Letters to the Editor

Unique selling point of grammar schools is their sense of ‘elitism'

Newton Emerson writing in his column ‘Grammar ethos could be key to resolving selection debate’ (April 29) points out that the end of selection need not mean the end of grammar schools here and that if our secondary schools were allowed to convert to non-selective grammars and embraced the ‘concept of grammar ethos’ by introducing stricter discipline and more rigorous academic standards then the debate about the abolition of grammar schools could become redundant.
All schools already strive for this type of ethos but high concentrations of poverty in too many of our secondary schools, which is what happens when you have a selective system of education, make this an
uphill struggle.
A study by Tulane university professor Douglas Harris, found that middle-class schools are 22 times more likely to be consistently high performing as high poverty schools.

Grammar schools here are about much more than ‘ethos’. The unique selling point of grammar schools here is their sense of ‘elitism’.
A few years ago a friend attended an open day at a local grammar school for the parents of prospective pupils . The principal in his opening address stated that the school was ‘ unashamedly elitist’.
Elitism is a thread that runs through the grammar sector.
A recent report from the Ulster University’s Unesco Education  Centre, had this to say about the Transfer test, ‘current arrangements for transfer at age 11 contribute to the social and financial costs of a stressful process that serves to benefit a few (generally already privileged) pupils while damaging the life chances of a large proportion of the school population’.
The report goes on to say ‘It is hard to escape the observation that many of the political class responsible for making decisions on the future of selection will themselves be products of the same grammar school system that they seek to defend and their children in all likelihood attend such schools’.

When Diane Reay,  Professor of Education at Cambridge University, passed the 11-plus in 1960 one of the middle-class girls in her class said, “there must be a mistake, Diane can’t have passed”.
Diane was one of eight children whose father worked in the local coal mine, she lived on a large council estate and received free school meals. As she says herself this girl was being perfectly logical, grammar schools were for the middle classes not kids from the local council estate.

Downpatrick, Co Down


Disappointment at president’s ill-informed remarks

The partitionist mindset that infects much of the southern political establishment has often offended northern nationalists. Too often unionist sensitivities have been pandered to at the expense of Nationalists and Republicans on this side of the border. This hurt is compounded when the opinion is expressed by the president. The ill-informed remarks by M D Higgins that sought to demonise the education system in the north-east is unworthy of someone who is meant to represent all the Irish people.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has called on President Higgins to withdraw the “Parcels of Hate caricature” of the education system in the north.
Nationalists who grew up in the six counties are too aware of the cultural pogrom that sought to extinguish Irish identity and culture. An attack that continues to the present as unionism fights a rear-guard action against Acht na Gaelige.
Without the lifeline provided by the Catholic Maintained sector our culture in the north would have been smothered.
Sinn Féin and the SDLP are now aiding this process as they use their places on the school boards to push their cultural agenda. The SDLP-SF alliance has become too comfortable with the trappings of Stormont. The leadership of our schools (with a few notable exceptions) need to stand against these attacks on our way of life.

The office of president is meant to enhance Irish culture, present a strong positive Ireland to the world and above all unite our land and people. It is with great disappointment to many Irish nationalists and republicans in the north that our president has used his term to attack this diversity and pluralism within the education system in the north.

Aontú, Béal Feirste


Linguistic matters

There are two phrases with which I take issue in Monday’s edition of The Irish News (May 3).

Sinn Féin is translated as “ourselves alone” a popular translation, but  sinn means “we” and féin means “ourselves”. The word alone “in ar aonar” is not included in the name.

This name was given by Arthur Griffith in 1904 to his new party for Advanced Nationalists. Sinn Fein’s policy was independence from the Empire.

So, if inference is to be drawn from the name, I think it should be the more assertive “on our own”.

Ireland is referred to as being part of “The British Isles” but Ireland is an island in its own right, it is not an “isle”.

In common English usage, an isle is a “satellite” of a bigger island. Therefore “British” can only apply to the island of Great Britain and its isles.

Ireland has it own isles.

Together they are an archipelago, as yet unnamed.

Could we have an expert opinion, please ?



Time for Sinn Féin to do the decent thing

The revelation that before his death Bobby Sands specifically requested not to be buried in Milltown Cemetery, only to be buried there by Gerry Adams and his kitchen cabinet is appalling but not shocking.

For 40 years Bobby Sands has been commodified by Sinn Féin, used to bring in funds for the party alone.

Could I request for Sinn Féin to do the decent thing, even at this late stage, and use some of those funds to honour Bobby Sands’s last wish and have the man reinterred where he wanted to be.

Belfast BT11

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Letters to the Editor