The Poor will always be with you. Just not in your schools

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.


3 Responses to “The Poor will always be with you. Just not in your schools”

  1. A Morrison Says:

    I was searching for a blog that would give me some inspiration in relation to the ‘new’ transfer test and this was the first one I came across. I have to say I was quite surprised at the level of contempt meted out to ‘bougeois parents seeking to protect their own dominance’. This comment seems to be founded on the issue of said parents being able to provide financially for the children not out of concern for their children and wanting them to do well in the transfer. I am a parent of a child who is about to sit the so called ‘catholic’ entrance exam and I am devastated at how my child is being treated simply in an effort to get a place at a school where they would like to go to.
    I am a working mum from a working class background, I did well at school, passed the 11+ and got to a grammar school. My parents supported me as did the school and I did well because I wanted to. I had no tutor and neither does my child but if required I would not hesitate to get her one if I felt she needed it. My child is not an A stream student but she wants to do well and is trying her hardest at the moment. We have had tears and tantrums but I think we will get there in the end but with the determination that will get us through many things in life not by sitting back and just expecting things to be handed to us by virtue of a free school meals ticket.

  2. Garibaldy Says:


    Thanks for your comment. My remark about bourgeois parents is founded on much more than the ability of better-off parents to hire tutors. It is based on the way in which the middle-classes, who benefit overwhelmingly from grammar schools, although some working class children do too obviously, have mobilised political parties, lobbying groups, and school principals and bodies to defend a system that overwhelmingly favours those who are better off. The Catholic grammar schools in particular have been a naked example of this. They have defied the stated policy of the church that runs the schools, and have done so out of pure selfishness.

    I have every sympathy with parents who feel that their children need to get into a grammar school to get the best education. And I have every sympathy for the children who go through this process. I do not object to academic streaming. There ought to be a place for it within comprehensive schools. I wouldn’t necessarily object to different types of schools at an older age, based on a fairer system.

    And this is certainly not about handing things to people because of their class. In fact it’s the opposite. The major flaw of the 11 Plus is that it is effectively handing a place in grammar schools to middle class children because of the nature of the test.

    What I do object to is a school system that effectively divides pupils on the grounds of religion and class. We can find a better way to measure pupils’ progress than the blunt, unequal, and unjust tool that is the 11 Plus. I strenuously object to the mess that has been made of this whole issue by the people up at Stormont. As you say yourself, what your child has been put through is a disgrace.

    I hope your child ends up where she wants to go. I also hope that we will see an end soon to this traumatic experience for children her age.

  3. jack parler Says:

    Very nice information. Thanks for this.

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