Yesterday’s Irish News has details of the transfer test that will be used by the Catholic grammar schools in the north. A link to the story is here, although it will work only for a week without subscription. The Post-Primary Transfer Consortium, 34 overwhelmingly Catholic schools, is organising this test. There is of course a separate test for the state grammar schools, which are attended overwhelmingly by protestants. This “catholic” test unlike the previous test is completely multiple choice, and does not include science. So we are seeing a return to something along the lines of the old Eleven Plus that the likes of me sat, based on maths and English. The introduction of science reflected a desire to broaden the curriculum and prepare children better for secondary education, and give them a greater appreciation of the world around them. So this represents a narrowing of things tested.
That’s not the only narrrowing that will happen as a result of this private transfer test.
Parents have been provided sample mathematics and English papers and encouraged to help their children prepare.
Now, how do parents help their children prepare? Well they can do it themselves, by sitting and helping them. The new-old type of test will prove more parent-friendly than that being replaced. Or, more likely, they can hire someone to do it for £20 an hour or more. Around a third of a single person’s weekly job seeker’s allowance, to put that in perspective. So again we return to the importance of class in the transfer system. Those who can afford private tuition will pay for it, and their children are as a result much more likely to do well. This is on top of the unquantifiable educational and cultural advantages that middle-class children tend to have over their working class counterparts.
I’ve been following the debacle over academic selection since I started this blog about a year ago. Each post seems to anger me more than the last. The naked aggression of bourgeois parents seeking to protect their own dominance at the expense of working-class children doesn’t surprise me. The abject failure of those responsible to stop this happening infuriates me. Only political representatives dedicated unambiguously to the interests of the working class can offer any real alternative to the injustice of capitalist society in education or anywhere else.