participation Index of around 44% of pupils entering higher education. It is considered important that those elements within the existing system enabling this to happen are identified so that they are not dismantled, with resulting detrimental effects to maintaining and improving this performance.

On the other hand, it was felt that although there has been some reduction in the numbers regarded as under- achieving within the post-primary sector, this still represented a significant issue that should be acknowledged and addressed through whatever new system is proposed.

I trust the Committee will find these comments of some help in its deliberations. Should you wish clarification of any of the points raised I will be happy to oblige.





The Open University has been providing higher education and training in Northern Ireland since 1970 and currently receives HEFCE funding for 3600* students in the Province. This provision covers a wide range of courses from access to postgraduate degree level and is open to people in the community who do not hold standard university entrance requirement qualifications. Financial Assistance Funds (FAFs) and Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) are available to encourage people to participate on some of these courses. Within the University's Faculty of Education and Language Studies (FELS), teacher training programmes are offered to people who wish to become teachers or who are already teaching and wish to update their skills in primary and secondary school teaching. The Open University has a long and unrivalled record of contributing to the training and development of all of those involved in the UK's education services. The outstanding features of the Open University's programmes relating to schools are:

The University's initial teacher education programme has extended the opportunity for teacher training to a wider range of people;

nfrom the outset of the initial teacher education programme, experienced teachers in schools have helped student teachers to develop their competence and have had a full part in assessment;

nproviding a curriculum suited to each child and the important part played by language in the whole curriculum have been key features of the initial teacher education programme;

nthe University' large MA in Education programme has enabled serving teachers to improve their own practice in the classroom, in curriculum development and change, in management, in understanding child development and in implementing inclusive educational aims;

nthe University's eight faculties provide teachers with a convenient way of updating their subject skills through study of individual courses from our degree programmes.

Details of programmes are contained in our School of Education's Professional Development and Education Booklet which we have included for information with this response.

It is the excellence of the Open University's research in areas such as Education which supports the international quality of OU teaching programmes and which gives it its distinctive capability as a world leader in distance and on-line supported learning. The high quality of these teaching and learning programmes, offered on the basis of openness and accessibility to all, combined with local level experience of first-hand teaching of teachers in Northern Ireland enables the Open University to bring objectivity and international expertise to this response.

The Open University was founded to make education more accessible to people and in the belief that people should be given the opportunity and encouragement to reach their own potential. It is our belief that the same ethos can be applied to the education of our children and adolescents.

*The Open University also has over 4,500 students registered in the Republic of Ireland.



Q.1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How could these be achieved?

Q.2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

The Open University wishes to begin its response by addressing the last of the issues listed in the Review document. "The Purpose of the Education System." Since 1969, a generation has witnessed the Open University expand to over 135,000 students registered world-wide all of whom can relate to the OU's core values.

"To be open as to people, open as to places, open as to methods and open as to ideas."

With regard to openness as to people, it is our experience that many people who have previously failed in the education system, can and do, given the right support and encouragement, achieve success at a later stage. This is a feature of our student body and a reflection of the quality of our support system. Over fifty per cent of OU graduates are from social classes 'D' and 'E'. Its academic regulations and structures have evolved to reflect a developing view within the University of what being "Open as to People" should mean for a heterogeneous student body. In the light of this experience it is our considered view that the Northern Ireland Assembly's Education Committee must take an "Open as to People" view in the formulation of its eventual response. It should be commended for seizing the opportunity to review the current system, but this must not be wasted. An "Open" approach to the new system must be based on the right of every young person to have access to the broadest curriculum possible, and have the fullest support to guide them through the educational pathway which gives them the fullest opportunity to develop their own skills, abilities and aptitudes.

To achieve this the post-primary system needs to recognise and engender some of the objectives which the Open University regards as fundamental for a purposeful and rounded educational experience. It is important that, through their education, young people should feel part of society and be ready to take on responsibilities in the world of work. The post-primary system must ensure that young people feel they have rights and have been given every opportunity to enable them to improve the quality of our citizenship and to make a meaningful contribution to society in general.


Q.1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

Q.2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?

Q.3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

Q.4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

Q.5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

a. Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

c. Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

d. A system of continuous assessment.

e. Parental Input.

f. Combination of the above options.

A. The questions in this section relate to specific and technical points about the post-primary sector and appear to be aimed at individuals or groups who are involved directly in this sector.

The Open University cannot give an institutional response to this but it can comment about the set of questions generally, based on its experience as a recognised leader in educational support and guidance.

Because it approach to learning is open and developmental, the Open University commends this approach for young people and suggests that at a practical level, the recording and monitoring of individual profiles for pupils could help to support this approach. Such profiles would also assist with informed guidance to ensure that a young person's skills, abilities and aptitudes are fully recognised and promoted by the school and that an appropriate pathway is then mapped out to match these. If selection has to take place, profiles throughout the primary education stage would make an important contribution to this process.

With regard to the sub-question 5 (d) concerning continuous assessment, this is an area of educational practice in which the Open University is a leading exponent, and which we have used on all our courses from our foundation. It is our experience that continuous assessment has helped improve the overall performance of our students, and it reflects our recognition of the way in which people actually learn. This is an important point, which the OU commends to the Review Body.

The new system needs to take more account of the way individuals learn and of the variety of media, technology and techniques which are available to assist young people in reaching their potential. Continuous assessment is an important tool in this respect, but it should be used as one of a range of complementary approaches aimed at optimising a young person's performance. It is acknowledged that it can be difficult to achieve the correct balance in the application of these approaches within available resources, but an "Open as to Methods" approach is commended.


Q.1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

Q.2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

Q.3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

Q.4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post-primary schools?

A. The Open University is not in a position to respond institutionally to these specific questions. However, the University does have staff who are active in schools in all four countries of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland, and they could play a valuable part in advising on some of the strengths and weaknesses of those education systems.


Q.1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

Q.2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

Q.3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

Q.4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A. The Open University can respond to the four sub-questions in this section within the context of its expertise as a provider of open learning and training programmes and its investment in flexible assessment techniques and world recognised qualifications.

nWe believe that every young person in post-primary education should be given the opportunity to select from the broadest curriculum affordable. We also believe that there is a need for vocationally orientated learning programmes for young people whose educational profiles have revealed their strengths in such areas.

nIn line with our belief in "Open as to Methods" we believe that there should be parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications and achievement.

nWe also believe that equal status between academic and vocational qualifications can be advanced with the help of a transparent support system of credit recognition and transfer.


Q.1. What are your views of:

a. A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish System).

b. Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

c. A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

Q.2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

Q.3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

Q.4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable? What are the manpower/ financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

A. The Open University is not in a position to respond institutionally to these questions. However, it fully recognises the validity of qualifications which are gained within these systems, and the merits of individuals who can and do proceed to further and higher education.

written submission by:

In writing this brief report within a very restricted timescale I have had the advantage of reading the country studies already prepared for the Education Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. What follows will draw on my own knowledge and experience of other education systems, in particular that of the Federal Republic of Germany.

1. Comparative Studies

It is axiomatic in comparative studies in education to endeavour to take into account the historical, political, cultural, religious, economic and geographical settings which help to explain why education systems have developed in particular ways. Without the understanding that such consideration brings there is the risk of seeming to identify 'quick fix' solutions tat are inappropriate for other settings. To take one simple and obvious example, for a considerable time there has been much interest on the part of western observers in the education system of Japan. The economic success of that country has of course been the main imperative for such interest. Most commentators, however, have eventually to conclude that so much of Japanese practice in education is inextricably bound up with the cultural norms of the country as to make it not susceptible to imitation elsewhere, and especially in the quite different settings of western societies. The apparent success of mixed-ability classes (the norm in Japanese schools), for example, is attributable to the centrality of Japanese society of 'belonging' to groups and of the mutual support that enables groups to flourish. And so when looking at processes of selection in other societies it is important here too to recognise that they might well be underpinned by culture-specific factors that might not apply in countries seeking to learn from experience and practice elsewhere.

In talking about the 'selective' system of secondary education in Germany we already fall into the trap of using the term 'selective' in a very particular way, since it is in reality parents who do the selecting and not the schools to which the pupils are transferring. It might therefore be more appropriate to describe the tripartite structure of secondary schools as it exists in most German Länder as 'elective' rather than 'selective'. The fundamental principle in Germany is that parents have the right to choose the type of secondary school which they feel to be appropriate for their children. They will of course be advised by primary school teachers, and they will be wise (given the perils of possible grade repetition) to take such advice seriously - but ultimately parents have rights enshrined in law, and they can insist on their decisions. This established right of choice, reinforced also in the Constitution of the Federal Republic, is often cited as one of the reasons why there has never been in Germany a widespread comprehensive school movement; parents seem on the whole to be satisfied that their children are attending schools appropriate to their talents and needs. And they are comforted too by the fact that lateral transfer is possible within the system, so that there is always the possibility for children to get on to the right 'track' or 'pathway' for their chosen career either by gaining qualifications that enable them to proceed in different directions or by transfer to rectify mistakes. Only some 10 per cent of children actually transfer between types of secondary school in Germany, however, and most do so in a 'downward' direction.

However, there is in some parts of Germany a realisation that transfer decisions (when pupils are aged ten) are made too early. For that reason, some Länder have variations on a two-year 'orientation' stage (either related directly to the three different types of secondary school or independent of them, depending on the Land in question), which allows more thorough evaluation of children's abilities before a particular type of secondary school is decided upon. This delayed 'selection' is to my mind a very sensible approach to the serious question of making accurate prognosis about children's potential. I shall return to it below.

There is also the question, closely related to selection and its consequences, of the parity of esteem of various post-primary 'pathways'. As I have indicated, the Germans defend the continuing existence of the tripartite secondary system in part on the grounds that it is 'permeable' (durchlässig), ie that qualifications gained at the end of a particular stage can allow individuals to transfer to another type of institution to follow a 'track' which would not have been possible if such transfer had not taken place. This means in effect that there is a notional parity of esteem between the qualifications in question. And yet observers find it difficult to believe that such parity is real: the common perception will inevitably be that the higher ranking institution's qualifications will always outweigh those of institutions lower in the hierarchy. This dilemma is found in systems where alternative routes towards what appears to be the same qualification are not perceived to be equal, as is the case with the 'vocational' baccalaureate in France, for example.

The mistake lies in the pretence that 'different' in form can mean 'the same' in outcome. The honesty of regarding qualifications in their own terms, as indicating that students have reached a clearly defined set of attainments in quite particular circumstances - rather than in false comparison with indicators of quite different kinds of attainment - would be a very refreshing recognition of realities.

2. Selection Problems

But the main problem with early selection for whatever kind of separate tracks of education is the lack of acceptable predictive validity in assessment processes, especially when they involve tests of various kinds. It is generally reckoned that the 11+ examination in England and Wales resulted in about 10 per cent of pupils being wrongly placed; this was the figure arrived at by Yates & Pidgeon in 1957. (The total number of children wrongly 'allocated' would have been of the order of 60,000 per year.) Vernon, as I recall, put the figure as high as 14 per cent, also in the late 1950s. Some have argued that it was even higher. This has always seemed to me to be the strongest argument against early selection. Yates & Pidgeon found that the relatively few instances of secondary headteachers' predictions had the highest validity of all procedures.

It seems to me to be clearly established that early selection results in all kinds of unfairness. In England and Wales the consequence of the realisation that this unfairness existed was that the grammar schools were effectively abolished (following Circular 10/65) and the (mostly untried) comprehensive schools were introduced in their place. The grammar schools of course had provided on the whole an excellent academic education, from which many working-class children (myself included) benefited enormously. With the almost universal transfer of all children from the primary school to their local comprehensive school the notion of a separate 'academic' education for those who might benefit from it was abandoned.

I have come to believe that if one were designing a system from scratch the most equitable structure would be one that allowed a common system of schooling up to the age of 14. In my view we simply do not have enough valid information about children's potential to make decisions about them at earlier stages. But by about the age of 14 we can make more reliable prognosis, and it is at this stage that I think it would be realistic to create opportunities for an academic type of education, leading to university study (built on the grammar school model), or an intermediate or technical type of education (as provided by the German Realschule) or a continuing general education closely associated with vocational training. Such a model was favoured even by the most egalitarian regimes of the former Eastern Bloc. I imagine that in the context of Northern Ireland it would enable much of the grammar school tradition to continue, while recognising that all should have an equal opportunity to aspire to a type of education best suited to their needs. Certainly, in my view, the abolition of the grammar school would result only in the need to reinvent it in some way, through 'internal' selection within schools (a poor option); or through the establishment of new alternative types of 'specialist' schools (as has been the case most recently in decisions in England, where 'diversity' has come to indicate increased choice, despite the obvious fact that you only have choice if you are in the right location); or through inevitably increased parental support of the independent sector.

The creation of a common system of comprehensive schools providing a broad and balanced general education, followed by a process of school-based diagnosis and prognosis of children's needs and ambitions (with parental rights assured, so that recommendations can be challenged) and transfer to various different types of specialist schools at age fourteen, together with the possibility of later lateral transfer if appropriate levels of attainment are reached, would in my view produce an equitable system which would avoid the hit-and-miss approach to secondary schooling which has bedevilled the situation in England for as long as anyone can remember.



Professor of Comparative Education & Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford

Ballyclare Primary School


Q.1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

A.1. The current transfer procedure for pupils from Primary to Post Primary School must change.

Q.2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?

A.2. There is no moral or educational justification for the continuance of the present, flawed and socially divisive system.

Q.3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

A.3. The structure of Post Primary education needs to change to an eleven to sixteen secondary and sixth form college structure. This system of education will not require selection at eleven.

Q.4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

A.4. The "Gallagher Smith" Report reflects, for the most part, the effects of the selective system of secondary education in Northern Ireland.

Q.5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

a. Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

c. Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

d. A system of continuous assessment.

A.5. The current Transfer System, though altered many times in the past 40 years, remains as blunt and socially divisive as ever, perpetuating the cycle of exclusion.

In response to question 5 a, b, c and d all of these aspects have been tried within the current selection system and are proven failures. The only positive part of the selection system at present is the requirement of parents to be actively involved with the school in supporting and deciding their children's future educational path.


Q.1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

A.1. In a system where there was direct transfer to the local 11-16 school there would be no problem with children transferring at 11.

Q.2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

A.2. The curriculum for primary 6 and 7 years is completely corrupted in the vast majority of primary schools as a direct result of coaching for the Transfer Test. Hence the educational development of children is seriously interrupted.

Q.3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

A.3. Parents should have no role in the actual process of transfer, beyond as indicated earlier, their active involvement in supporting the education and development of their children.

Q.4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post-primary schools?

A.4. Direct transfer to local 11-16 secondary schools where children are taught according to their ability strengths, within a common curriculum structure, until reaching the age of 16 when the GCSE results will be the best guide toward the choices they will wish to make for their further education. These choices will centre on continuing their education at the sixth form colleges which would be based on present Grammar School sites or transferring to the most appropriate Institute of Further Education.


Q.1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A.1. The ongoing curriculum review following final consultations and deliberations should become the guide for a common curriculum in the 11-16 school. It will require a significant change in attitude by all with responsibility for education to promote academic, vocational, technical and business studies on equal terms and to have such curriculum funded accordingly.

Q.2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

A.2. Opportunities for vocational education have been severely reduced by misguided policies of government within the past two decades in particular and needs to be, as earlier indicated, raised to equal status with academic, technical and business studies.

Q.3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

A.3. Equal emphasis on academic and vocational plus technical and business study achievement would bring a better balance to the curriculum and the education system overall. Education is a vital element in the development of the whole person and in order to celebrate the worth of every person traditional negative, elitist attitudes must be changed with regards to the chosen studies or future careers of all people.

Q.4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A.4. Down through the years the Secondary Schools have become skilled in coping with the issues of providing equally for academic and vocational qualifications. With the introduction of a sixth form college structure the reshaped 11-16 Secondary Schools/Colleges would include additional, relevant staff transferred from Grammar Schools. The combined experience and expertise of such a teaching complement will cope more than adequately in making equal provision for academic, technical, vocational and business studies. No person would be disadvantaged between the years of 11-16 and it is envisaged that each child would be given greatly increased opportunities to play to his/her strengths.


Q.1. What are your views of:

a. A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish System).

b. Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

c. A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

A.1. Of the three systems indicated in a, b, c the only prospective system which would have any relevance to Northern Ireland is an adapted Scottish system incorporating the views expressed above.

Q.2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

A.2. Personnel and financial implications arising from changes as indicated above will be significant but most certainly not impossible. The most cost effective way to proceed will be to adapt and make use of all present school accommodation. Existing Grammar Schools would become the bases for the new sixth form colleges while the Secondary School bases would cope with the 11-16. Reasonable and sensible progress towards the reduction of unnecessary duplication of buildings facilities between current sectors of education ie state controlled, maintained, voluntary, integrated and any other type. Decisive, yet sensitive rationalisation will quite clearly be required in the management of such change. New build, for the most part, would be limited to the Secondary Sector and additional facilities for the Further Education Institutes.

Q.3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

A.3. The major implementation difficulties which could arise is the lack of conviction on the part of Government and the people of NI to agree the way forward in education. Clear, decisive leadership is required to grasp the opportunity of creating structures in education which will greatly assist in developing an inclusive society. The voice of reason within education, must be heard and it ought to be the duty of all politicians to set aside party agendas for the greater good of all our people. The task is clear. Unity of purpose in government must be attained in an agreed way forward for the whole education system in N Ireland. Government needs to positively support all responsible for the delivery of education from nursery to further and University education ensuring that adequate funding at all levels reaches the "coal face" and is not diverted into irrelevant and wasteful channels which severely limit what is made available for core education. Currently even the provision of the core curriculum is under stress in the Primary Sector due to inadequate funding.

Q.4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable? What are the manpower/financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

A.4. The preferred option for the way forward has been stated above.


Q.1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How could these be achieved?

A.1. If we are to make real progress in enabling all pupils to maximise their potential then a major shift in attitudes of our people must first be achieved. The system of education has a vital role to play in all aspect of our lives in N Ireland. Underpinning any agreed, restructuring of the current education system should be the prime objective to provide a foundation in education from which the children of today may confidently take up their position in a fair and wholesome society. Children's educational experience should prepare them to fulfil a positive role in the social and economic advancement of our country. The curriculum emphasis on the academic, technical, vocational and business study areas should be equal. Furthermore, as in the Scottish comprehensive schools, the method for ability grouping should be through setting for individual subjects as opposed to rigid streaming systems.

nSecondly a selfless agenda by all who have an input to make in the development and implementation of the agreed new structures of education in N Ireland is of the utmost necessity. Let educationalists do what they do best - educate; let politicians and business leaders focus only on finding the necessary investment to deliver an education system relevant to the needs of our society, from nursery to further education, which truly reflects and meets the needs of all our children.

nThe very real perception of sense of failure arising from the current transfer procedure deflects attention from the earlier starting point of failure. The totally inadequate funding at nursery and primary level has greatly exacerbated the sense and level of failure at 11 and beyond. Research shows that early identification of the under-achiever can help a child to overcome early learning difficulties thus avoiding the disastrous effect of cumulative failure arriving on the Secondary School doorstep. Reading Recovery, Speech Therapy, appropriate Special Needs programmes are examples of proven methods which succeed especially when they are properly resourced. Thus any change to the current education system relating to transfer must include as a priority increasing the level of provision for primary schools and nursery schools. Though, it must be recognised, the primary sector is very much the poorest relation to all other sectors of education at present.

"Concern over the comparative funding of primary and secondary schools is not a recent phenomenon. The difference is based on historic perceptions of the respective functions of primary and secondary schools rather than current needs, and has continued despite changes in recent years in the roles and responsibilities of both phases, and in the way schools are funded."

This statement comes in paragraph one of the Second Report of the House of Commons Education Committee, 1993-94, whose remit was to look into the disparity of funding between Primary Schools and Secondary Schools. It was under the chairmanship of SirMalcolm Thorton.

The concluding paragraph of this report, number 110, states:

"We do not believe that secondary schools are too well off, but primary schools are, by comparison, worse off. We recognise that no school will ever have all the resources that it could use; however, if any particular phase of school education is funded at a disproportionately low level, children of all ages will suffer, and in the long run the nation as a whole suffers."

No significant change has been effected as a result of the findings in the above report. The time is long overdue when this issue of funding in the Primary Schools should be resolved. This current review of post-primary education in NI will be seriously weakened without due consideration to the implications for the primary provision resulting from significant changes in the future at the secondary level.

Q.2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

A.2. Objectives in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes.

i. The realisation of equality for all and an inclusive society in N Ireland.

ii. The creation of a learning environment where a sense of success is made possible for all our children relative to their natural abilities and needs.

iii. A system of education which empowers our people to become active in the creation of a vibrant economy. Ingenuity, diversity and flexibility in the work place has become the norm. Education must respond accordingly and adopt a much more pragmatic and practical curriculum.


A bold step can be taken to bring fairness for all in the education system and optimise the potential of our children in the future.

To do this there must be a vision of justice for all our people and courage of conviction from those whose responsibility it will be to lead in the implementation of policies and programmes arising from this review.

Each child deserves nothing less than an education system which enables him to develop as a whole person with the desire to use his God given ability in the best interest of his fellow man and himself.



review of post-primary education in northern ireland

Thank you for your letter of 23 February 2001 in which you requested that the University provide a written submission to assist and inform your Committee in considering the question of future arrangements for post-primary education in Northern Ireland.

This is rather a difficult question for the University, as a number of expert colleagues have already been carrying out research into this very important issue, and indeed contributed substantially to the work on which the Review Body will be basing its consideration of the matter. We therefore have, within the University, a broad spectrum of legitimate but differing opinions, both professional and personal, on post-primary education. As an institution we have taken the view that it is inappropriate, if not impossible, for Queen's to offer an institutional view on the specific issues raised. Our prime concern, as an institution of higher education, is to ensure that our intake of students is of high quality, irrespective of the route by which they arrive at the University.

When we were asked by the Review Body on Post-Primary Education to respond to them, we took the same approach, and arranged for a reference to the issue to be included in the University's web site and the attention of staff drawn to it. Staff were thus given the opportunity to respond directly to the Review Body if they wished to have their views taken into account.

I regret therefore that it is not possible to provide an institutional perspective on this important issue, but I trust that your Committee will understand the reasons for this.




1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

A The general consensus is that the present procedure is badly flawed, and the "Testing the Test" report cast doubts on its ability to discriminate in such a way as to identify those most suited for a grammar school education. There is also an awareness that some pupils feel a sense of failure when they are unable to obtain a grammar school place, while some parents feel a sense of rejection.

2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so what form should it take?

A Yes, because even with the present transfer system, it is possible for an 'A' grade not to be accepted by a grammar school which is highly oversubscribed or for a 'D' grade candidate to be accepted by a grammar school which is not oversubscribed and which may well not be able to fill its First Year quota.

Hence some form of selection or choice is necessary especially where there is already a problem of finding places. SHANI believes that greater use should be made of continuous assessment in primary schools Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 tests, advice by teachers and principals in primary schools as well as parental choice. Furthermore, with secondary and comprehensive schools, some form of selection will be necessary in order to stream classes.

3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

A Yes, it does in a generalised way. Certainly there is an impact on the local primary schools in terms of curricular distortion and coaching. Even in those areas where transfer takes place at 11 to a Junior High School, or where an all-ability school exists, parents have sometimes chosen to permit their sons/daughters to sit the Transfer Test so that if successful, they could travel to neighbouring grammar schools.

Reference is also made in the "Gallagher and Smith" report that there is a degree of distress and pain on the part of pupils who failed the Transfer Test and that they suffer from a loss of esteem. Some parents undoubtedly suffer from a sense of rejection if their son/daughter does not make it to the grammar school.

SHA would accept that there is an element of truth in these observations. However it has to be pointed out that the success of many secondary schools in recent years in achieving superb results at GCSE has enabled many of these "failures" to proceed to 'A' level studies in grammar schools and subsequently to be successful in universities. Some of these "failures" have also chosen the further education highway after GCSE and arrived at university eventually to pursue successful careers.

SHA would also point out that the proportion of parents/children distressed by the experience of inability to obtain a grammar school place may well be quite small. Certainly the evidence from the Review Body's meeting with interested groups throughout Northern Ireland is that parents were relatively thin on the ground and while a few made a strong case against selection, the failure of many to turn out could be interpreted as general satisfaction with the present system.

4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

A The present system enables the intelligent pupil from a relatively deprived background to take full advantage of the academic success possible in a grammar school and hence move into the professions following a graduate/post graduate course at university. It should be pointed out that in Northern Ireland a higher proportion of pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds go to university than any other part of the UK. It could also be argued that pupils from professional/managerial backgrounds do benefit from the high quality academic education provided in the Province. Northern Ireland, statistically does better in the academic league tables than English schools.

5. If the current selection system was maintained, what are your views on selecting by:

(a) Setting targets which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

A Presumably this would mean that Geography, History, Technology, etc. would be added to the English, Mathematics and Science as at present. While this would be welcome, there would be reservations about testing this information in two mornings of the first term in Primary 7.

(b) Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

A This would not be satisfactory because of the absence of uniformity and standardization, but might be necessary as a stop-gap measure to cope with over-subscription.

(c) Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

A They could certainly give advice and support, but not the actual decisions. This would put them in an invideous situation.

(d) A system of continuous assessment.

A This would certainly be attractive in that it would give information based over seven years and the levels obtained at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 would also be a valuable indicator. Certainly, this information would be more useful than the present grades obtained in October and November of Primary 7.

(e) Parental input.

A Parental choice must be respected. However, it must be tempered with advice from the Primary School as well as evidence from continuous assessment.

(f) Combination of the above options.

A Obviously a system which combines parental choice, Key Stage assessments, continuous assessments as well as advice from Principals and Primary 7 teachers would have a lot to commend it.

transition to post-primary school

1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

A SHA believes that 11 is the most appropriate age. The Key Stage 3 curriculum followed in Years 8,9 and 10 is different from that experienced in the Primary School especially in the introduction of languages, while many other subjects, though studied in the primary school are at a level of sophistication and specialization which it would be unfair to ask Primary School teachers to undertake.

2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

A There appears to be considerable distortion of the Primary 7 curriculum which is skewed in favour of Mathematics, English and Science, certainly for the first 3 months of that year to the exclusion of other subjects. After late November, Primary Schools have the opportunity to return to the full range of subject experiences. Thus distortion of course is experienced by all pupils, including those not doing the transfer test.

3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

A By attending induction days in post-primary schools and giving their son(s)/daughter(s) every opportunity to avail of experiences offered by the post-primary school.

4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post-primary schools?

A The following ideas have been found to be very worthwhile:

(1) Invitation for small groups of parents and Primary 7-pupils to visit the school for an information session in late May. At this meeting it may be possible to respond to parents and pupils regard class allocation.

(2) Using the Senior Management Team to visit the Principals of primary schools to build up information on academic and pastoral matters concerning the incoming pupils.

(3) Inviting the new Year 8 cohort from all the primary schools to visit their post-primary school in late June to be allocated new classes and to be given a very thorough visit around the whole school by school prefects.

(4) Bringing the new Year 8 in to school on the first day of the new term in September and providing an induction day which familiarizes them with the school.

(5)Allocating form teachers to the class who not only will take morning registration but also take the class for a weekly Personal and Social Education unit.

(6)Allocating two prefects to "shadow" a class.


1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A All schools should provide a core curriculum certainly up to Key Stage 3 which would be broad and would reflect the possible proposals by CCEA for this stage. However it is quite inappropriate for non grammar secondary schools to insist that all pupils study for GCSE in the full range of subjects. "Disapplication" is already in the pipeline and these should take the opportunity to give pupils the experience of IT skills as well as classes in employability.

2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

A SHA considers that vocational educational opportunities should be available in all schools, but especially in non-grammar schools. At present opportunities are limited, but hopefully will improve. This may require Further Education Colleges to "cascade" part of their role to schools.

3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievements?

A Yes. We need a system that gives a high level of esteem to vocational education as in Germany. Grammar schools also need to take on board a vocational emphasis. At present there is an emphasis here often purely on the academic subjects.

4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A This is already being done at 'A' level through the GNVQ qualification. This could "filter down" to Key Stage 4. It will take time and will require Further and Higher Education institutes to give it full recognition.


1. What are your views of:

(a) A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish system)

A The "Gallagher-Smith" report expressed reservations about this system. It would appear to work well in rural areas of low population density, where academic, vocational and presumably technical education can be accommodated under one roof. In large urban areas, it is not held in high esteem and "post code" factors would seem to determine those held in low or high esteem by parents.

(b) Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon)

A Again reservations were expressed about this system in the "Gallagher-Smith" report. Changing from a Junior High School to a Senior High School at the end of Key Stage 3 will cause problems in terms of maintaining a similar ethos throughout the five years of Key Stage 3 and 4.

(c) A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

A This idea is given a high degree of support by SHA members. However it will only work if vocational and technical schools are given high status and are held in high esteem by parents and pupils.

2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

A The vocational and technical schools would require a considerable investment of financial resources for them to be attractive. In-service training for teachers in all three types of schools would be necessary to enable them to be properly prepared for schools where vocational qualifications are in demand.

3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

A If the time scale was very limited, there would not be enough time to provide appropriate accommodation and resources as well as prepare teachers for radical change. Confidence, therefore in a system which represents quite a significant change from the present status quo, would be damaged. Time is therefore of the essence if we are to get it right this time.

4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable? What are the manpower/financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

A None!


1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How would these be achieved?

A If the tripartite system, which SHA supports, is chosen it is essential that all three systems are held in high esteem and that it should be relatively easy for pupils to transfer from one system to the other, so that their potential could best be realised. Whatever system is chosen, be it the above or any other, the sensitivities of teachers and parents must be taken into account. Any sudden tampering with the system will lead to a lack of confidence. Thus "festina lente"!

2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

A This is a very broad question which is difficult to answer in concise terms. Obviously one would want to ensure that all pupils, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will have the opportunity to experience the highest quality educational opportunities which will enable them to have the skills necessary for employment opportunities, and also the moral and spiritual values to appreciate what is right and wrong.



Q.1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

A.1. Should be changed. Because it is highly unfair, narrows the curriculum and is socially divisive.

Q.2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?

A.2. Selection may help teacher to gear their teaching at a certain level. In a mixed ability class children who have learning difficulties may feel out of their depth and become disheartened while bright children are not challenged enough and become bored and disinterested. However research shows that peer tutoring can work very well and has advantages for the weaker child as well as for the more advanced one. If we must have selection it should be streaming within the same school and within subjects. Labelling children according to the type of school they go to creates problems from the start.

Q.3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

A.3. Yes I think the report is a fair reflection of the effects of the selective system. This system exists nowhere else in Europe. If like in Germany children go to different schools (vocational as opposed to more academic schools) this is decided according to the overall profile of the child.

Q.4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

A.4. Yes the current system is elitist as prep schools are entitled to take a certain amount of fee-payers. Children don't all reach the same level at age 11 as there are late developers. It is also true that some children are pushed into grammar schools when they would have been happier to study in a secondary school where they would have been top of a particular class.

Q.5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

a. Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

c. Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

d. A system of continuous assessment.

e. Parental Input.

f. Combination of the above options.

A.5. a. Would be fairer.

b. This would encourage competition which would not necessarily be fair!

c. This would be ideal in an anonymous world but one must also consider cases of bias in such a small place as N Ireland. Parents could appeal if they did not agree with recommendations for the decision to be reviewed by the board (?).

d. Probably the best.

e. Parents with teachers could discuss what they view as the best option for their child. Some parents are happier to withdraw their children from the test and send their children to what they consider to be the best school for their children which happens to be the local secondary school.

f. The above seems to point that way!


Q.1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

A.1. 11-12, for most children are ready for a different school by then. Some will always mature quicker than others.

Q.2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

A.2. It narrows the curriculum down and puts the emphasis on a few areas which are consequently considered as the most important to be successful in to stand any chance in life.

Q.3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

A.3. Parents' views should be listened to. They should have some input.

Q.4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post-primary schools?

A.4. It should be as smooth as possible. Most schools do try to organise a visit to the local secondary level schools as well as invite teachers from these schools to come and speak to the children about a particular subject.


Q.1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A.1. At primary school yes, in order to sample all the subjects. Some subjects are clearly necessary for general development and education as well as future career prospects. All schools should provide the same curriculum in a comprehensive system. If there are vocational and academic schools, the curriculum should reflect this split in depth if not in breadth.

Q.2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

A.2. Vocational education is important and will suit some better than others regardless of their academic achievements! No there are not enough opportunities as grammar schools tend to belittle these subjects!

Q.3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

A.3. Yes, once a pupil has opted for that particular route.

Q.4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A.4. This has to do with the schools' attitude toward these qualifications. Very few teachers would have a vocational background. Well qualified people in the vocational field should be invited in the schools to present their work.


Q.1. What are your views of:

a. A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish System).

b. Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

c. A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

A.1. a. Seems to work well.

b. Highly thought of by people who followed this route.

c. One of my earlier suggestions.

Q.2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

A.2. A more diversified teaching profession. Teachers coming from a vocational background in particular. Teachers with a wider experience of the world of work outside the school. A better paid profession would bring more broadly qualified people into the schools.

Q.3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

A.3. Time-scale? How do we attract these people?

Q.4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable? What are the manpower/ financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

A.4. The American system where children move up at different rates in different subject areas. The French system where children are given a broader curriculum and where even once they specialise are still expected to do lesser subjects to a certain level.


Q.1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How could these be achieved?

A.1. Removal of elitism, promotion of self-esteem, setting of individual targets. A comprehensive system or a split system (similar to the German system) which still offers chances of changing from one type of school to another.

Q.2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

A.2. To develop social skills and basic skills to the best of the individual's ability. To equip the individual for a place in society where he/she would fulfil an economic as well as a social role.

written submission by:
st mary's university college

1. This submission focuses exclusively on the issue of justice. This is for two reasons.

1.1 Firstly, my views on the policy of selection at eleven and on the method of selection are informed primarily by the conviction that they are unjust.

1.2 Secondly, I believe that the issue of justice has not received as much attention in the debate as it merits.

2. Over recent years I have made a number of public statements about selection at eleven. Iwas careful to address these remarks only to the Catholic education sector, since that sector is based on Christian religious values which seemed to be undermined by selection at eleven. I did not wish to presume to preach to other sectors.

The essence of my remarks in every case was the same: it is unfair and unjust to operate a system which:

2.1 leads to over two thirds of children regarding themselves, or being regarded by others, as failures or as second best;

2.2 diminishes their life chances;

2.3 helps to perpetuate the existence of educationally disadvantaged strata in society, and

2.4 enables the best-off strata of society to benefit disproportionately from the publicly-funded education system.

3. The current debate, as reflected in the media, seems to indicate a high degree of dissatisfaction among the public with selection at eleven and/or the current method of selection at eleven and a strong feeling that it is unfair. For that reason I now feel free to address my concerns to all in N Ireland.

4. I take it as axiomatic that education should be for the common good. This belief, when unpackaged, means several things.

4.1 In relation to individual people it means that an educated person will have a concern for the common good. (This has implications for the curriculum.)

4.2 In relation to educators it means that concern for the common good should underpin educational structures and policies. (Our current system is socially divisive and undermines the common good.)

4.3 In relation to government it means that the education system funded from the common purse should benefit equally all the members of society. (The current selective system prevents this from happening at the moment.)

5. I do not think the Gallagher Smith research paid sufficient attention to the justice issues related to selective post-primary education and the current method of selection.

6. I think that the list of issues circulated by the Review Body does not pay sufficient attention to the justice issues. These are hinted at in question 4 of the first section, "Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?" This is an important question to ask, but it refers only to one effect of the system. The list of issues does not refer at all to the effect on individuals of the selection system or the deleterious effect on society as a whole of a selective post-primary education system.

7. In answer to the last question on the list, "What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?" I would say that the education system should be reviewed in terms of the common good. This means that the system should aim to promote social justice. It means that more resources should be targeted on those who at the moment have least access to education, for whatever reason. It means that the education system should be designed to help the underprivileged to improve their chances of making a contribution to the economic welfare of the country.

rev prof M o'callaghan
St Mary's University College:
a College of the Queen's University of Belfast

written submission by:
stranmillis university college

College staff and governors concluded that because of the range of opinions within both groups on this complex subject, no single College submission could be made to the Review Body and clearly the same would apply in the case of the Assembly Education Committee. However, individual governors and staff members are of course free to make a submission and I shall draw the Committee's request to their attention.



written submission by:


1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

(a) It should be changed due to the lack of adequate criteria for discrimination between pupils' results (see Gardiner Report).

(b) The great variation in grades in grammar schools' intakes which are determined by location. The TRC recommends a two stage movement away from the current system. See page 2 of the TRC paper.

2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?


A combination of in-school assessment and selection tests is recommended, with primary school assessment comprising not more than 25 per cent of the overall process.

The TRC is of the firm opinion that no matter what method of selection - by examinations, or assessment or combination thereof, information about and accessibility to an on-going review procedure is essential.

3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

The major weakness in this report is in the area of comparisons with systems elsewhere. These suffer either from lack of an adequate basis for comparability or from an inadequate account of the education system in some of the areas referred to.

The important omissions include (i) that in Germany the states with the highest educational results are those which retain assessment and selection, (ii) that a decline in attainment also occurs in the immediate post primary years in schools in England. See pages 5, and 48-49 of the TRC submission.

4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

It is important to distinguish between educational and social disadvantage. Children who have responsible parents are better off than those who do not. The goal of better schools for all is essential. More often than not "family" rather than "society" fails the children.

However, the attitude of the local community towards education also plays a major part in encouraging and recognising the value of education especially in the areas of citizenship, moral and spiritual learning. Why is low attainment found mainly in areas where para-militaries both republican and loyalist - are active?

Responsible parents must not be penalised for their positive actions in respect of their children's future because of lack of concern by other parents, - no matter what its cause. It could be argued that to some degree the present system fairly reflects a symptom of society but is not the cause of that symptom.

The system does create a disadvantage where pupils are incorrectly placed in schools either below or above their capabilities. Pupils are also at a disadvantage where in one area a Grade C may gain entrance to a Grammar School and in another area a Grade A is required. There should be equal opportunity for those gaining similar standards in a selection procedure.

In terms of the current administrative structures the controlled sector is at a disadvantage in comparison with catholic maintained and integrated schools which have a province-wide body to lobby for their needs and to represent their needs coherently in addition to ELB support.

5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

(a) Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.


(b) Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

YES - under guidelines set by the Department in consultation with all the partners in education in the event of a province-wide system being discontinued.

(c) Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

YES - but not solely this. The Primary School evaluation should not account for more than 25% of the process.

(d) A system of continuous assessment.

School-based systems in themselves could be open to abuse - by teachers being placed under heavy parental pressure, and by the failures which could be encountered in sampling school based assessments by bodies such as CCEA.

(e) Parental Input.

The implications of this are unclear to the TRC. If this is meant to mean "Parental choice" the Assembly must define "pluralism" and the degree to which this society can afford to meet group needs.

(f) Combination of the above options.

The TRC would support a combination of Parental Choice with selection being operative in respect of any post-primary school which is over-subscribed. Such selection to be based on

(i) primary school assessment based on Department of Education agreed criteria;

(ii) tests organised by the receiving schools which meet Department of Education agreed criteria.

transition to post-primary school

1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

11 plus.

There is a need for continuity of relationships - in arts, music and sport - as well as the academic. 14+ brings with it the disruption of two "settling-in" periods. The schools in Northern Ireland which have 14+ are in relatively small geographic areas and appear to cope very well with these processes. However, no province-wide policy should be developed on such a small area of experience.

2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

It is alleged that the primary curriculum is warped. This may be due to two influences - the very prescriptive nature of the Northern Ireland Curriculum and within that the more limiting areas of the selection process.

3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

Parental choice in so far as it is compatible with public expenditure. Pupil admission must be governed solely on the basis of ability to those post-primary schools which are over-subscribed, with principals being permitted a small number of discretionary admissions solely for pupils whose background of social deprivation may thus far have prevented them from realising their potential.

4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post- primary schools?

In those areas in which it is geographically possible, there should be maximum collaboration regarding Key Stage 2 between the feeder primary schools and their receiving post-primary schools. For larger post-primary schools with 50, 60 and 70 plus feeder primary schools such collaboration would be well-nigh impossible.


1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils?
Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A primary goal must be to develop students with basic literacy and IT numeracy skills who are aware of their responsibilities as citizens. There should be a core of curriculum including values and citizenship which is taught to all pupils. That core would be much less than that which is currently prescribed. On to this core, schools - especially in post-primary sections - should be encouraged to develop areas of excellence.

2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

Firstly, the terms "academic" and "vocational" need to be carefully defined. The secondary technical schools are a model well worth re-investigating. At present many schools do not have adequate facilities for technology, never mind the additional areas required for vocational education. There is a massive resourcing challenge here.

3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

Without an adequate definition of these terms it is almost impossible to give an accurate answer. Each pupil is entitled to be mentored and to be guided in the discovery of where their talents lie and are best-suited. This requires resources beyond those being currently provided in most schools.

The TRC would like to see equal emphasis on Academic Qualifications and Vocational Qualifications provided these were fairly compared and moderated, and accepted as such by employment and post school agencies.

4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

First, the qualifications must demonstrate honest comparability. Secondly Universities employers and public bodies must demonstrate by their practice that they accept the equality of these qualifications. This is a UK wide challenge and not solely a Northern Ireland one.


1. What are your views of:

(a) A comprehensive System (eg the Scottish System).

No system should be universally applied in Northern Ireland. What we have here at present is as good as, if not better than, most comprehensives in Scotland.

(b) Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

Whilst appreciating the integrity and quality of the 3 controlled senior schools involved in this process, the TRC would have reservations about applying this throughout Northern Ireland .

To state this is in no way to detract from what has been achieved in the Lurgan and Portadown areas. These arrangements with modifications may find acceptance elsewhere in Northern Ireland. However, the accountability of selection at 14+ needs further enquiry as does the range of possibilities offered at 14+.

(c) A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

Like selection this has its pluses and minuses. It should be further examined and greater detail should be published to enable the Northern Ireland community to make informal decisions. The omission of the existence of selection in areas of Germany in the report needs to be rectified.

2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

These would be immense and should be most carefully calculated before any attempt is made to re-structure the current post-primary system.

It is to be doubted these changes can or should be made without curriculum change, capital building programmes, repairs, and vocational investment on a scale not seen heretofore.

3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

Are there enough high quality principals in existence or in the pipe-line? The scale of changes will require exceptional education-team leaders. Wholesale changes should be avoided. Recognisable and attainable goals with generous time phases would be essential. The challenge would be to improve the system without destroying the great amount of good in all types of schools at present, and further afflicting and demoralising the teaching profession.

Money, and more money with resources, is vital even before thinking about changes, otherwise we will end up with a haphazard system - good here, poor there, and very uneven. Recognition must be taken of the need to finance and encourage the moral and spiritual values within education. More arts, (ie music, drama and 'minor' sports, citizenship,) teachers are needed - especially in the controlled sector where these subjects tend to be somewhat neglected.

4. Are there other systems/structures which you believe would be suitable?
What are the manpower/financial implications and possible implementation difficulties of these?

The TRC is firmly of the opinion that any proposals for change must be accurately estimated. The cost of capital building programmes, repairs, in-service support and the production of dedicated resources must be assessed for every model which is proposed. Such accountability is non-negotiable.

The Public Auditor's opinion and imprimatur should be sought prior to any such proposals being implemented, rather than yet once more being confined to a post-event report on the mishandling of public finances.

the purpose of the eduction system

1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential?
How could these be achieved?

The solution does not rest solely within schools. The condition and "culture" of family life is paramount. There needs to be greater and more focused endeavour in parental education. This in part can be school led involving parental contracts, parental programmes, etc.

2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

The TRC would be extremely concerned at an education system solely geared towards "social, educational and economic" outcomes - in which the mental, moral and spiritual did not receive high priority.

Amongst the goals should be

na citizen who is morally and socially responsible and democratically aware;

na citizen who can make a contribution to society which is necessary and which is esteemed whether as an economic producer, an artist, a politician, a performer, or a teacher.


The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) represents some 6,000 teachers from all sectors of the Northern Ireland Education Service. There are some 17,500 permanent primary and secondary teachers in Northern Ireland plus an additional 3,000 teachers who are part-time, supply and further and higher education teachers.

The UTU welcomes the opportunity to offer its views in response to the Review of Post-Primary Education.

It is our view that if the high quality of education already established at GCSE and GCE levels is to be at least maintained across the full spectrum of vocational and academic achievements, there needs to be a radical review of the structure of Post-Primary Education.


Q.1. Do you believe the current transfer procedure for pupils from primary to post-primary school should remain or be changed? Why?

A.1. The Union believes that the current transfer procedure needs to be changed. The present procedure is not only divisive but distorts the teaching of the curriculum in Primary Schools so that maximum 'passes' of the Transfer are possible. They also encourage the use of private tutors thus widening the gulf that already exists between different socio-economic groups, and distorting results further in primary schools, while discriminating against those pupils whose parents are less financially secure. The present system further serves to lower the self esteem of pupils that do not 'pass' this selection procedure, thus leaving teachers in the non-grammar sector the mammoth task of raising not only the self esteem of these pupils, but of improving the motivation of these pupils.

Q.2. Do you think some form of selection is inevitable? If so, what form should it take?

A.2. The Union agrees that a form of selection is inevitable, but this should take place within a fully comprehensive system where all pupils transfer to the same school.

Q.3. Do you think the "Gallagher and Smith" report accurately reflects the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland? In what way?

A.3. The Union agrees that the "Gallagher and Smith" report certainly highlighted a number of salient issues.

Q.4. Do you think that sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system?

A.4. The Union believes that the current system only serves to widen the gulf between the different socio- economic groups, thus disadvantaging those from a less secure financial background, and, because of those who have tutoring, making a grammar school education more possible for the financially elite of society.

Q.5. If the current selection system was maintained what are your views on selecting by:

a. Setting tests which cover broader areas of the curriculum.

b. Allowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests.

c. Teachers and Principals of Primary Schools making the recommendations.

d. A system of continuous assessment.

e. Parental Input.

f. Combination of the above options.

A.5. The Union believes that none of the options a. to f. are acceptable because the present system of selection has not been abolished.


Q.1. What age do you believe is most appropriate for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary school and why?

A.1. It is the belief of the Union that the age of 11 (the current age when pupils transfer from primary to post-primary education) is most appropriate, because at this age pupils are mature enough and able to overcome problems and difficulties that arise when changing schools.

Q.2. What effect do you think the transfer test has on the delivery of the curriculum?

A.2. The Union believes that the transfer test distorts somewhat the curriculum delivered in the Primary sector, especially in P6 and P7, ie greater concentration on English, Maths and Science and then the other aspects of the curriculum are delivered after that first term of P7. The effects of this distorted curriculum reverberates into KS3. The transfer does not take account of pupils more able to deal with practical aspects of the curriculum ie Art, Music, PE, Geography, etc.

Q.3. What role do you think parents should have in the process?

A.3. The Union believes that the parents should be fully involved in appreciating the work of teachers in making the transition from Primary to Post-Primary Education as painless as possible for pupils.

Q.4. What suggestions do you have to improve the transition between primary and post-primary schools?

A.4. The Union believes that greater liaison between Primary and the Post-Primary School would be beneficial to pupils, parents and teachers. This could take the form of staff in both Primary and Post-Primary Schools getting to know each other through induction days. Induction days could be also used to bring parents and pupils into the Post-Primary School, to facilitate familiarisation with the staff and facilities of the Post- Primary School.


Q.1. What are your views on the same curriculum being taught to all pupils? Should all schools provide the same curriculum?

A.1. The Union believes that the curriculum should have the flexibility to offer equality of opportunity and access to all pupils, but they should not be forced to take examinations in all subjects taking into account the differing needs and difficulties.

Q.2. How important is vocational education? Do you think there are sufficient opportunities for pupils to pursue vocational training qualifications within the current education system?

A.2. The Union believes that vocational education involving a more practical based curriculum is very important and at present there are very limited opportunities for pre 16 year olds to pursue vocational education. An option of taking the vocational education route should be offered at a much earlier stage in the curriculum, ie after KS3.

Q.3. Do you believe equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational achievement?

A.3. The Union believes that equal emphasis should be placed on academic and vocational qualifications. Both achievements should be appreciated equally by society generally.

Q.4. How could equal status be obtained for both academic and vocational qualifications?

A.4. The Union believes that the general public would need to be re-educated in the fact that a vocational curriculum is of equal value to that of an academic curriculum. This could be reinforced by further consideration of the Framework of Qualifications thus leading to equivalence.


Q.1. What are your views of:

a. A comprehensive system (eg the Scottish System).

b. Delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon).

c. A more differentiated system of post-primary schools (eg in Germany where pupils opt for a vocational, technical or academic school).

A.1. At present the Union would be supportive of the delayed selection (eg the Dickson Plan in Craigavon) provided account is taken of the vocational achievement.

Q.2. What manpower/financial implications would arise from each of the above options?

A.2. The Union believes that the implementation of the Dickson Plan would be least severe on manpower or financial implications, as many of buildings already exist ie most areas have a local post-primary school. However, more finances would need to be channelled towards transportation of pupils.

Q.3. What implementation difficulties could arise?

A.3. The Union believes the Public would need to be re-educated in the new education system. Also there may be some staffing implementation difficulties.


Q.1. What conditions do you believe would enable all pupils to maximise their potential? How could these be achieved?

A.1. The Union believes that equality of subjects, equality of opportunities and equalities of schools would enable all pupils to maximise their potential.

Q.2. What objectives should be identified for the education system in terms of social, educational and economic outcomes?

A.2. The Union believes that this review of Post-Primary Education should examine the following objectives. The education system should ensure that the pupils/students will be highly motivated, appropriately educated, well trained and adaptable. Any improvement is subject to adequate resourcing being made available. As a Union it is believed that this Education Review should support the provision of a set of pathways through which all individuals can fulfil their potential and gain the knowledge, the skills and the competence to perform effectively in the workplace. The objectives should include ways to strengthen, consolidate and improve the encouragement of worthwhile attainment and the maintenance of high quality and flexibility in the curriculum.

It is hoped that this response from UTU will be of assistance in guiding the response to the Post-Primary Review.

written submission by:
university of ulster

review of post primary education in northern ireland

The University of Ulster welcomes the opportunity to make a submission for consideration by the Education Committee. Before specifically addressing the question set by the Committee we believe that it would be useful to repeat our submission to the Review Body.

In that submission we report that it is our belief that the starting point for the review must be consideration of the societal objectives of the secondary (ie post primary education system). School structures in themselves are important only as a means of achieving these objectives. Whilst we recognise that secondary education has multiple objectives and that views on these will differ, in this submission we focus on one of these objectives: preparation for higher education.

We would wish to emphasise that higher education is now diverse in terms of subject coverage but that the frequently made distinction between academic and vocational courses is too simplistic. Whilst it is possible to think of courses arranged on a continuum ranging from the highly vocational to the highly academic, most programmes of study lie within the continuum combining academic with vocational study. Programmes of study also draw on, and develop, a wide range of skills.

At the University of Ulster most of our courses aim to combine vocational and academic study. It is for this reason that we were quick to accept vocational qualifications (eg Advanced GNVQs) as an entry qualification. Our experience is that whilst students holding vocational qualifications bring a different knowledge and skills set to their studies than do 'A' level students, neither can be said to provide a better preparation for higher education than the other. Thus, if by a grammar school education is meant an academic education only then it is no longer the case that this is necessarily the best preparation for University-level study. As a consequence, we believe that a key objective of the secondary education system must be to give parity of esteem to academic and vocational study and, wherever possible, to continue these in the secondary curriculum.

We are concerned, therefore, that the current system of secondary education in Northern Ireland gives undue prominence and weighting to academic study. We would urge the Review Body to consider the following way forward:

(i) Primary education should include an assessment of the extent to which the balance of each pupil's ability leans towards suitability for academic or vocationally oriented study.

(ii) Prior to entry to post-primary school education pupils should be assessed in terms of these abilities.

(iii) The post-primary system should be divided into schools with an academic or vocational emphasis and pupils encouraged accordingly. Each set of schools should have parity of esteem and unit funding.

(Please note: by post-primary we mean secondary schools including the current grammar schools Consideration should be given to extending primary/pre-secondary education beyond 11, through the establishment of 'middle schools' and thus delaying selection.)

The current system which selects only on academic grounds and groups all other pupils irrespective of their relative academic or vocational abilities together in a diluted but nonetheless academically driven environment is, we believe, inherently, unfair particularly to vocationally gifted pupils. It is also inefficient in terms of producing a well equipped workforce for a knowledge and skills-based economy. And the Review Body will be aware that many of the skill shortages in Northern Ireland relate to areas in which high vocational ability is required, for example, in the computing, engineering and hospitality sectors.

We conclude our report to the Review Body by concluding that it is our belief that academic and vocational education are equally important, that they must be given parity of esteem, and that ideally they would be combined though in different ratios, as appropriate, in the curriculum for all post-primary level pupils.

Following on from the above our views on the specific questions that you pose are as follows:

1. Current System

We believe that the current system should be changed in that it disadvantages pupils with relative strengths in vocational aptitude and abilities. Whilst some form of selection is inevitable the timing and nature of the selection process should be changed. In particular, the selection process should give parity of esteem to academic and vocational aptitudes and ability. This might suggest selection at a later stage than is currently the case with a broader education up to the point of selection. We believe that the "Gallagher and Smith" report is especially accurate in its description of the bias introduced into the final years of primary education by the current selection process and the disadvantage suffered by pupils with vocational aptitudes and abilities.

2. Transition to Post-Primary School

As we report above, we believe that there may be a strong case for delaying selection and perhaps creating 'middle schools' which maintain a broadly based curriculum.

3. Examinations and Qualifications

We believe that vocational qualifications are important and should be given parity of esteem with academic qualifications. Both are relevant, for example, for progress to higher education, although not necessarily equally so for progress to all courses. Universities given equal status to academic and vocational qualifications in terms of entrance criteria is one means of giving equal status to vocational and academic qualifications.

4. Alternative Structures and Systems

It is not clear to us that a simple system of post-primary education will necessarily be best for all parts of Northern Ireland. For example, in rural and socially mixed semi-urban areas comprehensive schools offering both vocational and academic qualifications might be appropriate, whilst in urban areas "neighbourhood comprehensives" would almost certainly serve to disadvantage children in the more socially disadvantaged areas. Within a comprehensive system selection might take place within the school whereas in urban areas selection might be between schools specialising in different aspects of the curriculum.

5. Purpose of the Education System

In the broadest terms we believe that this is to facilitate each child to reach his/her maximum potential. Clearly, any education system must also serve other purposes, for example, the development of personal skills (citizenship, respect of diversity, etc) and to serve economic and social objectives.



gerry mckenna

written submission by:
youth council for northern ireland

The Youth Council response to this review will be set within a framework influenced by its own statutory functions, and its appreciation of the importance attached to this issue by many children and young people, as evidenced by the Council's various consultations with over 1,000 young people during the last few years.

the youth council's guiding principles

These are based on a number of key factors:

a) Its Mission Statement

"To be the lead advisory body dedicated to influencing and advancing the quality of life for children and young people in Northern Ireland."

The Council is concerned about the quality of life of individual young people and the creation of appropriate opportunities for each one to realise his/her own potential.

b) Its Core Values (see Appendix 1)

The Council considers it to be a pre-requisite that the focus of attention rests on the children and young people themselves. The development of their self-esteem is crucial, as is the principle that each one should feel "valued".

c) New Targeting Social Need

The Council's understanding of this initiative is that it assumes a commitment to the promotion of social inclusion for all children and young people and is therefore applicable to the education sector. However, it should be recognised that the education sector alone will not resolve social deprivation.

d) Equity, Diversity and Interdependence (See Appendix 2)

The Council is wedded to the promotion of these principles within the youth service, and their application to the Council's own actions.

e) The Executive's Draft Programme for Government

The Council notes that within this important strategic plan is a clear commitment by the Executive to a focus on the needs of children and young people, recognising the importance of investing in their education for the ultimate benefit of the whole community.

In summary, the Council's view is that an ideal education system should aspire to serve every pupil and provide the best and most appropriate education for each one.

current arrangements

While accepting that there is much to be proud of in the Northern Ireland education sector, the Council believes that there is a general acceptance of the need for change in the present educational arrangements, and also a general recognition that the needs of all young people are not being met by the current system. The Council considers it essential that the present debate is conducted at a more basic level than merely focusing on the transfer system. For example, the social skills deficiency of many young people must be addressed.

future arrangements

Rather than describe one preferred set of arrangements, the Council considers it a more fundamental approach to outline some key criteria by which emerging models might be judged.

1. Curricular issues must be properly addressed before systems and structures are tackled.

2. An ideal education system should provide the most suitable options for each individual young person, but with scope for transferability between chosen routes. The diversity of young people in Northern Ireland is a "driver" towards a variety of appropriate responses.

3. There is a need for an acceptance of the equal status of academic and vocational/technical routes otherwise those following the latter will continue to be labelled "inferior". Further and Higher Education can make a significant contribution to the achievement of parity of esteem between technical and academic routes.

4. The importance of the complementarity between different forms of schooling and between formal education and the youth service must be recognised and utilised. The role of the youth service could assume greater importance through its provision of activities to counteract diminishing extra-curricular opportunities at school.

5. There should be recognition of the different learning styles of individual young people with the aim of attempting to match learning style with the learning opportunities provided. (There is scope for further study of how children and young people learn.)

6. There is a need for a better "balance" between academic achievement and personal fulfilment.

7. There may be significant training needs amongst staff affected by changes in the educational system, which might include themes such as problem-solving and creativity. The importance of the relationship between teacher and pupil must not be overlooked.

8. "Special needs" pupils require particular attention including a recognition that they are not always underachievers.

9. On the question of testing pupils, there is a challenge to educators to "value what we measure, rather than merely measuring what we value".

10. Finally, the Council considers that strenuous efforts should be made to achieve a consensus approach to change in the belief that only through consensus will the "best" system emerge.

appendix 1

core values

The Youth Council for Northern Ireland:

(i) recognises the rights of children and young people and the primacy of their rights in its approach;

(ii) is committed to the principles of equity and equality in all its actions;

(iii) believes in the participation of children and young people, including in those decision making processes which affect their lives;

(iv) is committed to the interests and welfare of children and young people.

The Youth Council is committed to:

na child/young person centred approach;

nmeaningful consultations with all relevant bodies;

na holistic, integrated approach to addressing the needs of children and young people;

nplaying an enabling role in the development of a partnership approach.

The Youth Council fully embraces the rights of children and young people as described in the 54Articles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Council further endorses the key principles which underpin the Children (Northern Ireland) Order.

Such rights and entitlements are too numerous to detail here, but principally encompass:

Protection from all forms of abuse, exploitation and discrimination

Representation to have a voice in decision making about their future

Information about their entitlements to education, training, social provision, health care and the law

Whilst these rights are universal to all ages, the extent to which they can be enacted will vary according to age, maturity and legal considerations.

Regardless of age, however, the Council supports the right of young people to participate in decision-making, and will strive to consider the expressed interests of children and young people in all relevant activities.

appendix 2


A commitment to fairness, including the redressing of any identified undesirable or inequitable balance. On a wider level, the adoption of a human rights culture which alerts young people and staff to their rights and the responsibilities that go with them.


Encouraging respect for, and expression of, the range of identities represented by the youth of Northern Ireland, and those who work with them. Diversity should be a source of celebration and interest, not fear and suspicion. It is about moving beyond the "neutral" environment, to one where diversity is valued and is used creatively.


Recognising and exploring the ways in which individual paths are intertwined. It is also about building new relationships between the various people and groups who make up the population of these islands.

selection and post-primary education
focus group research

summary report
February 2001


1.1 Background to the Research

In November 2000 Research and Evaluation Services (RES) was commissioned by the Education Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly (the Committee) to undertake research into the Transfer Test and Post-Primary Education. The aim of this research was to seek the views of parents, teachers and pupils on the Transfer Test as well as to discuss possible alternatives to this.

Eleven focus groups were undertaken during December 2000 and February 2001 - four with pupils, four with parents and three with teachers. Half the groups were held in Belfast and the remainder split between Fermanagh and Tyrone. The key results are highlighted in the following sections.


The importance of the test

nThe majority of children stated that the test was very important. In one group however most of the children wanted to go to the local high school and they did not feel the test was as important as some of the others.

nIt is used to 'decide what you are going to do and the school you go to'. 'If you don't have the test the not so smart would go to grammar and would struggle'. The test shows 'who is better'.

nThe pupils also felt it had long term implications 'the better your mark the better your education'.

Parents/those at home' opinion of the test

nThe majority of pupils said their parents told them to 'do their best'. Some said that it was never talked about at home and others seemed to be under pressure from parents. 'My dad said he would hit me if I got a 'D', but mum said later that he was only joking'. 'I didn't want to do the test but my mum forced me because she thought I was able for it. I'm glad I did it now'.

nOne girl whose parents had told her to do the test had consistently attained low scores said it had 'made me feel that I was no good'.

How preparation for the test interfered with other activities

nIn Belfast the majority of children said that it did not interfere with other activities although one group attended a summer school. However in both Omagh and Enniskillen all the children said that it did interfere with outside activities, 'no matter where you went you always thought about the test'.

Opinion and extent of private tutoring

nIn only one group (in Belfast) the majority of pupils had a tutor. The remainder in this group explained how their family spent a lot of time tutoring them. In the other groups only one or two pupils had a tutor and the others were not envious as a lot said they had help at home.

Why do children go to different schools

nThe majority of pupils stated that it was the smarter children and those with 'pushy' parents who went to grammar school and this was taken for granted.

n'If you can take work faster then you go to a Grammar school.'
'Some children get kept back by slower learners in Primary school but that would not happen in Grammar school.'
'If there were no Grammar schools cleverer children would not learn.'
'If everyone went to the one school then the bright children would get bored.'
'Some people have strict parents who make them go to the Grammar.'
'It's not fair if your parents want you to go to the Grammar.'
'There might be trouble at Grammar schools if there were no secondary schools.'

Opinion of the current test

nWhilst the children discussed how hard parts of the tests were all of them said they would encourage other children to take part in the test and 'to give it a try and you might get an 'A''. 'It's a waste of the last seven years (if you don't do it).'

nWhilst those in the class who did not sit the test were not ridiculed overtly by the children in the groups the opinion was such that they 'just couldn't be bothered to do it'. It was also stated that the children who didn't do the test, 'just want to go to the secondary school'.

nThe majority of pupils felt that doing a test was the right way to decide who would go to grammar however most felt that the current test put too much pressure on them. 'Doing tests is important as it would be good experience for all the tests in the next school.'

nThe idea of continuous assessment was discussed in all groups 'some people are clever they just don't do well in tests'. It was thought that 'results from P1-P7 should be looked at'. Some children felt only work from P4 or P5 would be appropriate. They felt that the assessment should be for work done in the classroom and at home.

nOne boy said that he did not think it would be fair if teachers decided what school you go to 'as they are human and have favourites'.

nSome children also mentioned that the Key Stage tests they had just completed were less tricky and maybe they could be used in some way to decide what school children go to.

Age of transfer

nThe majority of the children did think that '11' was the right age to move schools. One boy said that if you raised the age that pupils did the test 'you could end up doing the 25+ test'.

nThey were looking forward to moving to a new school but were anxious about extra homework, the new timetable and stricter teachers. However the major cause of concern in all the groups was bullying.

Additional Comments

nAll the pupils were glad to be doing more enjoyable subjects such as art, music, history and geography.

nDiscussions were had in all groups about the fact that it was not fair that in some years you can get into the Grammar with a Grade C and that other years this would not be possible.

nThe school in Enniskillen recently had a visit from one of the teachers in the High School and this had made them look forward to going to it even more.

nOne boy talked about how expensive it was to go to Grammar as 'the uniform is £80 and you have to pay money every year'. He felt that this would put some people off from going to it.


Opinion of the Transfer Test

nThe majority of parents disapproved of the current test. The majority felt that at 11 the children were too young to sit a test of this nature and that 'it does not give a true reflection of the child's ability'. 'The self esteem of the child is destroyed after this.'

nA small number in one group did not really think it was a big deal as their child would be going to the local secondary.

nThere was a mixed response to whether children were too young at 11 to sit the transfer test and change schools. The majority of parents felt that the current test puts too much pressure on them at that age. However it was evident that a lot felt they were ready to change schools at 11.

nSome parents felt that the grading system was very unfair and that there should only be a 'pass' or 'fail'. One parent who had an older child said that when he got the 'D' he said 'I didn't realise I was that stupid'.

Knowledge of the 'Gallagher Report' and current research

nOnly one parent had heard of the 'Gallagher' Research and whilst some parents were aware that there had been meetings taking place to discuss the transfer procedure the majority were not aware.

Opinion of private tutoring

nThe majority of parents were strongly against coaching - those in the groups who had their children coached had to 'defend' their actions to the other parents. 'It puts extra pressure on the child to achieve because of the money which was paid out.' They also felt that 'a child would need to be coached all the way through Grammar school if they had to be coached to get in'.

nSome parents felt that the ethos of tutors came from the school 'some schools have a definite coaching culture'.

Does the current system disadvantage certain sections of society?

nThe majority of parents did not think that certain sections of society are more/less advantaged by the current system. 'If I have millions and my child gets a 'D' it won't get into the grammar school.'

nIn one group however mother said that her daughter had chosen a grammar school as her first preference if she got an "A". 'But I told her that she may take if off because even if she got an "A" I couldn't afford the uniform.'

nThe group which contained mostly class parents, did feel there was social disadvantage. 'It is statistically proven that working class children do not get the grades' and 'the poor get left behind'. However a benefit of the current system identified by this group was that all children could receive a grammar education. 'In England parents would have to pay £15,000 per year and this would greatly disadvantage certain sections of society.'

Opinion of secondary education

nParents' opinion of the secondary schools varied between Belfast, Omagh and Enniskillen. In both Omagh and Enniskillen none of the parents were opposed to sending their children to the local secondary school. However in Belfast one or two 'good' secondary schools were identified but all the rest were not rated by the parents or their children. This meant that the pressure for their child to do well in the tests was very high. 'If all secondary schools/comprehensive were like this (a well respected comprehensive school in Belfast) then parents would not worry about the child getting to a 'good grammar' school and the children would not have to do the test.'

Opinion of the current curriculum

nThe majority of parents felt there was too much emphasis on academic achievement and that the current system 'is losing' children who were not academic. 'There is no credit given for practical aspects. My son could build a circuit but ask him to understand it on paper and he can't do it. He is fantastic in his own way not the academic way.'

nIt was discussed that a goal for many people is to get to get their child to college and as this is academic it is important to pursue academic achievements.

nOne parent who worked in Queen's said that in a recent vacancy for an administration post over half of the applicants had a Degree and some had a Masters. She felt that an academic education was not the answer. Schools were failing children in today's marketplace. It is changing - 'academic qualifications aren't everything but at the moment they are all that are valued and taught'.

Alternative Systems

nThe majority of parents felt that the comprehensive system - if run properly - would be the best solution however they felt that this would not suit everyone. 'People are scared of comprehensive as they are scared of the consequences of losing the grammar system.' Some felt that the 'push to achieve' that was evident in Grammar schools was very important and felt it would be wrong to lose this.

nThe 'delayed transfer system' was not seen as an alternative by most parents as it was 'still selection'. However some parents did not think that selection itself was bad. 'Life is about selection' and that the current system 'is a good way of letting children know that life can be tough'.

nSome parents felt that the differentiated system of post primary schools was ideal. However they did not think it would be workable in Northern Ireland and they were concerned that children would not know at age 11 what path they would want to follow. 'This is a far away dream where academic was equal with other achievements.'

nThe majority of parents felt that some form of test would be required if the current dual system remained. They did not think it would be 'fair' if teachers were to decide. However they all felt that there should also be some element of coursework included taking the pressure off the children. Some parents felt that this would be fairer if they could be set up the way the Key Stage 2 exams are run. Parents did not perceive that these tests put nearly as much pressure on the children.

Additional Comments

nOn parent in Enniskillen felt that the allocation of bus passes restricted the choice of schools that children can go to. If a child got an 'A' and wanted to travel to the Grammar they would get a bus pass to do so. However if a child wanted to go to a secondary school that was not their local school then they would not get a bus pass therefore this restricts a parents choice.

nThe majority of parents did feel that there was a long-term impact upon those children who 'fail'. One parent who was a mental health professional stated that in a number of cases her patient's trauma started from the results of the transfer test and so she felt that it was a terrible system.

nParents felt that it was unfair that in some years a child could get into a Grammar with a B2 but in other years this would not be possible. One parent said that 'she would die if her child passed but they could not get a grammar place for him'.


Opinion of the current system

nAll teachers felt that the way selection at aged 11 is managed currently needs to be reassessed. 'The current system is very divisive - children are successes or failures.' Primary school teachers felt that it is very stressful for them as well as they are 'scored' on the amount of passes their pupils attain.

nThey felt that giving one grade for 7 years work was not fair and that the Year 7 work was rushed at the start to try to accommodate the exam. 'The test does science a great disservice as it is currently taught like English Comprehension.'

nIt was discussed that it was not just a child's academic ability that 'got it an 'A', but a wide range of social factors also impacted upon this. Some people 'do not see that they have a part to play in a grammar school system because they didn't come from the system'.

nSecondary school teachers said how it 'knocks self confidence' and they spend a lot of time in Year 8 trying to rebuild this.

nIt was argued that selection at 11 did not work because of the numbers of high achievers in Secondary Schools who were deemed 'failures' at age 11. A key problem is raising all schools to equal standing in the eyes of parents.

Knowledge of the research

nThe research was discussed in a number of the schools represented however the majority of teachers did not have any views on its findings. Those who did felt that not enough teachers were asked their opinion and that the findings had not been very well publicised.

Role of Parents

nTeachers felt that there was a lot of pressure put on children by parents who have been told by teachers that their children would not pass the exam but who forced them to sit the test anyway. 'Parents who didn't have a grammar education are more pushy.' 'It's parents who are upset when children fail, children are very resilient.'

Impact of the common curriculum

nThe common curriculum was seen to have done a great disservice to education. 'What vocational teaching is undertaken in schools nowadays? Since the common curriculum when the Government decided that academic was the best route there has been no opportunity to teach anything but academic.'

n'It's not wrong doing a foreign language but it shouldn't be at the cost of practical subjects which may give them a means of earning a living at a later stage. What industry asks for is creative talents however this is not encouraged in schools.'

n'In the 'League Table' mentality the value of a child will not be recorded unless they have achieved an academic qualification.'

n'Those children who are not good at academic studies will do vocational. This lowers the value of vocational education.'

Impact of private tutoring

nThe teachers did not regard coaching as having a significant impact however some were opposed to it. 'The 11+ is not different in that respect than any other exam.' 'The system makes me and the parents try to get them there (grammar schools) so it is inevitable.'

nA number of teachers felt that parents will pay for coaching to help their child get to the grammar school 'but after this they stop caring about their academic career as long as they are in the grammar'.

nThey recognised that the issue of coaching is often used as a point to highlight inequalities in the current system but it was felt that the inequality begins long before children sit the test. 'Social disadvantage starts when a child is born - look at the back up different children receive.'

Opinions of the alternative structures

nComprehensive - some teachers felt that this might offer a 'form of reasonable alternative' however for a number this would not be a 'mixed ability comprehensive' but one where the children are selected in streams.

nDelayed Selection - one teacher had taught in Craigavon where they system was practised and felt that it tends to be dominated by academic abilities. By the end of the three years despondency had set in with those pupils in the lower streamed groups.

nGerman System - this was seen as 'the perfect solution if values could be changed'. This however was seen as a 'distant dream' and also not practicable due to the job situation in Northern Ireland. One teacher said if there was a local factory employing hundreds of technology students then it might work but 'academic qualifications are what is needed to get a job in Northern Ireland'. A teacher who had been to Germany and examined the system was convinced that it could not work in Northern Ireland because of the more industrialised German economy where technology etc is held in 'parity of esteem' with academia. For example engineers making BMW cars are paid the same and respected as highly as doctors. He felt that this system was being looked at simply because the 'current stock of school buildings in Northern Ireland would lend itself to the adoption of this system'.

nA further concern of this system was the fact that children would not choose the vocational route if they had never been taught it. 'You can't value what you don't know.' It was felt that aged 11 was too early to decide what route a child should be taking in life.

nOn the whole there were limited suggestions as to what would replace the current system and some 'fear of change' as some teachers were in favour of the current system.

nIt was argued that 'any change should be evolutionary not revolutionary' and that we 'should not throw the baby out with the bath water' as there are many positive aspects of the current system.

nIt was discussed that the 'status quo' suits a lot of people especially in the grammar sector and that 'the money and time needed to make a change would be too heavy a burden upon the system'.

Opinion of selection by examination

nTeachers felt that selection by external examination works 'I am happy that the system is not teacher directed therefore it takes pressure off us. Also it is seen by parents and pupils to be 'cut and dried'.

nThey felt the current system could be improved to include coursework, oral examinations and more creative subjects. The following alternatives were discussed.

nSetting tests that cover broader areas of the curriculum - this option was seen as overloading the primary school teachers and making them 'jack of all trades and master of none'. It was also felt that the current exam is relatively easy to teach and to get pupils to excel in more creative subjects would be very difficult to do.

nAllowing individual schools to set their own entrance tests - 'terrible - this would increase the power of the grammar schools'. Some felt it would just shift the emphasis and mean that there would be coaching for each of the different school exams.

nHaving teachers and principals of primary schools recommend suitable post-primary education for children - 'absolute disaster'.

Additional Comments

nOne teacher felt that there should be room for 'local solutions to the issue that are appropriate to the communities they serve'. It was felt that a solution for Omagh would not work in Belfast or necessarily in Enniskillen.

nA secondary school teacher felt that 'the system at the moment is making 'sink schools' out of secondary schools. Due to the funding available in integrated education, pupils who get a B or C and used to go to the secondary are now going to the Integrated and therefore the academic potential of secondary pupils has dropped significantly'.

nThere was a concern that this would be used to attain short-term political gains and if another Minister was to be appointed who did not have as strong objections then any progress made in changing some parts of the system would be lost.


nAll groups agreed that the test in its current form is not appropriate however the pupils all would recommend younger siblings/friends 'at least give it a try'.

nThe majority of participants in all groups were in favour of some form of testing.

nThere was limited knowledge of the research that is being carried out.

nBoth the teachers and the parents groups agreed that 11 is the wrong age for selecting children however they are ready at 11 to transfer to a new school. There was a mixed response from the children - more than half were ready to move the remainder would like one more year.

nThe majority of parents and under half of the teachers viewed tutoring very negatively. The remaining teachers felt it was a fact of life. It did not seem to impact upon pupils in any group.

nThe teachers and parent groups were in agreement that the level of emphasis on academic work was too high. However teachers tended to put the blame for this on parents.

Alternative Education Systems and Arrangements



School Types

There are two main types of school in Scotland:

npublicly maintained schools, which charge no fees, and

nindependent schools which do.

Church schools which have chosen to transfer to the education authority, rather than be independent, became "public schools" (the term used in Scotland for maintained or state schools), although they can make separate arrangements for denominational instruction. Most of these are Roman Catholic.

Primary Education[11]

Primary education begins at five years in Scotland. Education authorities must provide all children with a school place no later than the start of the term after their fifth birthday. The precise age at which schools take children varies from one area to another. It is common for children to go to school at the start of the term in which they will become five. This is known as taking 'rising fives.'

Public primary schools are normally co-educational, leading to the transfer to secondary school at the age of 12. There are 2,293 local authority primary schools, with about 431,400 pupils.[12]

Scottish education authority primary schools vary in size according to the community they serve. In urban communities with larger primary schools it is usual for pupils to live within walking distance of the school but many small rural schools, often single-teacher establishments, serve large and remote areas where daily bus travel is necessary.

Post-primary Education[13]

Comprehensive schools are the main type of post-primary school in Scotland, attended by 96 per cent of pupils aged 12 to 18 (the remainder being in fee-paying schools). There are no separate sixth form colleges.

In 1999 there were 389 schools with 314,293 pupils. The average class size was 19.5; with a pupil-teacher ratio of 13:1. [14]

Comprehensive schools cater for children of all abilities, so admission does not depend on ability or aptitude. Most provide a full range of courses appropriate to all levels of ability from the first to the sixth year.

Independent Schools[15]

Independent schools provide education, at a price, from the age of three to 18. Thirty-two of the independent schools in Scotland are 'all-through' with their own nursery, primary and secondary departments. Others have a different structure; there are, for example, senior schools, junior schools and preparatory schools. Preparatory schools are for children up to the age of 13, who may be day pupils or boarders. Those who board normally start at the age of seven or eight. Some preparatory schools have a nursery department and a pre-preparatory department for children aged five to seven. It is estimated that just over 4% of pupils attend independent schools.

In Scotland, in 1998, official figures show there were;

n72 independent primary schools/departments with 11,693 pupils,

n62 independent secondary schools/departments with 17,940 pupils, and

n33 independent special schools with 1,081 pupils.

Transition Process

Under the comprehensive system, each secondary school is linked to a number of feeder primary schools. Most pupils tend to transfer to their local comprehensive schools, although parental choice does allow parents to make a request for their child to attend any comprehensive school. Each school has its own admissions policy and entry requirements, including the distance a pupils lives from the school and whether siblings already attend the school. Academic reasons are not accepted however as a basis for a placement request.

The main entry point to senior schools is at age 11 or 12. Some schools accept pupils on the basis of the Common Entrance Examination at 12 or 13. Most schools also have a sixth form entry. Entry to the senior school is usually by way of a written examination, often combined with an interview. All-through schools may admit pupils from their junior department to the senior school without examination.

Applications are usually made in the autumn of the year prior to admission, with interviews and entry examinations in the spring term.

Curriculum and Examinations[16]

The Scottish Curriculum

The content and management of the curriculum in Scotland are not prescribed by statute but are the responsibility of education authorities and individual headteachers.

It is deliberately less detailed than the National Curriculum in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, giving teachers a chance to teach what they believe should be taught to their pupils. It also describes how progress should be measured using targets that most children should be able to reach by particular ages.

Children's achievements are measured by the progress they make between the different target levels, A to E. Pupils move through the levels at different rates but most are expected to have achieved Level E in each curricular area by the age of 14.

nLevel A: almost all pupils should be able to reach this during the first three years of primary school, P1 to P3.

nLevel B: most pupils should be able to attain this level by P4 - age 8;

nLevel C: this level should be attained by most children between P4 and P6 - age 8-10;

nLevel D: some pupils may attain this level in P6 or even P5, but most will get there before starting secondary school at the end of P7 - age 11 to 12;

nLevel E: some will attain this level by P7 or by the first year of secondary school, S1-age 13. Most should be there by the end of the second year, S2 - age 14.

The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum (recently merged with the Scottish Council for Educational Technology to become a new organisation - 'Learning and Teaching in Scotland')[17] currently keeps it under review, issuing guidance to education authorities and schools and promoting a programme of curriculum development work with the education authorities.

Scottish Certificate of Education

At the end of their fourth year at secondary school (S4), pupils take the Scottish Certificate of Education examinations. Most candidates take 7-8 examinations which are offered at a variety of levels -

nfoundation - grades 5 or 6. Grade 7 is available to those who have completed the course without reaching any higher level.

ngeneral - grades 3 or 4, and

ncredit - grades 1 or 2 - indicating a high degree of mastery.

Normally, pupils take exams covering two pairs of grades, either credit and general, or general and foundation The award is based on the achievement of individuals measured against stated standards rather than on how their achievements compare with other students. In 1996-97, 56.1% of all pupils left school with five or more Standard Grade awards at grades 1 to 3 or better - nearly 62% of girls and nearly 51% of boys; 6.5% left with no qualification. Pupils may also take other certificated short courses provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, as well as courses in a wide range of vocationally relevant subjects.[18]

The government announced guidelines in March 1998 for schools and education authorities to improve attainment levels in the first two years of secondary education. The main recommendations of the report entitled 'Achieving Success in S1/S2' (years 1-2) include:

nreducing the number of courses taught in years one and two;

nsetting clear targets for better attainment;

nmonitoring the progress of each pupil;

nachieving much better co-ordination across the primary-to-secondary transfer.[19]

The government has also set out a national framework for setting targets in all Scottish schools in the key areas of reading, writing and mathematics, thus improving literacy and numeracy from the ages of 5 to 14. A national target has been proposed for 96% of fourth year students at secondary schools to achieve Standard Grade 1 to 6 in English Language and maths by 2001.

Scottish 'Highers'

The Scottish system is currently undergoing review. Up until last year, pupils who chose to remain at school after the end of compulsory education studied for the Higher Grade Scottish Certificate of Education, which was normally taken at the age of 17. Pupils commonly entered for four or more 'Highers'. In the sixth year, there was an option to take the qualification authority's Certificate of Sixth Year Studies, which was designed to give direction and purpose to study by encouraging pupils who have completed their main subjects to do three of them in depth. 'Highers' have been the normal university entrance qualifications in Scotland. A Certificate of Sixth Year Studies was not normally required but is taken into account by universities in making offers of places.

The National Certificate has had some 4,000 modules covering the vast majority of occupations, including engineering and science, computing, secretarial and office skills, art and photography, music and languages. Clusters of three 'modules' were available, making up coherent packages designed to assist students to go on to further study or employment. These could be studied part time or full time. Standards were assessed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and achievement in each module was recorded on a Record of Education and Training. National Certificate modules could be built up into:

nGeneral Scottish Vocational Qualifications which are broadly compatible with the GNVQs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and;

nScottish Vocational Qualifications which were introduced in October 1989 to deliver the competencies, required by industry. These were based on occupational standards determined or approved by the industry-led bodies. Over 400 have been available in areas such as agriculture, banking, business administration, computing, management, retailing and social and health care. [20]

National Qualifications - the new 'Higher Still' system[21]

In 1999, a new unified curriculum and assessment system of National Qualifications called 'Higher Still' was introduced. The system was introduced, bringing academic and vocational courses together in a single system in order to offer all students a broader range of options. The first examinations will be taken in 2001. The 'higher still' system has five levels of attainment, the first three corresponding to the Standard grade levels, (Access, Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2), plus Higher and Advanced Higher levels which replace the Certificate of Sixth Year Studies. 'Higher Still' is designed to allow students to study at the appropriate ability, allowing them to move up to the next level of difficulty when they complete their current level successfully.

Each 'Higher Still' course is split into modules called units; these in turn build into courses. Students study individual units of 40 or 80 hours which are internally assessed, and which may be combined into courses or group awards. Each unit is assessed on a pass or fail basis. Units are assessed by teachers in schools in the way that modules have been in the past.

As well as knowledge in individual subject areas, all Higher Still courses involve 'core skills'. These are as follows;



nProblem Solving (critical thinking, planning and organising, reviewing and evaluating)

nInformation Technology

nWorking with Others

It will be possible for students to do units without following full courses. When a student passes a unit the class teacher will confirm the pass and this will be recorded as part of a student's overall qualifications. This means that pupils are credited for the classwork they do even if they fail the final exam. Course assessment might be a project, product or performance as well as an examination. There are also Scottish Group Awards, made up of courses and units which fit together to make a study programme. This can lead towards a career path or specialised programmes in college or university. [22]


Scotland's education system has marked differences to that in the rest of the United Kingdom, a divergence which could grow greater under the Scottish Parliament. This has been demonstrated by the introduction of the new 'Higher Still' system. Responsibility for education has transferred to the new parliament, replacing the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department.

Perceived positive aspects of the education system

nThe system is more "middle-class friendly" with less social segregation than in England and Wales. This is attributed to the fact that the comprehensive system is more complete in Scotland. A greater number of alternative schools exist in England and Wales - denominational, independent, grammar, public.[24]

nSocial and academic differences which do exist in the system tend to exist within schools rather than between schools, therefore cultivating a greater diversity in individual schools.

nCloser links and co-ordination exist between primary and comprehensive schools (5-14 curriculum).

nBecause most pupils transfer to the local comprehensive, there is the potential for greater links to be developed between school and community;

nThe comprehensive system allows pupils greater flexibility, maintaining opportunities and choices for a longer period in a pupils' educational career. [25]

Perceived negative aspects of the education system

nThe comprehensive system may be less well equipped to stretch more able pupils. There is a greater need for mixed ability teaching, and this may be challenging for some teachers.

nWhere the local comprehensive has a poor reputation, parents make placement requests for schools elsewhere. Enrolment therefore expands in popular schools, and contracts in less popular ones. Recent press reports suggest that there may a growing trend of affluent parents selecting private schools over comprehensives.

nThere has also been an increasing concern that comprehensive schools are "too inclusive" and that children who have potential special needs (e.g. Emotional Behaviour Disorder) may affect such areas as exam performance, teaching, and school reputation.[26]

nIf streaming is practised on the basis of academic ability this reduces the potential social benefits which may arise from pupils being educated in a diverse environment.[27]

nTo effectively cater for a wide range of ability and to organise pupils in streams, bands or sets, larger year groups are required. The knock-on effect may be larger schools. This could potentially generate school closures. (In the 'Gallagher report' reference is made to a potential reduction of 60 schools (with 20 schools closing and 80 schools merging).

Research for Oral Briefing
30 November 2000
Ms Alison Montgomery
Ms Sandra McElhinney
Assembly Research and Library Services

alternative education systems and arrangements



Primary Education

Compulsory schooling begins at 6 years and extends to 15 years of age, however 85% of 4 and 5year olds also enrol in primary schools. The vast majority of primary schools are state supported "national schools". There are currently around 3,000 primary schools serving 500,000 children, with approximately 20,000 teachers. More than 50% of schools have four or fewer teachers. In addition there are 64 private primary schools which receive no government funding. Primary schools implement the curriculum as devised by national government and are subject to the state's school inspectorate. The majority of children pursue an eight-year course in the national school, after which they transfer, around the age of 12 years, to a post-primary school.[30]

Post-primary Education

The post-primary school sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools. There are just under 370,000 students in the sector attending 768 publicly aided schools. Of these:

n445 are secondary

n246 are vocational, and

n77 are community or comprehensive.

Secondary schools which educate 60% of pupils are privately owned and managed. The majority are overseen by religious communities and the remainder by Boards of Governors or individuals. The state pays 95% of teachers' salaries in these schools. Some of these schools are fee-paying. Catholic schools account for 9% of the total number of fee-paying secondary schools and 3% are owned by non-Catholic groups (mainly Protestant). Approximately 4% of all pupils attend fee-paying secondary schools.[31]

Vocational schools educating 26% of all post-primary students, are administered by vocational education committees. These schools are funded up to 93% of the total cost of provision.

Community and comprehensive schools which have 14% of students, are allocated individual budgets by the State.

Transition Process

There is no standard national test for transfer from primary schools to post-primary schools.

In some areas, secondary schools give preference to students from the associated primary school(s) and relatives of past pupils. A scheme of entrance exams is employed by some schools.

Post-Primary Curriculum[32]

Second-level education consists of a three year junior cycle followed by a two or three year senior cycle.

Junior Cycle

The Junior Certificate Programme was introduced in 1989 to provide a single unified programme for students aged broadly between 12 and 15 years. In September 1996 the new Junior Certificate Schools Programme was introduced to cater for a small number of students whose learning needs are not adequately met by the present Junior Certificate.

Senior Cycle

The Senior Cycle caters for pupils aged 15 to 18 years. Students normally sit the final examination (Leaving Certificate) at the age of 17 or 18, after 5 or 6 years of post-primary education. Students may spend up to three years in the senior cycle. They may follow a two-year Leaving Certificate programme immediately after Junior Certificate, or they may opt to follow a Transition Year programme before undertaking a two-year Leaving Certificate.

Transition Year Programme

The Transition Year Programme is interdisciplinary and student-centred. In freeing students to take responsibility for their own learning, the programme helps them to learn skills and to become involved in projects and activities which arise outside the boundaries of the certificate programmes in a non-examination environment. Pupils are particularly encouraged to become involved in community projects and local enterprise. The Transition Year has been introduced to provide students with enriched opportunities for personal development. Accordingly, schools are not permitted to offer a three-year Leaving Certificate programme, since this would undermine the Transition Year objectives.

Examination and Qualification Options[33]

The Junior Certificate

The Junior Certificate examination is taken after three years in the junior cycle at age 15. Pupils study approximately 8 subjects at Junior Certificate Level depending on their ability and the availability of subjects within a school.

The Leaving Certificate[34]

This is structured as a two-year programme usually taken at the end of post-primary education when students are approximately 18 years old. A major restructuring of the senior cycle is underway, involving four main elements:

nthe availability of the Transition Year Programme as an option for all second-level schools;

nthe revision of the established Leaving Certificate Programme;

nthe development and expansion of the Leaving Certificate Applied course;

nthe development and expansion of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.

The Established Leaving Certificate[35]

Students on the established Leaving Certificate programme must select five subjects though most take seven. Options must include English, Irish and Maths and a European language. Papers may be taken at higher or lower level. An honour is awarded where an A, B or C is gained in the higher paper. Grades are then further subdivided for the allocation of points. The subject syllabi of this programme are being revised to give them a greater vocational orientation. This revision is taking place on a phased basis. This leaving certificate programme offers the student the best opportunity to enter into university.

The Applied Leaving Certificate

The Applied Leaving Certificate is a two-year programme of general and vocational education and training which replaces and expands the existing Senior Certificate and Vocational Preparation and Training Programme. It caters for those students opting not to follow an academic path, though students may proceed to many Certificate courses from here.

The framework of the Leaving Certificate Applied consists of a number of modules grouped under three general headings;

nGeneral Education (at least 30% of the time)

nVocational Education (at least 30% of the time)

nVocational Preparation (at least 25% of the time)

nIt is intended that the Applied Leaving Certificate will be fully integrated into the system for certification of educational and training qualifications being developed by TEASTAS, the Irish National Certification Authority.

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmeconcentrates on technical subjects. Because of its high vocational content, it attracts funding from the European Social Fund. It was first introduced in 1989 and in 1994 it expanded to broaden the choice of subjects and to strengthen the vocational content of the programme.

Pupils following the LCVP in its redesigned form take:

nfive Leaving Certificate subjects, including two subjects to be chosen from a set of vocational subjects;

na recognised course in a modern European language and;

nthree mandatory Link Modules (Enterprise Education, Preparation for Work, and Work Experience).

Post Leaving Certificate Awards

At present most of the post leaving certificate programmes take place in vocational schools and awards are given by the National Council for Vocational Awards (NCVA).

Overall Evaluation[36],[37]

Perceived positive aspects of the education system

nThe inclusion of a Transition Year in the school cycle, after Junior Certificate offers pupils an opportunity to focus on personal development and to explore possible career paths. During this year they may take courses or complete projects which are of individual interest. In some schools they may also have an opportunity to undertake work placements.

nThe organisation of mixed ability classes in secondary schools means that a diversity of pupils are being educated together.

nIn the majority of cases pupils transfer from their primary to the local secondary school. There is therefore the potential for good school-community relations to develop.

nPupils have an opportunity to study a wider range of subjects at Leaving Certificate stage (5-7) than pupils at 'A' level (3-4). This allows them greater choice in their future study and career paths.

Perceived negative aspects of the education system

nA lack of formal external assessment at primary level means it is difficult to establish national standards for pupils. This may raise questions relating to the consistency of levels or standards which are identified by individual schools.

nThe content of the Transition Year programme is devised by each individual school and varies considerably. There may therefore be a lack of consistency across schools and the benefits to pupils may also vary accordingly.

nSmaller schools may not have a sufficient range of teaching or resource facilities necessary to offer the three different Leaving Certificate programmes. Some pupils may therefore experience constraints in their choices.

nThere is a strong emphasis on written papers in examinations and assessment. Continuous assessment appears to be rare.

nThere appears to be a strong culture of tutoring ("grinds") particularly at Leaving Certificate level. The pressure to achieve sufficient points for university entry appears to have led to an increase in the number of students availing of "grinds".

Research for Oral Briefing
16 November 2000
Ms Alison Montgomery
Assembly Research and Library Services

Alternative Education Systems and Arrangements



Within the federal system in Germany, each Land is autonomous in educational and cultural affairs. In accordance with the Constitution and Länder constitutions, the education system is the responsibility of the Länder ministries of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science. They implement state laws concerning compulsory school attendance, educational objectives, types of school, the organisation of teaching, teacher training and a range of other issues. The Standing Conference co-ordinates educational policy between the Federal States.[38]


Full-time attendance is compulsory from 6 to 15 years (or to 16 depending on the Land). Attendance on at least a part-time basis remains compulsory for a further three years. Students who select part-time education from age 15/16 onwards, usually start out in an occupation and also attend part-time classes receiving some form of vocational training (commonly known as the 'dual system').

There are four educational phases in the Federal German educational system:

Phase 1 - Pre-compulsory, ages 3 years to 5 or 6 years.

Phase 2 - Primary (known as 'elementary') ages 6 years to 10 years.

Phase 3 - Secondary (including a range of school types, ages 10 to 16 years (depends on region)

Phase 4 - Upper Secondary, ages 16 to 19 years (depending on region).

Primary Education

Primary education is provided in Grundschulen the first four or six years of compulsory education for children aged 6 to 10 years or 6 to 12 years (depending on the Land).

Lower Secondary Education (Secondary Level I)

Phases three and four are included under secondary education. The following paths are open to pupils beginning at age 10, 11, or 12 years:

Gymnasium: provides full-time, general education for students beginning at age 10 or 12 (dependent on the Land) to 16. It offers an academically oriented education that is a prerequisite for university entrance. Depending on the type of school attended, the curriculum may involve classical or modern languages, arts programmes andconsiderable emphasis on the biological or physical sciences. The Abitur is the upper secondary leaving examination. (Approximately 30% of pupils attend the gymnasium).[40]

Realschule: provides general education for students aged 10-12 years (dependent on the Land) to 16 years. It is popular because it stresses maths, science and modern languages as well as offering numerous vocational courses. It offers an education which lies between the Hauptschule and gymnasium - a general education on one hand and preparation for a skilled vocational education on the other. (Approximately 27% of pupils attend the Realschule).[41]

Hauptschule: provides a basic general education for students aged 10-12 years (dependent on the Land). The programme is geared toward entrance to an apprenticeship. Special components are included to prepare students for later careers and one foreign language is studied. In recent decades as the variety of jobs requiring higher levels of education has increased, this type of secondary school has become less popular. It is perceived by some as the school for 'second-class citizens'. (Figures suggest 24% of pupils attend the hauptschule, however in some areas such as Hamburg and Berlin the numbers may be as low as 6%).

Gesamtschule: These are full-day comprehensive schools (which can offer homework supervision, back-up courses, study groups and school societies as well as leisure/extra curricular activities). They offer disparate courses leading to a variety of qualifications. Gesamtschule is not a popular choice for 90% of parents as they seem to prefer the system of differentiated lower secondary schooling (9% of pupils attend).[42]

Upper Secondary Education (Secondary level II)

In this phase, study may be full or part-time. Students are now aged 15-16 years and they will continue until they are 18 or 19 years. This category of education includes:

a) Gymnasiale Oberstufe - general education for young people and prepares them for the Abitur examination.

b) Courses of vocational education and training

c) Mixed general and vocational education courses.

Education continues in the gymnasium until 18 or 19 years and in the Realschule until 16 years.

Transition Process

Transition from primary to secondary school[43]

Again there are variations in the transition procedure from Land to Land. In most Länder the type of secondary school a pupil will attend is determined by their academic achievement in primary school, their teacher's view of their academic potential, and parental wishes.

In central and southern Germany the decision is based on the teacher's recommendation and a specific grade point average. The final decision is however made by parents. There is no set criteria for admission to the Realschule and entrance to the gymnasium is based on the student's grades (generally 1s and 2s) and the likelihood of good work habits, behaviour and parental support. In south-western Germany, fourth grade pupils take centrally devised exams in German and maths and the results of these determine which school a pupil will transfer to.[44]

Transition to upper secondary (Secondary II)

Admission to the gymnasiale Oberstufe is granted to:

i) Students at Gymnasien or at Gesamtschulen who have reached the required standards in all subjects at the end of Year 10 of a Gymnasium-type course.

ii) Students who have obtained a mittlerer Schulabschluss or Realschulelabschluss (leaving certificate achieving a particular level of merit).

iii) Those who have obtained approved qualifications from full-time vocational schools or technical/vocational schools.

Admission to vocational training

The Hauptschule leaving certificate is primarily used as a basis for entry to full-time vocational training. It is granted at the end of Year 9 (age 15) if a pupil has reached a certain level of performance. For some vocational training schools, (such as training in biochemistry, information technology and mechanical engineering) a Realschule leaving certificate is required.

Examinations and Qualifications[45],[46]

In the Realschule pupils choose from a series of option groups;

i) Maths-Natural Science field which prepares pupils for technical careers

ii) Economics course aimed at careers in Commerce and Administration, but also
craft/technical options

iii) Art/Music/Design, Home Economics or the Social Sciences.

The final examinations are set centrally by the relevant Land ministry. In 1990/91 in Bavaria 94.2% of pupils acquired the Realschule certificate.[47]

On completion of final examinations at 16, pupils may then transfer to the gymnasium via preparatory classes or an entrance examination, or they may opt to follow a range of courses in vocational education. All of these options can then lead to study in higher education.

At the end of the 1994/5 year,

n1.4% transferred to the gymnasium

n68% went on to vocational training or a career

n6.1% transferred to a full-time vocational school (such as the Berufsfachschule)

n21% transferred to Fachoberschule (college offering studies in specific subjects).

School leaving certificates in the gymnasium include the following;

nUpper Secondary Entrance Certificate (Oberstufenreife) including the Intermediate Certificate.

nGeneral University Entrance Certificate (Allgemeine Hochschulreife). The Abitur examination at the end of Year 13 and depending on the land is either set centrally by the State Ministry or by individual schools and leads to the General University Entrance Certificate.

For the Abitur, students are examined in four subjects, two of which are taken at an advanced level and one which must be taken as an oral exam. Exams are generally administered by teachers in the Central Länder and by the Länder Ministry in the Southern regions.

There are variations between the Länder in the demands of gymnasium and the Abitur exam. In some areas, such as Bavaria, the Abitur is set centrally. As this region is perceived to place a premium on rigorous academic selection, there is widespread perception that the Abitur is more demanding here than in other states. In the Central Länder, schools construct their own exams so the difficulty may vary with the standards of the school. Recent research has commented that in general, admission standards to the gymnasium are higher in the South. [48]

Commentary on German Education System[49],[50]

Perceived positive aspects

nThe system is tailored to meet the needs of a greater variety of students than other systems.

nA broad curriculum is sustained post-16 in both academic and vocational courses.

nThe system has a considerable degree of flexibility. Pupils have the opportunity to move between different educational paths.

nScience and Mathematics are emphasised in all secondary schools leading to a considerable number of well qualified students in engineering and technology.

nMany lower secondary schools are providing an increasing range of academic options by instituting a two year orientation period (Förderstufe). This enables pupils to remain in step with the social and technological changes of recent decades and also gives them the opportunity to track into the Gymnasium.

nIn many schools pupils are given an introduction to the working world including work placements, which is compulsory.

nThe government regularly updates training regulations for almost 400 recognised trade and professional programmes offered through technical and vocational schools. An important factor in the success of the education and training programme is the successful partnerships built between schools, employers, trade unions and state and federal governments.

Perceived negative aspects

nAt primary school level, there have been complaints from teachers that they have too little control over the development of curriculum and that those teachers who are developing curriculum are now somewhat out of touch with schools.

nThe grading used in the education system ranges from 1-6. (A "6" is recognised as a failing grade). Teachers have commented that such a system is too general and imprecise.

nThe system of transfer has experienced some problems. In the Central Länder, figures have shown that in one particular academic year almost 30% of students attending the Realschule or Gymnasium did so against their teacher's advice. One third of these children then changed schools after one semester (Baumert, 1994). Variations in state procedures allow some parents to "push" children into Gymnasium schools There are reports from teachers that not all gymnasium students are able to cope with the academic demands and would be better suited to a Realschule education.

nIn an increasingly competitive job market, pupils and parents believe that the Abitur guarantees a greater selection of more highly paid academic and vocational opportunities and so entrance to gymnasium is a preferred route in many regions.

nDecisions on a student's future career are made in some Länder at age 10 or 11 years. Some teachers and parents believe that the tracking process occurs too early for some children and this puts "late bloomers" at a disadvantage.

Research for Oral Briefing
30th November 2000
Ms Alison Montgomery
Assembly Research and Library Services

Alternative Education Systems and Arrangements



The education system in Austria is very similar in many ways to the German system. The main difference is that the federal government in Vienna carries the main responsibility for curriculum and the Bundesländer have responsibility for school regulations and the day-to-day running of schools through school committees. Austrian school law unlike most countries is a part of the constitution and any change requires a two-thirds majority vote in parliament.


School attendance is compulsory from 6 to 15 years.

Primary School

Pupils attend primary school (Volkschule) from the age of six, for four years. The Volkschule is required to provide all children with a uniform basic education and prepare them for moving into more advanced education.

Lower Secondary Education (Secondary level 1)

In Austria pupils have an option of two types of lower secondary school which they attend from 10or 11 years to 14 years;

nA lower secondary school - Hauptschule or

nThe first cycle of a general secondary school - Unterstufe der allgemeinbildenden höhren Schule (AHS).

Hauptschuler (Lower secondary schools) are intended to equip pupils with a general education beyond the elementary level and to prepare them for proceeding to post-compulsory education. Pupils are streamed for German, mathematics and a foreign language. The performance level expected of the top stream is equal to that of pupils in the first cycle of general secondary education. (Approximately 70% of pupils attend a hauptschule, although in large cities the figure may be as low as 30%).

General secondary schools (AHS) are required to provide pupils with a broad-based education. There are three main types of school available at this level;

nGymnasium - general education

nRealgymnasium - technical education

nWirtschaftkundliches Realgymnasium - commercial education.

(Approximately 30% of pupils attend the AHS, although again in larger cities figures are closer to 60or 70%).

For the first two years, the curriculum is identical in all of these schools. Differentiation begins in the third year.

General Upper Secondary Education (Secondary level 2)

After four years at the hauptschule or AHS (lower or general secondary schools) pupils then choose between a range of schooling including;

npre-vocational school

nsecondary technical and vocational schools and colleges

nchildcare/nursery teacher training college

ngeneral upper secondary college

Those pupils who do not transfer to a vocational or technical college or leave school may continue into general upper secondary education. Pupils at the AHS may also opt to stay on and proceed to the second cycle. This education is available in one of the three schools listed above or in a general upper secondary college. The purpose of this level is to provide pupils with a comprehensive and thorough general education and to qualify them for the Matura examination (School Leaving Certificate). It is interesting to note that recent figures (Kern 1998) estimate there are many more pupils in technical and vocational colleges than in the upper level of the AHS.

Transition Process[53]

The admission requirement to the hauptschule and the AHS is successful completion of the fourth grade, however a high attainment mark is required for the AHS.

The decision on the type of education to which a pupil is to proceed is usually taken one year before completion of compulsory education. An analysis of intake rates in the first year of any sector of upper secondary education indicates that considerable shifts do take place. For example one set of figures demonstrated that 27% of all pupils starting apprenticeships came directly from AHS and secondary technical and vocational schools and colleges. (The remainder came mainly from pre-vocational schools).

Transfer Profile illustrating the degree of movement between different schools

For the year 1995/6 in

nYear 1 of the second level of general secondary education - 71% of pupils transferred from the first cycle (AHS), 19% of pupils came from lower secondary education (LSE)

nYear 1 of vocational upper secondary school (BHS) - 64% came from LSE, 23% from the first cycle of AHS

nYear 1 of vocational intermediate school (BMS) - 77% came from LSE, 4% came from AHS

nYear 1 of pre-vocational course - 95% came from LSE

nYear 1 of apprenticeships - much greater mix of origin - 41% came from pre-vocational courses, 19% from LSE, 13% from vocational intermediate courses and 5% from general secondary education (AHS).

Examinations and Qualifications[54]

Teachers are responsible for all assessments and these determine whether a pupil is entitled to enter the next year. There is no external assessment at the end of compulsory education (age 15 years). As in Germany, the final marks awarded are frequently marks from final examinations combined with school work or school examinations.

Matriculation examination certificates are offered in AHS and higher technical and vocational colleges. This certificate is known as the Reifeprufung (more popularly as the Matura). All pupils who have completed the last year of post-compulsory secondary education are entitled to sit the matriculation examination. This comprises two equivalent options;

nSeven examinations in at least 4 different subjects

nThe submission of a piece of written work in a specialised area of study instead of one of the written examinations.

In 1998/99, 36% of the age cohort gained the Matura. Of these, 43% were from AHS and 53% were from higher technical and vocational colleges.

Last year, the federal ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs issued objectives and guidelines for curriculum reform. This basically involves a broader curriculum with core and extension areas.


Quite a number of the issues raised in relation to the German education system are also applicable to Austria. The main differences in the systems are outlined below along with some comments which specific to the Austrian system.

nThe federal government carries responsibility for the curriculum.

nFinal or qualifying examinations are conducted by examination boards. Examinations are more or less uniform nationwide to ensure comparable qualification standards.

nCompulsory education is up to 15/16 years in Austria. (Up to 18 years in Germany).

nVocational education is very highly differentiated. In addition to general education, pupils undergo an occupation-related foundation course, and acquire the ability to carry out specific occupational activities - an ability which gives them access to regulated occupations. Given this concept a young person is entitled to proceed to university, seek employment or establish a business.

nLike other countries, Austria is already tending to grant greater autonomy to schools and other education and training institutions with a view to enabling these to better gear their product and its contents to the preferences and requirements of clientele. The expansion of autonomy is a necessary pre-requisite for improving co-operation between education and training providers and others in the labour market.

Research for Oral Briefing
30 November 2000
Ms Alison Montgomery
Assembly Research and Library Services

alternative education systems and arrangements



During 1982 and 1983 the French education system became decentralised when a decision was made to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to local authorities. Public education caters for over 80% of all pupils and 17% of pupils are catered for in the private sector. Private sector schools are of Catholic denomination and have signed contracts with the State.


Compulsory education starts at the age of 6 and ends at 16. There are 4 main phases of education in France.

nPhase 1 - Pre-compulsory (ages 2-6)

nPhase 2 - Elementary Education - Primary (ages 6-11)

nPhase 3 - Lower Secondary (ages 11-15)

nPhase 4 - Upper Secondary (ages 15-18)

Primary Education (known as 'elementary' - ages 6-11)

This is organised and administered by Communes (local authorities). State funded Primary Schools (écoles élémentaires) are compulsory, co-educational, free of charge and secular. School places are allocated strictly on a geographical basis but some parents may request a preferred option from their local Mayor.

Elementary schools comprise 5 classes divided into 2 cycles;

nFirst 2 Years: Basic Learning Cycle

nFinal 3 Years: Consolidation Cycle

There is no elementary school leaving examination for pupils in publicly funded schools, however pupils from private schools may have to sit an entrance examination to enter Collège.

In secondary education (lower and upper) classes are numbered downwards from six (sixième) to one (première) and the final year Baccalauréat studies is called 'Terminale'.

Lower Secondary (ages 11-15)[56]

Organised and administered by Départments education is free, co-educational and secular. Secondary education begins in comprehensive institutions - collèges, which admit all students for the first four years of compulsory lower secondary education.First year (sixième class) completes the transition from primary to post-primary education.

Education is general but there are some specialist collège options such as sport, bilingual, international and European sections. At the end of Lower secondary education after the troisième class, each district offers students a choice between a General and Technological Lycée (LGET) or a Vocational Lycée (LP). Admission is usually automatic on completion of Lower secondary in the Collège. Students from private schools may have to sit an entrance exam to transfer to Upper Secondary level.

Upper Secondary (ages 15-18).

Organised and administered by the Région, only the first year (seconde class) of upper secondary is compulsory.

Seconde Class (15+ & Compulsory): 'Determination Cycle'. At the end of this year pupils choose a course to follow or select subject specialisms.

Première Class (15-16 & Optional)

Terminale Class (16-17 & Optional): Both Optional classes prepare pupils for the Baccalauréat or specialist subjects.

Transition Process[57]

Generally, normal attendance at elementary school is the only criterion necessary for promotion to the first class of secondary school. At the end of lower secondary, each district offers students a choice between a General and Technological Lycée (LGET) or a Vocational Lycée (LP) when they leave Lower Secondary after the troisième class. Admission is usually automatic on completion of collège education. Private students may have to sit an entrance exam to transfer to Upper Secondary. There is generally no participation by headteachers in the admission procedure. The entire process is carried out by officials at the regional educational headquarters.

Examination and Qualification Options[58]

In the year before the end of compulsory education the National Certificate (diplôme national du brevet) is awarded to all pupils. Pupils' results from years four and three are taken into account for this award. The National Certificate does not however determine a pupil's future direction. Particular schools offer particular courses and qualifications or subject specialisms:

General and Technological Lycée (LGET) offers;

nGeneral Baccalauréat (of which there are 3 - literary, economic and social, scientific)

nTechnical Certificate or

nSecondary School Leaving Certificate.

The Vocational Lycée (Lycée professionnel, LP)

nVocational Baccalauréat

nVocational Studies Certificate (BEP)

nVocational Aptitude Certificate (CAP).

The baccalauréat is required for admission to higher education and includes both compulsory and optional subjects for examination. In 1996, 56% of pupils gaining the 'Bac' were awarded the general 'Bac' and 28% achieved the technological/vocational 'Bac'.


nThe first year of secondary education provides the pupil with a one year period of transition from primary to secondary. Pupils have a one year period at the start of upper secondary education in which to decide the appropriate track to follow. Immature children or those who are 'late-bloomers', intellectually, may benefit from this;

nIf parents do not favour the local Lycée, they may encourage child to select a subject (e.g. Latin) not offered at the local school, and so gain access to another preferred school which may have that subject;

nParents may participate at all levels. Their role is more of an advisory one that a decision-making one although they are becoming increasingly involved in decision-making;

nBoth the LGET and the LP provide qualification routes suitable for university entrance, however this certification does not discourage vocational participation.

Research for Oral Briefing
30 November 2000
Sandra McElhinney
Assembly Research and Library Services

Alternative Education Systems and Arrangements



The education system is regulated by the Ministry of Education. This ministry is represented by Regional, Provincial and Commune Offices throughout Italy. There are national curriculum documents for both lower and upper secondary schools, replacing a whole range of curricula for different kinds of schools.[61],[62]


From September 1st 1999, compulsory education was extended from age 6 years to 15 years. Furthermore, the intention to shift compulsory education to 18 years has been declared.

Primary School (age 6 - 11) 'Scoula Elementare'

Priority enrolment is generally granted to resident pupils. The establishment and operation of state primary schools is regulated by general provisions which apply to the whole of the country. However, the introduction of the principle of 'autonomy' was legislated for in 1998, and "gives teachers the opportunity to make curricula more flexible and adjustable to students' learning needs".[64]

Lower secondary school (age 11 - 14) 'Scoula Media'

Fully comprehensive, the scoula media provides three years' full-time general education and some pre-vocational guidance through a common curriculum and in a single cycle. All lower secondary schools have standard curricula or programmes with religion as the only optional exception.

Upper Secondary Education (age 14-19)

Only the first year of upper secondary education is compulsory. It offers a variety of courses, lasting three, four and five years, in various school types.

All schools which offer post-compulsory instruction comprise a variety of different categories.

nLiceo Classico, Scientifico and Artistico:

Classic Lycée, Scientific Lycée and Art College, Art Lycéeprepare pupils for university and higher education.

nTechnical and Vocational:

Technical Schools and Vocational Institutes provide vocational specialist and general cultural training.

Transition Process

i) At the end of class 5 in primary school, following a primary school leaving certificate examination 'esamidi di liceza elementare' at 11 years of age, pupils transfer to lower secondary schools where they spend three years.

ii) Access to all forms of upper secondary school is dependent on obtaining the lower secondary school leaving certificate 'Diploma di lianza media' at age 14.

iii) All students must pass the State examination 'Esamedi Stato'in order to gain access to university and further education.

Examination and Qualification Options[65],[66]

After completion of compulsory education and passing the lower secondary school examination, students may undertake courses of study lasting three, four or five years in one of a variety of post-compulsory secondary schools.

Lower and upper secondary education teachers keep a personal record of learning progress and level of maturity based on oral and written class work, attitudes and behaviour. Teachers also provide a quarterly assessment which goes to the class council (all teachers) who produce an overall written assessment. The council decides if the pupil should move to new level.

Diploma di Licenza Media school leaving certificate of lower secondary, taken at the end of the 3rd year of compulsory education, is necessary to enter upper secondary school; it is administrated by teachers and an outside chairman. It consists of 3 written tests in Italian, mathematics and a foreign language and a multidisciplinary oral test.

Upper secondary education - pupils receive a mark out of 10, and they are required to reach at least 6 out of 10. Upper secondary courses grant access to higher education or employment at middle-management level or as specialised workers.

nMaturia is the upper school leaving certificate, 2 compulsory written papers, an Italian language paper and a paper on a studied subject and a multidisciplinary oral examination on the two written papers and two subjects of choice, results in a diploma in an area.

nMaturia Artistica is the equivalent leaving certificate, but includes recognition of work covered in art as an extra subject specialism.


nThe role of the state, through the Ministry of Education, specifies only generalised aims and objectives; a detailed but non-prescriptive content, and a common format for recording children's achievements. Primary schools curricula are planned locally. The process relies heavily on local teacher decision-making, not only for its quality but also its pace. There are no national or local testing arrangements and no school performance tables. However, there is direct accountability to parents.[67]

nInequities have been identified within this system, where there is variation in the abilities of teachers but also, parents are not always best qualified to judge the criteria that constitute a 'good' education.[68]

nWhilst 94% of pupils go on to post-compulsory education, around 15-30% of pupils drop-out of education at the end of the compulsory period. In an effort to combat this, the intention to shift compulsory education to 18 years has been declared.[69]

nOnly 98% of the 65% of all pupils who sat the Maturia, Upper Secondary Leaving Certificate, in 1997 passed.

nItaly has recognised the increasing demand for changes to be made to take into account new demands from industry and business. For this reason, from 1988, vocational education has been part of an assisted experimental programme called Progetto '92. This policy of renewal has been well received and has gained significant recognition and has been adopted for general use.

nIn September 2001, new educational reforms are due to be introduced.

nThe Scuola Elementare and the Scuola Media, Primary and Lower Secondary will become one cycle.

Research for Oral Briefing
30 November 2000
Ms Sandra McElhinney
Assembly Research and Library Services

Alternative Education Systems and Arrangements



The Swedish Education Act states that all children and young people must have access to education of equal value. The curricula, national objectives and guidelines for state schooling are defined by parliament (Riksdag) and government. Within these guidelines each municipality is free to decide how its schools should be run. The National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has the task of developing, evaluating and supervising state schooling in Sweden. Each three years, feedback produced by this agency for the government forms the basis of a national school development plan.[70]


Primary and lower secondary education - Grundskola (age 7 to 16 years)

Compulsory schooling is for all children aged between 7 and 16 years. If parents prefer, children can start school at 6 years. Years five to nine of the Grundskola cover the lower secondary age group. Grundskola comprises the following;

nCompulsory basic school (attended by the majority of children)

nSchool for Saami peoples of northern Sweden (children receive education with an ethnic emphasis)

nSpecial schools

nCompulsory schools for children with mental disabilities.

A new national curriculum for Grundskola was introduced in 1994. There is also a nationally defined syllabus for each subject. Subjects which are obligatory for Years 5-9 include Swedish, English, maths, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Upper Secondary Education - Gymnasieskola (age 16 to 19 or 23 years)

This three year period of education was introduced under the post-reform system of 1995/96. At this level pupils follow one of sixteen different programmes. Some subjects are common to all programmes and compulsory for all pupils (Swedish, English, maths and nature studies). A number of programmes lead on to university education - the natural science and social science programmes. Most of the others are vocational courses. Students are entitled to enter the Gymnasieskola until the age of 20.

Every school has to devise a workplan based on the new curriculum and local priorities within the municipality.

Transition Process

All municipalities are required by law to offer upper secondary school places to all pupils. In principle students have the right to attend their first option school. Most children attend the municipal school near their home, but pupils and parents have a right to select another school or a school independent of the local authority. Just over 2% of pupils attend an independent school (1995). Such schools receive municipal grants according to their numbers and the teaching shares the same goals as municipal schools. They may however have a distinct profile, in terms of religion or particular teaching methods.[72]

Examinations and Qualifications[73]

As a result of the recent reforms in Sweden there is a new marking system for compulsory education which is designed to be objective and is related to attainment. It is geared to attainment criteria devised in conjunction with the syllabi in order to make it clear to teachers and pupils the attainments necessary for the award of a certain mark. The National Agency for Education determines the criteria for pass grades within national courses and for local courses the same grades are determined by an education board.

In 1998 the first national tests were administered to pupils in Year 9 (age 15 - at the end of the Grundskola). All pupils receive a leaving certificate following these tests.

There are no examinations at the end of post-compulsory education. Pupils are assessed at the end of each completed course. The criteria for awarding marks is specified in different syllabi, and the certificate summarises the course grades. Around 25% of students progress to higher education (1997). Here they may follow studies in individual subjects or follow a specified programme of study.[74]


The previous education system (pre 1995) had a high drop-out rate. The introduction of comprehensive upper secondary education is credited with eradicating this.

The new programme provides students with significant influence over the content and methods included in courses.

Many children with special support needs are taught in general schools. Teaching support and special needs pedagogies are provided where needed.

If pupils fail to achieve the necessary objectives to pass any subject, no grade is awarded. Instead a written assessment of the pupil's progress may be requested.

Since 1991 the various municipalities have been given greater responsibility for schooling, staffing and organisation.

In higher education, aside from general degrees there are 50 specifically professionally oriented diplomas recognised in the government degree ordinance. These are concerned primarily with professions requiring authorisation or registration. For example, prospective doctors and teachers may take programmes which run from 2 - 5.5 years.


Research for Oral Briefing
30 November 2000
Ms Alison Montgomery
Assembly Research and Library Services

Alternative Education Systems and Structures

The Craigavon System (Dickson Plan)

This brief paper outlines the structure of the Craigavon system, indicates schools' perspectives of the system and offers some commentary on various aspects of the system.


In the Craigavon area an alternative transfer system, known as the 'Dickson Plan', operates. In this system pupils automatically transfer from primary to junior high school at age 11 years, and academic selection is delayed until the age of 14 years. The system was introduced in 1973.

The central features of the system are:

nselection occurs at 14, an age when both child and parent are perceived as being more aware of the child's aptitudes and abilities;

nselection takes place based on continuous assessment including summative examinations on the entire range of curricular subjects;

nthe existence of statutory assessment at 14 (Key Stage 3) and much government discussion regarding a coherent 14-19 curriculum appear to contribute to an argument for assessment and selection at 14+.[77]

Table 1: Schools in the Craigavon two-tier system

Age 11-13 years Not Selected at 14 years Selected at 14 years

Killicomaine Junior High Craigavon Senior High Portadown College

Clounagh Junior High Portadown Campus

Tandragee Junior High

Lurgan Junior High Craigavon Senior High, Lurgan College

Lurgan Campus

St. Mary's Girls' Junior High St. Mary's Girls' Junior High St. Michael's

St. Paul's Boys' Junior High St. Paul's Boys' Junior High


At 11 years pupils from contributory primary schools pass directly into a Junior High School.

Table 1: % of pupils automatically transferring from primary to post-primary schools in the SELB by area and management type, 1996 (source SELB)[78].

Craigavon areaOther areas

All 83 78

Controlled 88 84

Maintained 78 67

In Junior High Schools pupils may be taught in mixed ability classes or, as in the case of Killicomaine, they are placed in bands based on the recommendation of the Principals of contributory primary schools.

The school holds a series of cross-phase liaison days to ensure curriculum cohesion and continuity, and to ensure the accuracy of the transfer recommendations and arrangements.

Primary School Perspectives on the Craigavon transfer system

In the Craigavon system, primary schools are not directly affected by the transfer procedure in place as pupils are not involved until a later stage. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, primary principals in the area are generally in favour of the delayed selection system. They claim that parents support the system, as evidenced by the high proportion who opted to retain their children within the Craigavon school system. This claim is supported by an analysis of Education and Library Board data on patterns of transfer from primary to post-primary schools.

Although pupils take tests in the primary schools, in order to accommodate streaming or banding in the junior high schools, these tests occur at the end of the final year of primary schools and are organised by the receiving schools. In the opinion of the primary principals interviewed, this results in less pressure from parents on their schools, and allows them to complete the Key Stage 2 curriculum without having to prepare for selection tests earlier in the year. An analysis of Key Stage 2 assessment data found that a higher proportion of pupils in the Craigavon schools achieved level 4 or above in comparison with pupils in Northern Ireland schools overall. This pattern was found for boys and girls, and for English and mathematics (Alexander et al 1998:9).

Primary principals have highlighted a number of concerns regarding the Craigavon system however. They are concerned about the implications for pupils who are not selected at 14 years, and the variety of methods used in different schools to stream or band pupils at the 11-14 years stage in the system.

Junior High School Perspectives on the Craigavon transfer system

The evidence collected through research undertaken on the Craigavon system (Alexander et al 1998) indicates that teachers, pupils and parents are generally satisfied with the junior high schools. However, this may owe much to a steady increase in the number of children from junior high schools who have gained grammar school places as a consequence of both open enrolment and the opportunity for pupils to seek entry to grammar schools outside the Craigavon system.

To the extent that this has occurred as a consequence of open enrolment it may only have enhanced the public perception of the 11-14 junior high schools. The same positive effect may not occur for the 11-16 junior high schools since they retain pupils not selected at 14. For these schools open enrolment places the same pressure as it does for secondary schools across Northern Ireland, and the 11-16 junior highs, unlike the 11-14 schools, are publicly accountable through their position in the School Performance Tables.

In the absence of public examinations, it is possible that the 11-14 junior high schools and their teachers could develop a degree of complacency. Again evidence from the research, suggests a high degree of streaming or banding, and a reasonably intense level of continuous pressure, which might indicate that this possibility has not been realised. It remains possible, however, that streaming or banding could produce a sense of fatalism among pupils who perceive, from a fairly early stage in their junior high school career, that they are very unlikely to achieve a place in a selective senior high school.

An additional possible impact is that teachers in these schools have limited career options given their lack of experience of teaching to GCSE or 'A' Level. While most of the teachers interviewed indicated that they were content to remain within the system, the possibility remains that the relatively small system of junior high schools may be a little too insular if the level of staff turnover is, in fact, low in comparison to other schools.

Senior High School Perspectives on the Craigavon transfer system

The Craigavon system now contains four senior high schools. Portadown College, Lurgan College and St Michael's are selective senior high schools and operate as 14-18 grammar schools. Craigavon Senior High School operates as a 14-16 secondary school, primarily for pupils in the controlled junior highs who do not achieve a place in either Portadown or Lurgan College.

There is a general consensus in favour of the current system in these schools. Transfer at 14 was perceived as being both more accurate and fair, and was also seen as facilitating late academic developers. A significant attraction was that it retained a form of selection. For some, the selection procedure meant that their school had a wider social mix than was generally the case in grammar schools. For others, the large proportion of pupils transferring into the senior highs provided for a wider ability mix than might be found in other grammar schools. Despite these distinctive features, however, the view was expressed that the schools achieved good academic results. Another advantage claimed by some was that pupils transferring at age 14 years were more mature and responsible, and, as a consequence, the schools did not have significant disciplinary problems.

One issue on which there appears to be less consensus concerns the links between schools in the two-tier system. At its inception it was envisaged that the junior and senior high schools, and the technical colleges, would form a cohesive unit. While in one selective senior high school a situation and style of practice was described that appeared to match closely this aspiration, the situation for the other selective senior high schools was somewhat more mixed.

Comparing attainment patterns between schools can be problematic and is best based on a number of attainment indicators rather than simply one indicator. Given the degree of pupil movement in the Craigavon system it is difficult to produce a definitive measure of the predictive efficiency of the system in comparison with the 11+ system. It would appear that a higher proportion of pupils obtain places in grammar schools, although estimates were provided by those within the system and may be inaccurate.

Examinations and Qualifications

The broad conclusion emerging from an analysis of school performance and school leavers' survey data is that the selective senior high schools have achieved levels of academic performance at least equal to, and sometimes better than, comparable grammar schools in other parts of Northern Ireland. They have also shown evidence of somewhat higher levels of improvement over time.

This pattern is relatively positive if one accepts the likelihood that the ability range of pupils entering these schools is wider than is the case for grammar schools across Northern Ireland. Furthermore, the pattern of improvement in the senior high schools over time is enhanced when one considers the likelihood that they appear to have undergone a more rapid period of growth, as a consequence of open enrolment, in comparison with other grammar schools. (See table below).

Table 3: Comparative performance of pupils in the two-tier schools vs. schools in the rest of Northern Ireland (source calculated from 1995/96 DENI School Performance Tables).[79]

Year 12 5+ Grades5+ GCSEs
Pupil % grade A-C %grade A-G %

Two Tier System

Selective Schools 51 61 90

Non-Selective Schools49 39 10

All schools100 100 100

Rest of Northern Ireland

Selective Schools 36 42 65

Non-Selective Schools64 58 35

All schools100 100 100

Two Tier Schools 100 55 84

Rest of Northern Ireland 100 52 84

The opening of Craigavon Senior High School was a conscious attempt to tackle some of the difficulties encountered by pupils who were not selected at 14 years. The school tries to encourage pupils to enter for as many public exams as possible and they are then encouraged to stay on in one of the further education colleges in the area and figures suggest that a high proportion of school leavers do. However there is evidence of continuing dissatisfaction in the system amongst teachers. They expressed concern about the lack of standardisation across the junior high schools and that they only have pupils for two years yet are expected to produce exam results comparable with other secondary schools in Northern Ireland. This not only makes their academic task difficult but militates against the development of a school identity.

Transfer Arrangements

During Year 10 at age 14, the pupils participate in the transfer system which, as already mentioned, consists of a balance of continuous assessment and summative examinations which unlike the 11+ take place across the full range of curricular subjects.

Based on rank order and following cross-moderation of the Junior High Schools rank orders by the Principals of the Grammar Schools, pupils are selected for Grammar School. Pupils who are selected transfer at 14 to Portadown College or Lurgan College - traditional Grammar Schools; pupils who are not selected or deliberately choose a more vocational type of education, transfer to Craigavon Senior High School.

Table 2: First preference for transfer at 14, 1997 (source derived from SELB record)

First Preference School A School B School C School D
% % % %
Senior High 67.9 51.0 67.5 68.8
Craigavon Senior High 28.9 28.0 29.9 31.3
Other School 3.2 21.0 2.5 0.0

An analysis of data collected by the Department of Education indicated that;

npreference levels for a 'grammar' option at 14 were very high, certainly in comparison with the proportion of pupils who can reasonably aspire to a grammar school place in the rest of Northern Ireland, and;

nthe success rate for entry to a 'grammar' option was also high.

Evidence from research (op.cit 1998)[80] suggests that the disparate nature of the school system in Craigavon and neighbouring areas, allied with the right of parental choice and the guarantee to parents at the origins of the two-tier system that they had the right to opt-out, result in quite a high level of movement of pupils between schools.


Perceived benefits from the Craigavon system

nDeferring selection until the age of 14, is perceived as more positive as pupils are older, more mature and perhaps in a better position to make informed decisions on their future It is perceived to reduce the damaging blow to self esteem many children feel when they fail the "11 plus" at a very critical developmental stage and reduces the psychological trauma of selection at 11.

nAllows schools in each sector to differentiate and specialise in their age group and therefore to concentrate more fully on the educational and other needs of that cohort.

nMakes available more grammar school places. Some 50% of the cohort transfer to grammar schools compared to between 33-37% in the "11 plus" regions of the province.

nProvides easy access to vocational provision because of shared sites between Craigavon Senior High School and the Upper Bann Institute of Higher and Further Education.

nProvides increased opportunities for responsibility for Key Stage 3 pupils.

nThe process of transfer from primary to secondary reduces the distortion of the primary curriculum caused by preparation for the "11 plus".

nThere is evidence of good performance in the selective senior high schools, especially considering the higher than average proportion of pupils who go to these schools, and evidence of good links with further education in some parts of the system.

The delayed selection system in the Craigavon area has achieved a high level of popular support and most people associated with the system would support its retention. Part of the reason for this support is that the system appears to have solved some of the more negative aspects of selection of the "11 plus".

Perceived negative aspects of the system

nPopular support for the system appears to be linked to the small size of the system, the right of parents to go outside it, and the fact that it removes some of the most significant problems with the 11+ system.

nBecause of the range of different schools and the degree of movement possible it is questionable how effective the system would be if introduced across Northern Ireland.

nWhile primary and junior high schools would have been expected to gave been able to develop creative new directions, freed from the constraints of the 11+ system, selective pressures still appear to exist for their pupils aged 11 and 14.

nThere does not appear to be a great degree of cohesion and co-ordination between the schools in the two-tier system. There were some very good examples of strong links between some of the schools and colleges, but this was not so in every case.

nThe system does not appear to provide a panacea for the needs of less able pupils. Indeed, one of the weaknesses identified in this research was the experiences of such pupils, particularly in the controlled sector.

nWhile the delayed selection system which operates in the Craigavon area has been a success, the findings from the research referenced in this paper (Alexander et al 1998) suggests that it does not "provide a better alternative to the "11 plus" system used throughout the rest of Northern Ireland. In particular, the evidence does not suggest that the two-tier system provides a better educational experience for less able pupils than the "11 plus" system."


Research Brief
December 2000
Ms Sandra McElhinney
Ms Alison Montgomery
Assembly Research and Library Services

Alternative Education Systems and Arrangements

International Baccalaureate


The International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation whose aim is to establish a common curriculum and a common university entry credential for geographically mobile students. The IBO aims to provide curriculum and assessment development, teacher training, information seminars, electronic networking and other educational services to its 1000 participating schools in over 100 countries around the world. Its mission is to "assist schools in their endeavours to develop the individual talents of young people and teach them to relate the experience of the classroom to the realities of the world outside."[81]

The IBO offers three programmes of study for different age groups:

1. The Primary Years Programme

2. The Middle Years Programme

3. The Diploma Programme.


Primary Years Programme

This is an international curriculum framework designed for children aged 3-12. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) combines what is said to be the best research and practice from a range of national educational systems and international schools to create a relevant and engaging educational programme. In the Primary Years curriculum children are expected to begin to learn a modern foreign language from the age of eight. The curriculum framework contains five essential elements:

1. Concepts: to teach children to ask and answer questions such as, What is it like? How does it work? How is it connected to other things?

2. Skills: thinking, communication, social behaviour.

3. Attitudes: tolerance, respect, integrity and confidence.

4. Actions: to encourage children to reflect, chose wisely and to act responsibly with their peers, teachers and wider community.

5. Knowledge: to teach children knowledge in 6 different areas - languages, social studies, science and technology, mathematics, arts, personal, social and physical education.

The Middle Years Programme

This is designed for students in the 11-16 age group and is intended to follow on from the Primary Years Programme while also acting as preparation for the Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. In the Middle Years Programme (MYP) students must study various traditional disciplines, however, MYP emphasis the interrelatedness of the different disciplines and therefore gives students a holistic view of knowledge and encourages them to develop intercultural awareness alongside an understanding of their own history, culture and traditions.

There are 8 subject groups in which students must be taught one subject in each group:

1. Language A: the student's first language, usually the school's language of instruction.

2. Language B: a modern foreign language.

3. Humanities: history, geography

4. Sciences: general science, biology, chemistry, physics

5. Mathematics: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability, statistics.

6. Arts: art/design, music drama

7. Physical education: health and hygiene, individual and team sports.

8. Technology: the nature, process and impact of technology.

The Diploma Programme

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme[82] is a pre-university course of study leading to examination which is aimed at students aged 16-19. It is a two-year curriculum that allows its graduates to fulfil the requirements of various tertiary educational institutions. The diploma is not based on the best educational practice of one single country but incorporates the best elements of several countries. In the Baccalaureate Diploma programme students are required to select one subject from each of the six academic subject areas. All students must take subjects in both the humanities and the sciences. Three to four subjects are taken at Higher Level (HL) and the rest are taken at Standard Level (SL). The six academic areas to choose from are:

1. Language 1: the student's first language.

2. Language 2: a modern foreign language.

3. Individuals and societies: history, geography, economics, philosophy, psychology, social anthropology, business, IT.

4. Experimental sciences: biology, chemistry, physics, design technology.

5. Mathematics: higher level mathematics, advanced mathematics, mathematical methods.

6. Arts and Electives: art and design, music, theatre arts, Latin, Classics, computer science, a third modern language.



The student's progress is documented in a portfolio along with their achievements and accomplishments which enables the student to move freely to different schools in different areas or countries. Exposure to the primary curriculum is not a prerequisite for the Middle Years Programme but serves as excellent preparation since the philosophy, styles of teaching and overall goals are consistent.

Because the educational philosophy and goals of the three IB programmes are consistent, the 5-year curriculum for grades 6-10 naturally follows the Primary Years Programme and serves as excellent preparation for the Diploma Programme . Schools may subscribe to any or all of the programmes; none is a prerequisite for another.

Middle Years

There are no external examinations for middle year students, their progress again is documented in a portfolio of achievement. Students must complete a personal project which could be an essay, artistic production or a written commentary on their community service.

Diploma Years


IB graduates gain admission to selective colleges and universities throughout the world. Students with strong IB examination results may also receive advanced standing or course credit, depending upon the policy of the institution they are attending. In addition, formal agreements exist between the IBO and many ministries of education.

Examination and Qualifications


There are no external assessments or examinations for primary years students. All assessment is carried out by the student's teacher. The student's progress is documented in a portfolio along with their achievements and accomplishments.

Diploma Years

Students are examined externally by the IBO using conventional examination techniques such as oral and written, long and short term responses, essays and multiple choice questions. The grading system used by the International Baccalaureate Organisation is criterion-referenced. This means that each student's performance is measured against well-defined levels of achievement consistent from one examination session to the next. Grades are not simply awarded "on a curve" to a certain percentage of candidates but rather reflect attainment of knowledge and skills relative to set standards equally applied to all schools. Validity, reliability and fairness are the watchwords of the IBO's international assessment strategy. Each examination subject is graded on a scale of 1 (minimum) to 7 (maximum). To achieve the diploma, students must have a minimum total of 24 points and must complete the required extended essay as well as various community service activities which are required.

nOver 36,000 students are assessed by the IBO annually, approximately 80% of these candidates achieve an International Baccalaureate Diploma.

nOver 36,000 students annually are assessed by the IBO. Each year approximately 80% of candidates attempting the diploma succeed.

nThe Diploma Programme is offered by some 800 schools in 100 countries worldwide.[83]

The Baccalaureate in Northern Ireland

Lagan College is the only school in Northern Ireland which offered its sixth form students the opportunity to take the International Baccalaureate instead of 'A' Levels. The Baccalaureate proved successful in Lagan College.[84] In 1998, 85-90% of sixth form pupils in the school achieved their Diploma. One pupil in the school was granted a place at Cambridge University as she achieved 42 points out of a possible 45 in the Baccalaureate (the equivalent of top A grades at 'A' Level). Paul Maxwell, Head of Careers in the school, stated that the college opted for the International Baccalaureate instead of 'A' Levels because an increasing number of employers believed 'A' Levels were too narrow in their focus and did not adequately prepare young people for the world of work.

1997/98 Results from Lagan College Perspectus

Table 1: 1997-98 GCSE Results Overall

% entered for 5 or more subjects% entered for 1-4 subjects% achieving Grades A-C% achieving Grades A-G% achieving no Grades A-G

5 or more


5 or more










Table 2: 1997-98 GNVQ Qualifications

Intermediate Level

SubjectNumber EnteredDistinctionMeritPass% Success

Leisure and Tourism






Health and Social Care






Table 2b: 1997-98 GNVQ Qualifications

Advanced Level

SubjectNumber EnteredDistinctionMeritPass% Success

Business Studies






Students who obtained an International Baccalaureate Diploma were eligible for admission to the Queen's University of Belfast.

As of August 2000, Queens University of Belfast was admitting around 10-15 students per year with the IB Diploma. These traditionally came from Lagan College. The numbers admitted from Northern Ireland would account for the majority of the University's intake but they do of course vary from year to year.

As of this year, Lagan College will no longer be offering the International Baccalaureate.

Authorities at the College felt that reliance on the Baccalaureate meant that pupils were disadvantaged as they were unable to select from both academic and vocational subjects. With the introduction of A-Levels pupils can now choose Advanced GNVQs and A-Level combinations.


The introduction of the 'Bac' would result in a considerable upheaval in the curriculum and examination systems. Schools (teachers and pupils) would experience considerable changes in training, curriculum content, teaching styles employed and examination preparation. An initial review of the system would suggest that it would be most effective if all stages of the programme were introduced, that is, the primary, middle and diploma programme. The system of assessment does appear to be much broader than the current exam-based approach employed at 'A' level and this may be advantageous to pupils who perform better in project-based assessment and continuous forms of assessment.


Research Brief
December 2000
Ms Sandra McElhinney
Ms Alison Montgomery
Assembly Research and Library Services

7 - 8 FEBRUARY 2001

Wednesday 7 February 2001 - Kiel

Department of Education

Meeting with Herr Lubeseder and Frau Held.

Welcome and general briefing on the Education System in Schleswig-Holstein including the parental choice system of transfer between primary and post-primary schools.

Friedrich-Junge-Realschule, Kiel

Visit hosted by Frau Hirschfeld, Principal of Friedrich-Junge-Realschule.

Discussion on the Realschule perspective and vocational education and the transition to employment

Gymnasium Elmschenhagen, Kiel


Visit hosted by Frau Fuhrmann, Principal of Gymnasium Elmschenhagen.

Discussion on the Gymnasium school perspective and a highly academic curriculum.

Department of Education, Schleswig-Holstein


Meeting with Herr Lubeseder and Frau Held.

Discussion on the Vocational Education opportunities and qualifications.

Thursday 8 February 2001 - Munich

Rupprecht-Gymnasium, Munich


Visit hosted by Herr Veitenhansl, Principal of Rupprecht-Gymnasium.

Discussion on the Gymnasium school perspective.

Maria - Probst Realschule, Munich


Visit hosted by Frau Jantzen, Principal of Maria-ProbstRealschule.

Discussion on the Realschule perspective.



Hosted by the Education Ministry of Bavaria.

In attendance Mr Julian Farel, the Consul General Munich.

Education Ministry of Bavaria


Meeting with Herr Hartwig, Dr Göldner, HerrSchmid, Dr Städele and Frau Hinke.

Dicussion on the Education System in Bavaria including the selective system of post-primary education.

Meeting with the Education Minister FrauMonikaHohlmeier MdL

Arrangements for the visit to Kiel were co-ordinated and supported by Ms Jo Dawes of the British Consulate- General in Hamburg. Arrangements for the visit to Munich were co-ordinated and supported by Ms Jane Kirz of the British Consulate-General in Munich.

9 - 11 MAY 2001

Wednesday 9 May - Edinburgh

Cannonball House, Edinburgh

Meeting with Mr John Mitchell, Consultant to the Department of Education.

A historical overview of Comprehensive Secondary Education in Scotland.

Cannonball House, Edinburgh

Meeting with Dr Linda Croxford, Center for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh.

Briefing on the Research Evidence on the education systems in the United Kingdom.

Scottish Parliament

Dinner hosted by the Convenor of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament, Mrs Karen Gillon MSP and members of the Committee.

Thursday 10 May - Edinburgh

Cannonball House, Edinburgh

Meeting with Mr Douglas Osler, Her Majesty's Senior Chief Inspector of Schools.

Briefing on the Inspectorate's View.

Cannonball House, Edinburgh

Meeting with Ms Sheila Tait, Head of Curriculum & Assessment, SEED.

Briefing on Assessment in a Comprehensive system.

Lunch hosted by the Department of Education. Accompanied by Ms Sheila Tait.

Boroughmuir High School, Edinburgh

Visit hosted by Mr Jack Hamilton, Headteacher of Boroughmuir High School.

Tour of the school and discussion of the Comprehensive system.

Committee Room, The Scottish Parliament

Public evidence session with Professor Bryce and Professor Humes, Faculty of Education, University of Strathclyde.

Committee Room, The Scottish Parliament

Public evidence session with Professor Munn, Professor of Curriculum Research, Faculty of Education, University of Edinburgh.

Friday 11 May - Glasgow

City of Glasgow Education Department

Meeting with Mr Ian McDonald, Deputy Director of Education, Councillor Robert Gray and MrJohnCurley.

Overview of the Comprehensive system in Glasgow.

City of Glasgow Education Department

Meeting with Mr Mike Baughan, Chief Executive, Learning and Teaching, Scotland.

Briefing on Curriculum Issues in the Comprehensive system.

Holyrood Secondary School, Glasgow

Visit hosted by Mr Finbarr Moynihan, Head Teacher, Holyrood Secondary School.

Tour of the school and discussion of the Comprehensive system.

Arrangements for the visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow were co-ordinated and supported by MsHopeJohnston and staff of the International Relations Unit, Education and Lifelong Learning and Enterprise Departments, Scottish Executive and Mr Martin Verity, Clerk to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee and his staff.



[1] Gardner, J. and P. Cowan, 2000. "Testing the Test: a study of the reliability and validity of the Northern Ireland Transfer Procedure test in enabling the selection of pupils for grammar school places." Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast.


[2] Gallagher and Smith. Op.cit.


[3] Caul, Dr Leslie, 1996. "Policy Aspects of Employment Equality in Northern Ireland, Vol II, Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, Belfast.


[4] From 29% in 1984 to 35% in 1994. Gallagher and Smith. Op cit.


[5] Morahan, Terry. 2000. Measuring Skills: The New Classification System - SOC 2000". In Labour Market Bulletin 14. DHFETE Belfast.


[6] Morahan, Terry. 2000. Measuring Skills: The New Classification System - SOC 2000". In Labour Market Bulletin 14. DHFETE Belfast.


[7] Gallagher, Tony and Alan Smith, 2000. "The effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland, Department of Education, Belfast.


[8] Gallagher and Smith. Op cit.


[9] In NI Economic Review, 1995. Department of Economic Development, Belfast.


[10] Ibid.








[14] op.cit










[19] The Scottish Office (2000) Achievement at S1/S2. HM Inspectors of Schools








[23] Bryce, T.G.K & Humes, W. (eds) (1999) Scottish Education, Edinburgh University Press.


[24] Croxford, L, (2000) Inequality in Attainment at age 16: A Home International Comparison.






[27] Harlen, W. & Malcom, S. (1999) Setting and Streaming: A Research Review, SCRE.


[28] Murray et al (1997) Education in Ireland, Irish Peace Institute Research Centre, University of Limerick.














[35] Press release, Michael Martin TD (18 August 1999) Issue of Leaving Certificate Results 1999.


[36] West et al (1999) Secondary Education across Europe: Curricula and school examination systems, Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science


[37]ibid, www.irlgov, op.cit,


[38] Eurydice (1999) Structure of Education, Initial Teacher Training and Adult Education Systems in Europe: Germany, Eurydice Education Unit, Brussels.


[39] http;


[40] Eurydice (1991) p.21


[41]ibid, p.21


[42] ibid, p.21




[44] Eurydice (1999), pgs.17, 23


[45] West et al (1999) Secondary Education across Europe: Curricula and School Examination Systems, Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science.








[49] Ashwill (ed.) (1999) The Education System in Germany: Case Study Findings, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, US Department of Education.


[50] West et al (1999) Secondary Education across Europe:Curricula and school examination systems. Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science.








[54] West et al (1999) Secondary Education in Europe: Curricula and School Examination Systems. Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science.


[55] Eurydice/CEDEFOP (1995) Structures of the Education and Initial Teacher Training Systems in the European Union, Eurydice.


[56]Greenaway, L. (1999) Lower Secondary Education: An International Comparison. International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks, Paper 5, London, QCA.




[58] Eurydice/CEDEFOP (1995) Structures of the Education and Initial Teacher Training Systems in the European Union, Eurydice














[65] http://www.britishcouncil/org/education/italy


[66] West et al (1999) Secondary Education across Europe: Curricula and School Examinations Systems, Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science


[67] Office for Standards in Education (1999) Aspects of Primary Education in Italy, London HMSO.




[69] http:www.britishcouncil/org/education/italy/


[70] http://www.british






[73] West et al (1999) Secondary Education across Europe: Curricula and school examination systems, Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science.




[75] http://www.eurydice/org/Eurybase/Application/frameset.asp?country




[77] Alexander, J. et al (1998) An Evaluation of the Craigavon Two-tier System, Research Report Series No.12, DENI Rathgael.




[79] DENI (1996) DENI Performance Tables


[80] Alexander et al (1998)




[82] http:www/ibo/org/ibo2/en/programmes/prg_dip.cfm




[84] Lagan College School Prospectus 1999

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