Sinn Fein poses threat to academic excellence

Morning View
Morning View

The failure of unionists to take the education ministry at Stormont today looks like a possible mistake.

Unionists point out that if Sinn Fein had not got education, they would likely have got finance.

But now, perhaps worse, at the behest of Sinn Fein, grammar schools are on a slippery slope to abolition.

In a severe warning on these pages, the principals of Lurgan and Portadown Colleges say that if they are forced to close, then other grammars across the Province are likely to follow.

Tomorrow the education Board covering Craigavon seems set to pursue a course which would abolish the two grammars.

Unionists in Craigavon are overwhelmingly in favour of an option that would maintain and improve the Dickson Plan, but they seem unable to derail proposals that would effectively demolish the plan. Unionists at Stormont seem powerless too.

Sadly, this has taken on a needless Orange and Green tinge, when it should transcend the tribal divide. All but the most ideologically blinkered can see that the comprehensive system has failed in Great Britain, where social mobility has declined.

The imperfect system of selection by test at eleven has been replaced by a much worse system of selection based on wealth.

To guarantee a good education on the mainland, parents have to go private — something fewer than 10 per cent can afford.

And yet even the Dickson Plan, which delayed selection until the age of 14, when children are less vulnerable, has not placated those fanatical opponents of grammar schools, Sinn Fein.

Life is full of selection, from relationships to sport.

Yet the anti-selection die-hards furiously deny that some children are more suited to an academic education than others. In GB, this opposition has led to the cruel situation, described by OFSTED recently, of comprehensives failing poor bright pupils — people who ought to play a key part in our prosperity as a nation.

Northern Ireland has until now stayed out of this madness. Until, that was, republicans got control of education.