The Independent Review of Education in Northern Ireland, a component of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement in 2020 aimed at reinstating Stormont, seems to have veered off track from its intended course.
However, rather than bringing new ideas to the table, this review mirrors the past, offering up the same unappealing suggestions.
The proposed changes, if put into action, would lead to a shift toward de facto comprehensive schooling, a system that has notably floundered in England. This model would seemingly abandon the pursuit of academic excellence and rigor, embracing a curriculum that has proved detrimental to students’ lives, notably observed in the United States and Scotland.
Two sections of the report are particularly striking, though not for positive reasons. The sections concerning the curriculum and the transition from primary to post-primary education stand out for their unapologetic endorsement of the existing system. Upon reading these segments, one might feel transported back to the anti-grammar school reports of Burns and Costello, published in 2001 and 2004 respectively.
Much like those reports, this recent review advocates for a curriculum that has demonstrably failed in other nations where similar educational approaches have been adopted. This curriculum, primarily implemented due to its incongruity with academic selection, appears to be a concealed attempt to dismantle Northern Ireland’s grammar school system.
The proposed curriculum leans on misguided educational concepts, contributing negatively to students’ academic achievements. Additionally, the review hints at a concerted, albeit subtle, effort to dilute the academic selection process. It proposes a new selection method that would transform schools into instruments for social categorization.