Life

Mary Kelly: Good on you Archbishop Martin but transfer test is cruel every year

Every time I pass my nearest grammar, Aquinas, named after Thomas Aquinas, one of the intellectuals of the Church, and the neighbouring secondary, named after St Joseph, the carpenter, the message is clear

The north's academic selection process will be cruel next year too, when hopefully coronavirus has gone
Mary Kelly

IT’S two cheers, not three, for the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin who has urged grammars in his Armagh diocese to suspend the transfer test for entry during this pandemic. It’s cruel to 10-year-old children, he said.

But Archbishop, it has always been cruel for 10-year-old children and it will be cruel next year too, when hopefully coronavirus has gone, but selection will still continue. And there’s little sign that the grammars or middle-class Catholics will heed his call. Working-class children, who don’t have the access to tutoring enjoyed by their better-heeled classmates, are always at a disadvantage, pandemic or not.

So it was right for the then education minister, Martin McGuinness to scrap this iniquitous test. But the mess that followed has only made the situation worse. We now have effectively a Catholic test and a Protestant one, which sees some children taking up to four papers to improve their odds of getting a grammar school place.

It was a belated recognition by the Catholic Church some years back that the selection procedure was profoundly unfair. Every time I pass my nearest grammar, Aquinas, named after Thomas Aquinas, one of the intellectuals of the Church, and the neighbouring secondary, named after St Joseph, the carpenter, the message is clear. You also note that the grammar is a spanking new building and the secondary is more than 60 years old.

Education Minister Peter Weir, displaying a characteristic lack of vision, says the transfer tests will go ahead as there is no alternative. It’s a pity that, like everything else here, politically it becomes an orange and green division, with unionist parties staunch in their defence of the grammar-school system, even while Protestant working-class boys continue to be bottom of the heap when it comes to educational achievement.

I remember, 15 years ago, when my daughter rang her friend on the 11-plus results day. The child was too upset to come to the phone, her mum said. In the background, she could hear the choking sobs. If that isn’t cruel, I don’t know what is.

That same girl went on to get a university degree, so it wasn’t even a good assessment of her potential. And isn’t it strange that the rest of the world doesn’t need academic selection yet has perfectly good educational outcomes for their children?

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A FEW weeks ago, my second son complained that the TV news was spending too much time on Covid when there must be other things also happening in the world. I initially defended the media priorities but I’m having second thoughts after only reading about one of the worst atrocities ever, relegated to the inside pages in the print media.

Gunmen attacked a maternity hospital in Kabul last week, with the sole purpose of killing mothers in cold blood, systematically shooting every woman in labour and new mother they came across.

Three women were killed in the delivery room. Eight died from gunshot wounds in hospital beds, two newborn babies were also wounded. The total death toll, including a midwife and two children, was 24. One woman actually gave birth during the four-hour assault.

When we don’t see a war crime like this as worthy of coverage, we have lost something of our humanity.

 

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THERE was something almost comical about the announcement from Tory ministers that cleaners and nannies could come into houses, but not relatives.

Over here, golf courses, garden centres and angling got the go-ahead along with outdoor meetings of up to six people. There were only slightly more than that at the Ormeau Park last Saturday, at a rally to protest at lockdown restrictions.

There were a few shouts of “flat earthers” flung in their direction from passers by. I overhead one woman say people had the right to hear the “truth”. This usually involves the usual conspiracy theories found on the internet linking 5G masts and opposition to vaccinations. Wonder if they’ll refuse a vaccine for Covid 19 when one is eventually found.

 

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IN THE absence of looking forward to sunshine holidays abroad this summer, I’ve become hooked on an RTÉ programme called Cheap Irish Homes. Fronted by Maggie Molloy, with all the fresh-faced enthusiasm of a Girl Guides leader, she exhorts people who can’t afford rocketing Dublin house prices to buy hovels in the remoter parts of the Irish countryside to “do up.”

A follow-up programme looking at how they get on might not be commissioned. Nobody has bought one yet.

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