When will the leadership of Unionism and the Protestant Churches guarantee that children from their poor communities get the same educational opportunities as children from an area like the Malone Road ?
More than eighty per cent of catholic and protestant children from South Belfast make their way into Grammar schools.
Generally speaking this in turn guarantees privileges then and in the future.
Does one have to be born into families which are well resourced to be intelligent ?
Some of the brighest and most imaginative entrepreneurial individuals in Belfast had a very basic education.
The two biggest developers who have contributed to reconfiguring much of the city are not graduates or products of a privileged background.
Opportunities knock for far too few people of such backgrounds.
That success should not necessarily be measured in terms of materialism.
Statistics available from the Department of Education reveal that the number of children in areas like Sandy Row, The Shankill , Kilcooley in Bangor , Rathcoole and the Village district of Belfast are not within a beagle’s gowl of the first rung of a parallel opportunity afforded children in wealthier areas.
As a product of a rural primary school and as an eleven year old who did not transfer and as someone who attended a Secondary school for a time before “reviewing” to gain access to a Grammar school I have something of an understanding of ‘failing’ and of not being ‘included.’
Having experienced catholic primary schools and
State schools personally through my own children and having watched so called ‘passing’ and ‘failing’ at close quarters I have no intention of being iconoclastic.
No one should take away from the dedication of good teachers in which ever school they work.
Unionist politicians argue educational shortcomings in poor areas which they represent can only be remedied through pumping millions into primary school education.
This is not realistic. Quite often there are too many schools in these same areas but short of the numbers falling dramatically, which Unionist politician is prepared to say “Close two or three of the schools and pool the resources to establish a higher standard supported by the latest thinking and technology in education.”
Poor areas are poor firstly because there is a scarcity of money, jobs , infrastructure , leadership and appropriate all embracing plans to tackle deficits in those districts.
Many of these areas were blighted during the so called Troubles which resulted in a lot of broken homes.
A legacy of that lingers in areas like the Lower Shankill.
So what should be done to ensure that the ongoing inequitable system is brought to an end.?
There has to be an open door approach so that all children are afforded an opportunity to enjoy and improve their lot.
Very few children in well to do communities undertake tests to qualify entrance to Grammar schools without private tuition.
That costs money. Twenty to thirty pounds per hour.
What hope has a child belonging to a poor family of competing within this system ?
Furthermore – The private tutoring inevitably must result in an uneven playing pitch. Most of the tests are made up by individuals who are removed socially from the majority of the children undertaking the tests.
There is a need for radicalism in primary school education in Northern Ireland.
Rest assured of one thing. Catholic and protestant parents both become ‘monsters’ around test time be that the 11 plus or some other test.
Unionism is blinding itself to the need for an overhaul of the education system because in their eyes the wrong minister Martin Mc Guinness did away with the 11+ and having yielded up the education to Sinn Fein in the last shareout of ministerial posts again a minister of the wrong persuasion took the helm at education in the person Caitriona Ruane.
There are many members of the Ulster Unionist Party and in the DUP who accept the current educational system is pernicious but stick to the old dogma ‘ If nationalists think it is good for them it must be necessarily bad for them.”