Head critical of education minister

Photographer Charles McQuillan and Mr. Dan Redmond, a pioneer of Karate locally, were guests at the St. Patrick's College prize distribution. (Submitted)
Photographer Charles McQuillan and Mr. Dan Redmond, a pioneer of Karate locally, were guests at the St. Patrick's College prize distribution. (Submitted)

The headmistress of St. Patrick’s College has spoken of the ‘despair’ felt by teachers in the ‘non-selective’ sector at the stance adopted on testing at 11 by Education Minister, Peter Weir.

Mrs. Cate Magee was addressing the Ballymena school’s prize distribution last week.

Prize winners at St. Patrick's College.

Prize winners at St. Patrick's College.

She said: “We firmly believe that education is not only linked to success and fulfilment, it is linked to health, self-confidence and also to a greater understanding and respect for each of us as individuals. If we are true to our ethos then we have a duty to ensure that we create a school system that is fair to all, benefits everybody and encourages young people to deepen their faith in an atmosphere where each is valued.

“However, while we try to promote and practise these values within the school, it is always a challenge to work within a climate of continuing austerity and cuts to the education budget. All of which are a sharp reminder that there is a need for a form of Post Primary provision that is sustainable, provides high quality education and meets the needs of all young people.

“We in the non-selective sector can only despair when the recently appointed Minister for Education decided to support the practice of preparing Year 7 pupils for a test which has been proven to be damaging, distorts the delivery of a balanced curriculum and encourages society to label an 11 year old as being either a success or a failure.

“The most frightening part of this decision was its political bias – there was no consultation with schools, teachers or parents and although his Department is willing to support selection their commitment does not involve giving financial support so again causing more damage to school budgets and speaking volumes about the ill-informed nature of this decision. “However, we in St. Patrick’s can live with politicians who have only a passing interest in education, the question is – can they live with decisions they make that neither creates nor promotes an equal society?”

Silverware on show at St. Patrick's College.(Submitted)

Silverware on show at St. Patrick's College.(Submitted)

Charles McQuillan with prize winners at St. Patrick's College.

Charles McQuillan with prize winners at St. Patrick's College.