2 October 2008 Edition

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Mála Poist

Cuireann An Phoblacht fáilte roimh litreacha ónár léitheoirí. Scríobh i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla, 200 focal ar a méid. Déantar giorrú ar litreachta más gá. Cuir do litir chuig [email protected]
An Phoblacht welcomes readers’ letters. Write in Irish or English, 200 words maximum. Letters may be edited for brevity. Send your letters to [email protected] No attachments please


Money for banks, not schools

I HEARD with amazement this morning that our Government is going to help the banks survive their bad mismanagement to the tune of 400 billion euro. The people who run these banks receive massive salaries and bonuses and yet they are still rewarded when things go wrong.
Our local school in Clondalkin, Gaelscoil na Camóige, which houses 225 children in second-hand huts which are over 18 years old did not make it onto the Schools Building Programme again. We are not given a proper reason for this decision but we must slum it again. The cost for a new school is approximately one to two million euro. Imagine what a new school would do for the long-term future for the children of Clondalkin.
Have I missed something in terms of where the Government interests lie?
Dublin 22


Selection failing working-class unionist communities

UNIONIST leaders claim that academic selection provides ‘choice’ for parents, that it results in high academic achievement, and that the unionist community is united behind the DUP’s position that it will block new selection legislation.
But where is the choice for disadvantaged, working-class unionist communities?
The facts speak for themselves: children on free school meals have less than half the chance of being accepted into a grammar school as other children.
This year, while 40 per cent of children across the North have been accepted into grammar schools, in the Protestant working-class Sandy Row the figure is 14 per cent. Only 10 per cent of children from the Shankill were admitted to grammar schools.
Each year, almost half of all students (12,000 pupils) leave school without GCSEs in English and Maths, seriously limiting their future education and employment opportunities. We need to build a flexible system - where we open doors instead of closing them - in which real choice is provided to students and achievement is raised across the board.
The first step in transforming education into a means to overcome cycles of poverty and disadvantage is abolishing academic selection, which clearly perpetuates these cycles.
Sinn Féin’s ambitious proposals can help overcome the legacy of discrimination and inequality in the North of Ireland. Is the reason that unionist politicians oppose the reforms that they also understand their importance in advancing the equality agenda? And what do the young people and parents from the Shankill and Sandy Row think about this?


Elitist schools causing confusion

CONTRARY to claims that there is widespread confusion among parents and teachers about how this year’s Primary 6 students in the North will transfer to secondary school in 2010, the Education Minister has clearly outlined to schools how this will take place.
After the last 11-Plus is sat by P7 this November, there will be a transition period of three years where schools can apply to be allowed to select a limited and declining proportion of their students on the basis of academic selection before it is completely eradicated in 2013.
During the phase-out period, a new test will be put in place by the Council for Curriculum Examination and Assessment (CCEA) for parents who wish to put their children through an entrance test but it will not disrupt the curriculum and will not be sat in primary schools.
Selection by the 11-Plus will be replaced by area-based planning and students will make an informed election of their pathways at the age of 14 and again at 16.
If there is confusion, it has been introduced by the 30 grammar schools that are clinging to an outdated, elitist system. To push ahead with preparations for a separate test when there are already provisions in place for CCEA-designed tests for the three-year transition period is reckless and nonsensical.
Caitríona Ruane will aim to minimise the damage this will cause to our children’s education by taking action against primary schools that distort the curriculum in order to prepare students for sitting unapproved tests.
Without the necessary underpinning legislation for an alternative admissions criteria, the transfer system would be unregulated by law – but this would not safeguard academic selection. The current system operates according to specific legislation that will lapse in 2010 and through the Government’s provision of the transfer test.
Sinn Féin will continue to build on the broad professional consensus and win support from across all sections of the community to legislate to make academic selection history. The five teachers’ unions active in the North, the Association of Head Teachers, the vast majority of educationalists, the Catholic Church, some grammar schools and the SDLP are among those who share our opposition to selection.
We will move forward with the effort to tackle disadvantage and under-achievement – to transform a system that has failed our children, and our society, into a quality system based on equality of opportunity in which all children will be helped to realise their full potential.
County Down


Mopping up after the fat cats

WILLIE O’DEA was on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today (Wednesday), patting himself and the Government on the back for acting so quickly to bring in emergency legislation to prop up the banks.
Question: if the Government can act so quickly to intervene in ‘the market’, then why can’t it do so in the good times?
Why is the taxpayer called in to mop up the spilt milk after the fat cats in the boardroom have taken all the cream?
Dublin 5

PS: Why is the Minister for Defence wheeled out on national radio to explain this extraordinary move? Where’s the Tánaiste and the rest of the top Cabinet members? Why Willie?


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