Barry White has raised the lamentable performance of Education Minister Catriona Ruane in his column. Ruane’s poverty of scope has already been questioned on this blog. As White identifies, she has one idea, changing the age of selection from 11 to 14. He concedes that academic selection at 11 is no longer tenable but maintains that Ruane still isn’t addressing the real structural problems within our education system.
White’s argument is a strong one. Our schools are currently operating in four different sectors with 50,000 empty places and Ruane has shown little inclination to confront this issue. In fact as a leading difference fetishist she is exacerbating the problem by promoting the Irish Language sector and championing the separate status of Catholic Maintained schools.
Academic selection is not the only factor fostering division and separation amongst pupils. If Ruane really wants to promote equality and harmony between schools she should provide more support for schools who wish to adopt integrated status and for those schools who wish to share and collaborate in terms of resources and curriculum. Seeking to abolish division based on ability, but to maintain community division unscathed is neither consistent nor helpful in building a better Northern Ireland.