COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATION
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Thursday 22 June 2000
Mr Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mr T Gallagher
Mr Lennon (Chairman) CCEA
Mr Boyd (Chief Executive) CCEA
Mr Walker (Head of Education Services) CCEA
Ms Gallagher (Development Manager 4-14) CCEA
The Chairman: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. May I welcome you to an open session of the Education Committee. I am Danny Kennedy, the Chairman. Colleagues' names are placed in front of each around the table. May I quickly welcome this morning, representatives from CCEA: Mr Alan Lennon, Chairman, Mr Gavin Boyd, Chief Executive, Mr Alastair Walker, Head of Education Services and Ms Carmel Gallagher. You are all most welcome.
You are aware that there is a presentation to be made. I am looking forward to that. Can I say that we expect your presentation to last in the region of half an hour, 30 minutes? We also anticipate that members will be keen to ask questions and even keener to hear your answers. In that it is a public session, members of the press and in fact the media have been invited and they are in the process of getting set up. Without further ado, we welcome you and we ask you now to make your presentation.
Mr Lennon: Thank you very much for that welcome and for the opportunity to come along and share with you where we are at in the Curriculum Review process and we look forward to your feedback. My name is Alan Lennon, I am the Chairman of the CCEA, the Curriculum and Examinations Council. On my left is Gavin Boyd, our Chief Executive. On my right, is Carmel Gallagher who is the project manager for this Curriculum Review. Alastair Walker is the Head of Education Services. We will all participate in the feedback session.
The Chairman: I understand that the pack now being circulated includes copies of the slides?
Mr Lennon: Hard copies of the slides, yes. I am going to introduce briefly the presentation and then Carmel Gallagher and Gavin Boyd will take it on from there.
What are we here for? First, to respond to your kind invitation to discuss the current position with the Curriculum Review. Really to update you, to get your views at this early stage and it is particularly helpful that the political process and the review processes have come together at this stage, your views on a curriculum assessment framework that will meet Northern Ireland's needs in the 21st century.
Really we are looking at three aspects of those needs; we are looking at young people who will increasingly, I think, have opportunities for educational choices. We are looking at society as a whole and thirdly, and particularly, we are looking at what might be our economic and environmental needs in the future. The case that we have to address is one of the economy, an educational case and a strategic case. Those are the three areas that each of the three of us will deal with this morning. Starting off with the economic perspective. I had the privilege to be involved in 'Strategy 2010' and was involved in writing the skills and education aspect of it. So I just would like to make reference to that on the way through.
There is a major decline in traditional industries in the West including Northern Ireland. We do have a growing work force because of the demographics in Northern Ireland, we expect 70,000 more people in the work force over the next ten years. These are young people and our work force is becoming younger. It is worth noting that some of the pupils currently in the system will still be in the work force in the year 2060. Referring back to 'Strategy 2010' they saw a great need and potential to create jobs over the next ten years, to create enough jobs to mop up that growing work force and to replace the traditional industries which we will lose. 'Strategy 2010' recognised the opportunity for 80,000 jobs. More recently PriceWaterhouseCoopers have talked about 135,000. At any rate it is a significant challenge for us.
Again the areas that we are focused on are telecommunications, software, health services and others. The major caveat in the 'Strategy 2010' document about all these opportunities for the future was "if we have the skills", and that is part of what we want to address in the Curriculum Review.
'Strategy 2010' talks about a fast growing competitive, innovative, knowledge based economy, that is an economy dependant on ideas and the ability to develop them. We have to take account of that going forward in the Curriculum Review. There has been some activity since 'Strategy 2010'. You may be familiar with something called "Leapfrog" (led by Fabian Monds) 'the Information Age Initiative' that sees Northern Ireland leading the world of information in communications technology and knowledge based industries. A bit like the Celtic tiger has done successfully.
So what is the challenge for education in relation to this review? We need a curriculum and assessment framework that can deliver the "Leapfrog" effect in terms of the whole economy and society. We need to attempt to read the future in terms of skills. That is maybe not as difficult as it seems because some of the skills that we are looking toward will be generic, others will be specific. We do need to close the gap between business and education at all levels. I would include in that, at departmental level as well as on the ground. We need to prepare people better for employment. So the word "relevance" is important to us as well as the word "rigour". People have had lots of education in the past however maybe not all of it is entirely relevant.
The project management aspects of what we are doing are extremely important. We feel that it is essential to have the support and the buy in of all the people that are involved in this process including teachers who deliver it, parents, employers and the wider public.
We will be paying particular attention to how we manage these changes and one of the objectives is to increase the motivation and widen the opportunity for the pupils. You will all be aware of the fact that there is a particular problem with 14 to 16 year old boys in relation to how they see the relevance of the education system.
I am coming towards the end of my introduction but really just to say that the process that we are engaged in can be related back to our advice document last year which called for "inter-agency co-operation to plan and deliver the strategic development of education policy in Northern Ireland over the next 15 years". I should say in recent consultation with the Growth Challenge and the CBI, their major call was for a joined-up strategy both within education and between education and training and economic development. So that would be very important to us.
At this stage I am going to hand over to Carmel Gallagher on my right who is the project manager to take you further into detail.
Ms Gallagher: It is my job this morning to give you a quick walk through what we are really trying to do, just to start off with the background, really the rationale. Why are we doing this? If we go back to 1988, Mrs Thatcher had a National Curriculum followed on fairly quickly by a Northern Ireland Curriculum in 1989. It was an English model imported at speed. There was some shaping and some Northern Ireland 'ising of it, but it was very much a model which we imported.
The model was quite detailed and heavy, so there were calls from teachers to slim it down, particularly primary teachers. That was done in 1994 but there wasn't time or call for a great re-think. It was to slim it down and put it back again. When it did go out again to be implemented from 1996 the then Minister, Michael Ancram, said let us have a 5 year moratorium, let it bed down and let us not have further change for a while and let teachers come to terms with it. There may have been a moratorium on the curriculum but there hasn't been a moratorium on change; teachers have had a lot of pressure since then.
That is where we start. We thought here for the first time there is an opportunity for us to develop a Northern Ireland view, to really think and talk with the people, to find out what it is we want here in our own society. That is why we carried out quite a lot of research, uniquely starting with pupils. Your pack will have one of the reports that has come through from our pupil survey. I have to say this is something that we are terribly proud of. I do not think anywhere else in the world are people talking to the real customers of education, the pupils. We talk to higher education, we talk to business, but rarely have we acknowledged that the real customer is the pupil, and this survey is taking a very in-depth look at sixty children, who have been followed through from P7 year.
We have this first report from post primary, which includes the views of 3,000 youngsters, and those 3,000 are followed right through to Key Stage 4. We will have rich evidence for you from the young people and certainly it is their views that are largely driving a lot of what we want to say.
We also of course have been very careful to listen to our teachers. We listen to them all along, in particular for a period of a year we had 100 teachers face-to-face and we engaged quite a lot and what they said was yes, there was some good things but quite a few bad things. The sad message at that time, that is two years ago, was "whatever you do don't change it" because we are change fatigued. That is something they were very concerned about. Anything we do will bear that in mind.
We also looked globally around the world. We had a whole series of conferences, ten of them, on the work force, on society, on brain power, on early childhood, a whole range of discussions which brought in some of the best thinkers from around the world which was quite exciting. We have also carried out a number of significant pieces of local research. One of them which has been 'nabbed' by England was completed by Carol Maguinness of Queen's, on thinking skills, which is really ground-breaking work. All of that really culminated in the booklets, which I know you have had already, which we sent to the Department last year. The green one summarising the teachers' views and conferences, and then the coloured one which backs up the research from the pupils.
At the time, the Minister, John McFall, was extremely reluctant to take on something as challenging and in fact I think it was the first time that the Department had independently had advice of this nature. I think they were also slightly taken aback. The decision was made while waiting for you to come into place, that we were given the opportunity for the first time ever to publish our advice. Normally we don't publish the advice; it simply goes to the Department. It was a tremendous opportunity. This time last year we had 25-30 seminars talking to people and the reaction was "we really welcome this; Northern Ireland really thinking for itself and putting forward quite challenging options for the future."
Still waiting for you to be in place, the Department eventually said, "go ahead", begin the process and make it a longer process so we can have time to engage with everyone.
So therefore this is a first phase consultation but we would just like to remind you that consultation is ongoing. Already, I think this is my fifty-seventh meeting since April, we are really talking to an awful lot of people and we are getting excellent feedback.
The objectives very quickly: What we set out to do was start at the beginning. What are we all trying to do in education? What are our aims? What are our objectives? What are our values? Where is this important skills base that industry, commerce and business are really looking for? Where is the relevance for youngsters, the relevance and enjoyment for teachers? It is interesting that the young people will say "it doesn't matter if it is enjoyable or not, just please make it relevant."
Where is the flexibility for teachers to really engage with the kind of things they want to do? Crucially, where is the assessment that matches what we say we want to do? Lastly, how can we manage that change process in a way that does not stress the teachers out any further?
I, in my time, will speak very briefly about the objectives, the clarification of objectives, the clarification of skills, a bit about the relevance of what youngsters want and a bit about assessment. Gavin will talk about the whole change process.
In terms of the objectives, what we have come up with is a framework that wasn't there before. We are saying that the curriculum is about helping young people to develop as individuals, as contributors to society and as contributors to the economy and environment.
Three very straightforward statements but they weren't there before and it is quite amazing how much debate there is around that because a lot of teachers are iffy about their social responsibility and certainly many of them are iffy about their economic responsibility. It has been a very interesting debate and most people are saying that in the 21st century these are great objectives.
In terms of the skills base, this has been the most exciting piece of work for us. Again it hasn't been done anywhere in the world and we have researched everywhere and we couldn't find a framework that was well laid out so we did it ourselves and we hope that we are going to be world leaders in this sense. We have outlined the skills base for the future under those six headings; personal, interpersonal, physical, thinking, learning and ICT. You will find them on page 15 of your booklet.
To save you looking at it, I will give you a quick synopsis of what they are. I think if my child turned out like this I would be tremendously pleased, someone who can manage themselves and are self-reliant, assertive when they need to be, are literate and numerate, are creative, someone who could communicate and work with others but are empathetic but can also be a leader. Someone who can think critically and creatively but also in a caring way. Someone who can solve problems, assess themselves, know their own learning styles, set goals, handle information and improve their own learning and performance. Someone who is ICT literate and is physically skilled. That is the agenda and the reaction is, "yes, that is absolutely wonderful, that is what we want if we can get the young people like that." That is tremendously challenging to schools because in fact to deliver a lot of that you have to take your hands off teaching and allow a lot more of the learning. It is about turning the activities much more over to the pupils and allowing the skills to be developed. It has gone down very well.
In terms of the young people, I think it is very important to tell you what their agenda is. This is what they said at the age of 11 and 12. They want to be personally educated, they want to be confident, self-assured, understand their emotions, their health, their sexuality, they want to be politically and environmentally aware. They want to be prepared for work and they want to be ICT literate. They also want to be physically fit and engage with the arts. These were the ones that we picked out as tremendously important because it echoes the agenda of wider society. If I can just say in relation to personal, for example, the Samaritans revealed recently, shockingly, that we have as many suicides in Northern Ireland as we have road deaths, one every three days. The majority are young men under the age of 25. That indicates that there is certainly something in terms of young men and their place in society that needs to be given more self-esteem.
In relation to personal education, bullying, one in four children report that they are bullied and some of them frequently.
In relation to health, it is really sad to know that one in three girls is smoking from the age of 12. I don't think that, by the way, is a health statistic, it is a self-esteem statistic. In other words our young people need a lot more confidence building in school.
In relation to politics, I know that Danny and Tommy quite enjoyed these statistics at the launch. Democratic Dialogues, surveyed 3,000 young people. Only 3% of them were in any way associated with a political party. Only 2% of them thought that you were doing a good job. I have to say that is not you as such, this was a couple of years ago. 80% of them said they wanted to be engaged in political discussion and citizenship, in contributing to the future of Northern Ireland. There is a great desire among young people to make and shape the future and they want that to be part of the curriculum.
Those are the kind of views of young people. Sadly however, and this is one of the big messages, the Cohort study reveals that they have tremendous insight at the age of 11 and 12, at Secondary schools they maintain that interest up to the age of 13 and at 14 they dip because they see academia coming down the tracks. The concern of the researchers is that once they dip we might never get them back.
The more concerning thing is that in grammar schools the dip happens immediately. This interest dips in year eight, they lose interest entirely in year nine and when they come back in year ten they say that was all nice, but all that matters is English, Maths and Science.
Some of the things that the teachers are saying are, maybe we have to challenge some of the pressure that assessment is putting on us. The big issues for us is, where is the time for these things? What is the status for these things in the curriculum? Where is the assessment?
To tell you about the responses so far. Generally, although I have some days to wear a bullet proof vest when I have been out with the teachers, when you talk them through, they really welcome it. They say, yes, it is clear, it is coherent, and this is maybe where we should have been. What they do say however is assessment and accountability is asking for different things in this. We are initiative fatigued. We want a joined-up education policy. We are fed up with everybody coming at us from different directions and while we like what you are saying, it might only last a short time and then somebody else will come behind you with something else. If it is going to be embraced, we want it strategically embraced. We want the support and funding. Gavin will be talking about that.
Just to give you a little bit of insight into the view of assessment and accountability. They are telling us that in their view, accountability is based on too narrow a view of targets and publication of results. That it is too frequent, too narrowly focused and particularly at Key Stage 2. The most stressed out people are the primary teachers. What they are saying is that it is leading to competition between schools, distrust of each others as professionals and distortion of the curriculum. That very strongly comes through in our research. In some senses you can't have a good curriculum and then be entirely distorted by a very narrow assessment. If you are going to assess by making the schools accountable on a narrow set of things, they will just focus on the narrow.
Picking up from all of the things coming from 'Strategy 2010', again from the "Leapfrog initiative", and from what employers are saying, Alan and Gavin in our organisation are saying, "what industry wants is people potential". We want innovation, we want enterprise, we want basic key skills, yes, but we want young people who are creative, young people who have initiative and we want people who are very ICT literate.
The message is that a lot of our schools are doing this already, it is nothing new. Just to let you know for example, we accredited ICT in Key Stage 3 voluntarily. The schools pay for it. 80% of the schools pay to be ICT assessed. We have now primary schools doing brilliant work in ICT. We have a number of schools already engaged in the citizenship project. We have a huge number of schools engaged in Co-operation Ireland, mainly because Co-operation Ireland has money which, as you know, came in from the Ireland Fund. We have a huge number of schools engaged with enterprise, Industry Matters and Young Enterprise. We have a huge number of schools involved with Young Scientist of the Year, with investors, running portfolios making shrewd moves on the stock market. We have our linguists, our artists, our musicians and our athletes. Really teachers are saying "can we take more account of all of this when we are measuring the performance of schools?" Maybe not such narrow targets, but a different view of value added.
Really the challenge for us in assessment terms and we think this is the biggest challenge, is yes, literacy and numeracy will continue to be vital, no one will take their eyes off that important goal, but also we need greater breadth, we need the skills as well as the knowledge, we need vocational alongside academic, and valuing vocational perhaps more highly than academic. The big issue is that those things will improve the motivation, they will reduce the underachievement (because there is no doubt that youngsters are turning off) they will develop the skills base and they will provide ICT and enterprise. We know what the challenges are and we hope next time around we will be coming back giving you some of the solutions on that. I will hand over to Gavin to give you the strategic messages.
Mr Boyd: I am conscious that time is marching on. What I will seek to do is draw out one or two of the key strategic issues as we see them. You have already heard the comment that this is the first time that we have had the opportunity to truly have a Northern Ireland Curriculum. One that meets the needs of our young people, our society and our economy. There was reference to a Northern Ireland Curriculum before but it was tinkering around the edges. This is, I suppose, one of the real challenges of devolution. Now we have the authority, the power, the capability and responsibility to deal with these sorts of issues. It is vitally important for us.
It leads onto a number of challenges. Clearly the primary challenge for us as an organisation is to develop a new curriculum and assessment framework. It is up to us to lead the debate if you like. I would make the point however, that it is not our curriculum, it is not the CCEA's curriculum, we are talking about the Northern Ireland Curriculum and we are consulting as widely as we can. It is our job to lead the debate, inform where we can, and to listen very carefully to what we are being told.
It is only going to work in the context of a Strategic Education Policy and it is actually going only to be truly meaningful in the context as well of a Strategic Economic Policy.
We talk about the strategic approach to education policy; teachers are telling us very strongly at every meeting we are going to, that they are fed up with initiative after initiative after initiative, and if the Northern Ireland Curriculum is simply seen as another new initiative it will not succeed, and it will not because teachers will not believe it. They will wait for the next initiative to come along.
I think it was two weeks ago, driving home from the office every night, I heard of three new initiatives coming out of the DFEE in London in the course of one week. Our teachers are saying to us, "we can't live in this kind of environment". What we are saying is 'joined-up education'. It has added meaning for us in Northern Ireland. We have a number of Departments who are involved in this, but the message has got to be that the Department of Education, the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and whoever else is involved, it has to be one strategic policy, clearly thought through, that everyone can buy into. We believe the initiatives are important but they can be best delivered through a curriculum which is coherent and which develops over the course of time.
In that context I welcome a recent initiative by the Department of Education who called together all the Heads of the Education Bodies to specifically talk about strategic policy and development over the next few years.
Implementation is going to be of vital importance as well. It is not just about delivering or creating the curriculum as an academic exercise, we have to have delivery. That is going to require joined-up resources. From our point of view, our job is to develop the curriculum and the support materials.
Developing the support materials, early costs indicate that developing schemes that work for teachers and adequate support materials which they will need, will probably cost about an extra £1 million pounds in each of the next two years. But in terms of training for teachers, that will be delivered by the Education and Library Boards, and in terms of direction for teachers that comes through the Inspectorate.
What we are seeking to create now with those bodies is a partnership approach to make sure that when the day comes that we are delivering the new curriculum, that all the work has been done in advance to make sure it is in place properly.
It is also vital that we recognise the teachers' efforts in all of this. They, after all, are the people who are going to deliver all of this work.
I am not sure that we have adequately recognised the efforts that teachers have made in our community, particularly over the last 30 years. I have referred before to the debt of gratitude I owe to my teachers when I was in school in Belfast in the early 1970s, in difficult times. My teachers worked very hard to make sure it was an oasis of calm and study. I am not sure that has been recognised. I am not sure that the teachers feel all the efforts over the years, particularly in a changing society where the normal basis of society we recognised before is changing rapidly and the work the teachers are doing. I am not sure that they feel that is being recognised.
Mention has been made of the importance of an economic strategy, not perhaps irrelevant to the work of this Committee, but we have linked a lot of what we are doing into the economy and the development of the economy. For that to succeed will require partnership between various departments as well as a strategic vision for Northern Ireland over the next 10 or 15 years.
In summary, our aim is to deliver a curriculum and an assessment framework which will meet the changing needs of the world that we face. The rate of change is going to increase rapidly. The Chairman mentioned that we have kids in school today who will still be in the work force in 2060, none of us can predict what that workplace is going to be like. One thing we can say is it is going to be very different to what we have today.
Our objectives relate to the individual development, to maximise their potential clearly but also to recognise the input they are going to make into society and the input they are going to make into our economy and environment. It is clearly based on the development of skills. It needs to be relevant in personal terms to them. It needs to be relevant in terms of citizenship and employability. Carmel has made the point about assessment; it needs to be relevant to what we are trying to achieve in schools. Let me give an example: I was in Portadown yesterday, talking to post primary heads. They were saying to me that in the Dickson Plan area where they are working, Key Stage 3 assessment, bearing in mind we have taken an English model which works very well over in England, Key Stage 3 assessment is not relevant to the schools they are operating in because by the time they get the results the kids have passed on to another school and are not interested in them any more. It is vitally important that we have good assessment and it has to be relevant to what we are trying to achieve. Change and management of change is clearly very important to us.
The message I guess is that if we want to have good news coming out of our education system, we want to have good news coming from the young people, we are going to have to do it ourselves, nobody else is going to do it for us.
Our objective is to meet the needs of those young people, to help them to develop to be greater members of the society that they are telling us they want to be and to help them prepare to play a full part in the economy.
If I can refer to the time scales, we are currently in the consultation phase of phase one. When we get that consultation completed we will move on to phase two. That will take from September of this year to June of next year. We go out again on full and wide consultation, and then we give ourselves a couple of months at the end of next year to prepare the detailed submission to the Department of Education.
We hope that the new curriculum will be delivered in our schools from September 2002.
Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. We really want your input. We want your comments, we want your criticism, we want you to tell us where we are getting it wrong and we want your questions. I hope that by the time we have worked through this process, we can also depend on your support. We will need your support to make all of this happen.
The Chairman: Can I thank you, Mr Boyd and your colleagues, for your presentation. Before I unleash members of the Committee on you, there are a couple of things that I want to say myself. We accept the presentation and everything that is intended behind it, but what are the resource implications in real terms or has any consideration been given to the costings of this and how it will impact on the current state of education which is, I think generally accepted, underfunded? Have you given any careful study at this point to the additional burdens that it will place on an already over subscribed educational system?
I want to see if any colleague wants to expand on that particular point rather than expand later on it.
Mr Wilson: Chairman, in your document, one of the things that you say on page seven is, "... the nature of the recommendations must bear in mind...". One of the things you say is, "... the constraints of the current time and resourcing in schools". Yet in the rest of the document, with respect, there isn't any mention of that. You did mention, Mr Boyd, something about the preparation of schemes of work but there is a whole pile of recommendations in this, for example, bringing in language at Key Stage 2, developing literacy and numeracy through other subject contexts, developing awareness, economic and business awareness and on pages 17 and 18 I think every educational lobby in Northern Ireland is being catered for; Education for Sustainable Development, Education for Democratic Citizenship. I will not repeat them all. All of that is bound to have resource implications in terms of materials for schools, in terms of training for teachers, in terms of maybe even some of the physical infrastructures in schools.
Is there any idea of what all of that is going to cost? You mentioned schemes of work, that was all.
Mr Boyd: Chairman, first of all I say that, as a matter of principle, it is clear that what we cannot do as part of this process is further burden teachers. They are saying to us quite clearly, we have got a lot of work on our plates just as it is. Our job in the process is vitally important; to make sure the teachers are properly prepared and fully supported.
In relation to our own remit, it is to provide the support materials that teachers will use. The figure that I have quoted you is the initial view that we have taken of the costs of providing those support materials for all the additional work that we envisage and we are talking about £1 million pounds in addition to our normal costs in each year of the next two years. As we work towards that, there is likely to be a bigger cost involved in the training of teachers which is normally carried out by the tasked services of the Education and Library Boards. What we are currently doing with them is trying to set up a strategic approach. We have been encouraged by the response from the Boards, they are saying we will buy into this, it looks like good stuff. We would like to do our bit in preparing the training material, preparing the training for teachers as well, in general terms supported by the Department. Our approach will be a partnership approach with the Boards over the next two years to ensure that training is in place.
We don't have access to the costs of that. We have taken a very quick look at it and I would hate to second guess the Boards, but we are putting rough figures on it. We probably are looking at something like £3 million pounds in terms of teacher training costs again in each of the next two years. I suspect, but that has to come with a very heavy caveat, we are not the experts, we are not the people who do the training, we are not the people who have access to the costs.
If I can make one final point, we hope that we can work with the Boards to make sure that as much as possible of the existing resources are used in the development of the new curriculum.
Mr Robinson: You said that teacher training is very worthy. Having been put through teacher training as several around this table have been, it creates a massive disruption in a school and ongoing disruption in a school. Quite frankly the quality is of dubious control quality shall we say.
The reality that we are faced with, and we have met with teachers too and indeed we have met with principal teachers, this does not match up to your aspirations, I have to say that to you. They are desperately trying to survive economically within their schools; they are losing the staff that you expect to deliver this curriculum. Those are their priorities rather than curriculum review, making sure that their schools can stay afloat. Unless we start to address that fundamental problem I fear that this curriculum review is going to go the way the previous one went when it is patently obvious to everyone, that it is not working only then does the elastoplast come out. How do we address that problem?
The Chairman: How do we avoid that, Mr Boyd?
Mr Boyd: Can I make the suggestion to you; first of all I am very struck by the number of teachers that I have talked to over the last few months who I can sympathise totally with. Yes, it is a struggle and head teachers explained to me how they balance their budgets. Recently one explained to me that they have taken their first cut in next year's, on a £4 million budget because he had a surplus of £117. He thought that was a fantastic result, he had a deficit of £25,000 the year before. I would say to you, and I am sorry to go back to the term "strategic", the approach we need to take is a strategic approach. Alan Lennon made comment to the additional jobs that we are seeking to create in our economy over the next 10 to 15 years, it is not an option for us simply to stand back and do nothing.
One of the things that is driving our economy is the loss of traditional jobs that we have enjoyed. If we don't have the skilled sense to take on the new jobs, the new economy, it will pass us by.
I totally sympathise with what you are saying but quite honestly I feel we are going to have take a hard view of this as Northern Ireland PLC, where are we going to make the investment? I think you will forgive us for saying as a Curriculum Council it is our job to lead the debate, formulate the debate and guide people.
The Chairman: And get someone else to pay for it then.
Mr Boyd: Thank you, Mr Chairman.
Mr Wilson: If I can just come more to the philosophy behind all of this now and then some of the implications of it. The one thing that you have mentioned is that literacy and numeracy must remain vital to any educational system. I think most of us who are involved in the teaching profession know that the youngsters who get turned off are the ones who leave primary school without being able to read, write and count. The teachers bear this out as well. On page 24, it is pointed out that both at Key Stage 1 and 2, teachers are saying that they believe that there is insufficient time for the development of literacy and numeracy and yet the recommendations are that you spend less formal time doing that and it be done through -- there is a compelling case for enhanced use of music, artistic expression in early years et cetera, literacy and numeracy be done through a cross curricular, I don't think that is the term you used, using other subjects in the context for developing literacy and numeracy. Given the fact of cross-curricular themes, the old changes you admit in this document have been a disaster, and many of the youngsters didn't even know about these cross-curricular themes. Are you really suggesting that it is going to improve the education system by downgrading what teachers say there is insufficient time for and putting it into a context which you already admit for other things like economic awareness et cetera, have been a failure?
Mr Boyd: I would like to direct this question to Mr Walker.
Mr Walker: It is not our intention to make numeracy and literacy into cross-curricular themes. There are quite a number of issues here. In the early years of education we are suggesting a new approach to the curriculum. We are working with the Belfast Board in a pilot project in which we would be taking very careful attention of research done across Europe in terms of the right time to introduce children to formal education in literacy and numeracy. It may be that in the very early stages we spend less time with children, perhaps in the first year of statutory education in terms of formal education and literacy and numeracy, but our intention also is that, through proposals we have put forward, we would be slimming down aspects of the primary curriculum. The aspects perhaps concerned with science, history, geography and other areas which would enable more time to be spent on formal education on literacy and numeracy during later years in primary schools. We are not suggesting it should be less, we are suggesting that we must make certain that when children complete their primary school education they are fully literate and numerate. We are also suggesting that we should maximise the opportunities in the work that they do in other areas of the curriculum to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.
Mrs Bell: Two things following on from that as regards literacy and numeracy; one of the big problems in all our schools is difficult pupils, truancy et cetera, simply because the curriculum is not attractive to them. Are you saying that you are going to address these problems partially with this new curriculum?
Can I also ask you, again it is very important and certainly it is one of my interests, that nursery and pre-school education are very important in this whole idea but there doesn't seem to be anything in this. Can you give me some idea where that lies within your view?
Ms Gallagher: We agree a great deal with what Alastair was saying about the early years, the significance of the early years and the significance of nursery and the proper link up between it and formal education. There is very compelling evidence, I have just left a copy for your work on underachievement, to suggest that actually we may be creating a number of our literacy and numeracy problems by the wrong approach following on from nursery into formal education.
Alastair was saying there is an exciting project being developed in the Shankill area. The Shankill schools themselves decided on the 'Early Years Project'. The Early Years advisers are terribly excited by it. What we are getting now for the first time is the link up between what psychologists know, what the neurological brain researchers know and what the nursery teachers know, and what formal education should be doing. I think if we tackle that problem very well at the beginning we will have children who are not failing at six.
That is our concern, failure is beginning much earlier because youngsters feel that they are being pushed too hard too soon. To tackle the issues early, but equally, I know Mr Wilson is concerned about cross curricularity in all of this, the research indicates that youngsters need this start, they also need a tremendous amount of physical activity, they need a lot of music, they need a lot of art and drama to develop and maintain all of their interests. If you give them the creativity and innovation, we are building their literacy and numeracy as well. What we will be trying to do is slim down maybe other things, content based, such as history and geography and the over-emphasis on science too early.
The teachers, the primary teachers are extremely happy with what is being proposed.
The Chairman: One school principal who came to me after one of your earlier presentations sort of wondered how many hours in the day children would actually be allowed to stay in school because of the amount of extra work that appeared to be coming in as a result of the proposals. So I think there seems to be an issue there that many of the teachers are concerned that there is an overburdening or potential for overburdening that is the point. I want to move on to another aspect, Mr Robinson?
Mr Robinson: Yes, it really refers back to the role of the teacher again Chairman. Looking at some of the papers that we were presented with where you were updating your consultation process. There was for instance I think 41 completed questionnaires, 34 from schools, 15 from primary schools. How many of these questionnaires have you been sending out? Has every school been circularised and is that the sum total of response?
Ms Gallagher: You will find that people don't bring them in until near the end, we are being flooded at the moment. The response of schools concerns us, it is a bad time, there is no good time to consult. This is a particularly bad time, people are very tired. We have extended the consultation date into September to allow schools at the end of August when there are Baker days, to discuss it as whole staffs and indeed as we were making the point earlier on, it is ongoing consultation regardless of when responses come in. It will be considered because it is a longer term process.
Although the written responses are now mounting up, we are well into the hundreds now, but it is quite a few thousand people we have talked to in addition to these written responses.
Mr Robinson: Sorry if I can interject. I know time is of the essence today but reading that document I think at this point in time, you have still failed to convince the teachers that this thing is doable and that concerns me. They want to do it, they want changes and so forth, they have been through some bitter experiences, I think you have got to clear that debris away before you get a firm foundation for what you intend to do. What you intend to do is very sound but you are building on a very poor foundation. If I can flag that up.
Ms Gallagher: We are aware of that.
The Chairman: Mr Fee?
Mr Fee: Yes, my point is very similar, it is this question of achieving the actual Northern Ireland Curriculum. You could do all the research and be world ground breaking in your research, and it is still doesn't do any good unless it can be delivered in our classrooms.
It strikes me that there is a very fatigued community of teachers out there and they simply will not be able to deliver your wonderful scheme unless they get some relief from the pressure that they have at the minute, and an enormous amount of support. My question is, when you talk about a strategic approach to education, teachers will look at this new curriculum in the context of the fact that for instance, the selection procedure will change in the next two years. That there will be changes to local management of budgets and funds. They are all crying out for a change to school league tables and assessment procedures and I think politically there is a great will to put that whole area right. Teachers will be looking at this in the round of all the changes that are going to happen. Have you thought through how your new curriculum fits in to the changing world of education?
The Chairman: That is a very important point.
Did Mr Gallagher want to develop that or is it something else?
Mr T Gallagher: I think it is relevant. The point has been well made about the problems with the amount of work that has been off-loaded to teachers, particularly over the last ten years. I know that CCEA are well aware of that.
I think we have to bear in mind what Mr Boyd said, that doing nothing is not an option, and I think you know that will be accepted by professionals out there as well. Because of what is contained in this paper, I think it is a very sound document, there is no doubt the emphasis on the individual is going to be very important. We know that we all change, society has changed and in the years ahead there is going to be more and more emphasis on individualism and on how an individual fits into society, both in the workplace and in the community, and the skills and values that are needed to prepare them to play a full part in those settings. Of course the economy, and the environment are issues we have to prepare young people to cope with in the future.
I believe that some of what is contained here can be implemented fairly easily and at no great cost. I think we have to understand some of it certainly can. I am thinking about, for example, how political and environmental education can fit in very easily into much of what is going on and indeed some of what is compulsory at the present time in our schools.
I believe as we move on, what I would like to ask you, is it possible to classify some of what you are proposing into those categories that can fit in fairly easily and fairly trouble free, including costs and teacher problems, and then look at the more difficult aspects of it? We all recognise that we have to face up to those but if they are identified in the next stage that would be helpful.
The Chairman: A couple of important issues there bearing in mind the comments of Ken Robinson and John Fee as well and if you could incorporate all that in a concise way.
Mr Lennon: I wonder if I might respond to that? We have talked about outcomes largely today and the points that have been made about the process of change are vitally important. We have been seeking to learn the lessons of the past and the lessons in the past are to do with ad hoc introductions of change. They are to do with maybe not enough attention being paid to managing the process of change. We are very concerned about that. What is certain is that we can't do that ourselves. There are a number of parties, a number of partners involved in this. There is ourselves, the Education and Library Boards, the schools themselves and so on.
I accept the point that has been made, the concerns that have been raised that the process of managing change is almost as important and maybe more important in a sense as the change itself because how that is done will affect the outcome and will affect people buying into it. We are well aware of it and our intention will be that within our own organisation we will have a high level project team and we will set up a steering group with other parties for this change process and we will try to ensure that some of the lessons of the past, whether it be to do with funding, training, project management, project planning and so on are learned.
I can't guarantee that it will be an entirely successful change programme, there are always difficulties, but we are very well aware of that as a major issue going for them.
Mr McElduff: Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an fhoireann go dtí an chruinniú seo agus ba mhaith liom cúpla cheist a chur ar an ábhar seo. My question is quite specific, broad themes are being raised. My question is specific in the sense I want to know what rationale is used to determine whether a particular GCE A level is removed from the curriculum. It is based on a serious concern about History of Art as opposed to art and design, historical and critical studies that was proposed was removed from the curriculum. My understanding is that it was reinstated because there was a shock in the creative arts world. I am a member of the CAL committee as well and I think your call for joined-up education points this up very much.
Mr Lennon: Maybe I could just give an answer to that and my colleagues can come in behind.
I think in deciding whether or not a particular A level was to be made available by CCEA, we take account of a number of things; one is was it available from elsewhere? The second would be the level of demand here and the costs involved in doing that. It would be extremely unlikely in my view, that if there was a demand for a topic that we would not ensure that it was fulfilled whether it be from our own Board or elsewhere from throughout the United Kingdom.
It is true to say, and my colleagues can comment further, that we took a serious look at some A level programmes recently where costs were high and the numbers low. We took a view that we would not offer those. The feedback to that has been such that we have changed our position and I freely admit that. A number of people said, no, we want to do that, so we have reversed that, put those back in place.
Mr McElduff: I welcome the change of heart in respect of that particular A level, the reason being that I think it is very relevant. Relevance is another theme which is highlighted throughout your document which I think we should be very conscious of, the need to foster creativity, the capacity to think critically. If you look at Irish artists from North and South there is a local section on the A level now on Irish painting and sculpture, 1900 to the present, Queen's University has forward planned for a full-time History of Art type degree. I think it is something we should be proud of as a people, North and South, as our artists who are receiving great international acclaim and I welcome the change of heart. It is not always about economics. There is more to this than economics.
The Chairman: We want to keep the questions flowing. That is a well made point.
Mr Gibson: Ten or twelve days ago, the Deputy First Minister made a statement which indicated very clearly when announcing a number of new hi-tech jobs for East Belfast, that he was dissatisfied. In fact he could have almost indicated that the existing schools and education were not meeting the demands of modern society. I would like you to make a comment on that. I thought he was enunciating something which was maybe a general feeling or community reflection. I want to ask you a couple of maybe rather blunt questions: First of all, you are talking about a Northern Ireland Curriculum, is that a reality in a global age, in a global economy, is that under the name of education for the 21st century?
You talk about the amount of consultation and to me, yes, you have to describe it, and it is a descriptive operation in reality. You give this here to meet a curriculum, it would have some volume of information. So I am asking where is the vision behind this? What is the philosophy behind this? This is at best an academic wish list which if you really ask the people, if you really asked a businessman what he really wants, it is somebody with skills and the interpersonal skills. I am saying to you that in a new technological age where you are working in an animated society, that interpersonal skills are going to be paramount to ability. I can't see that creeping through the whole thing.
The Chairman: I think it would be important if we could at least give them the opportunity to address those. That is heavy stuff.
Mr Gibson: If I can add one on to that, teachers, we are talking about those who deliver, we are talking about what is to be delivered, so what I am getting is Europe needs one million and half jobs to keep the work force stability, I am not worried about 70,000 in Northern Ireland. If we are living in a federal system, how does a new renaissance, a new curriculum fit a global society rather than be parochial?
Mr Lennon: I will try to be brief. I should say that my paid job, I am Chairman of this organisation one day a week, my other paid job is Managing Director of a company in Bangor. My colleague to my left, his previous job was Managing Director of a company, so each of us personally is very well aware of the sort of economic and business issues. I think it is true to say and the comment that you referred to, by and large the evidence is that the education system does not meet the skill needs of the economy going forward. There is something like 1.7 million IT vacancies throughout Europe projected by the end of the year 2002. There are massive problems in Northern Ireland at the minute in IT. If I take my favourite statistics, of all of the GNVQ programmes that were undertaken last year, 80% of them are in business studies, something like 2.7% in IT and 1.5% in engineering. So the mix of what we are doing in education needs to be addressed. We are doing plenty of educating, I am not sure that all of it is for the right thing.
Is there such a thing as a Northern Ireland Curriculum? Clearly what will determine how local the curriculum can be is the general marketplace because when people leave here they leave here to go to jobs elsewhere and therefore there has got to be common currency. Having said all that, there are many opportunities for us to do better in curriculum terms than people do elsewhere. It may be local in terms of Northern Ireland needs but it may also be local because it is just a better curriculum. It has to be common currency, because we cannot be totally parochial and I would accept that.
The key skills that you referred to I have to say are not an academic wish list. That is again from my own experience working for ten years in ICI, those sorts of skills and behaviours and competencies are well researched, and that research says that people who engage in these behaviours are more likely to be successful in their own lives and the world of work. This is not an academic wish list, it is a great aspiration and I realise the difficulty in achieving it. It is not an ivory tower wish list.
The Chairman: Does anyone want to address the original point about Mr Mallon's statement that seemed to indicate that the current system was failing us? Would you care to admit responsibility for that?
Mr Lennon: I think the problem with managing change is there is an element of accepting that there is a need for change. We have a responsibility, all of us, whether we are business people, politicians, CCEA, general citizens, I think all of us have to recognise that perhaps our view of education has been overly academic, has been produce or push, has been slightly insular and self-referential rather than looking more outwards. We have to recognise and accept that.
Mr Benson: Can I come in on that? You mentioned earlier preparing young people for employment, provision of skills and you also mentioned about the dip at 14, particularly in Secondary. Could I say that one of the areas that seems to be completely downgraded over the last number of years in Secondary and certainly in Further and Higher Education that is young people who don't want to be academics but who want to earn their living for instance as joiners, engineers and all that. There seems to be a complete downgrading there. Are we going to get back again to giving these people at 14, not allowing them to turn themselves off for two years but to let them get in and learn the skills where they can go out to some of the big builders and become a joiner or go to Shorts or into some large garage to be motor mechanics. That area seems to be lost. Those young people should be given the opportunity to be prepared in those fields. I think you would have less turning off with that.
I ask the question, is something going to be done to bring that back again, particularly on into Further Education? After all they started off as technical schools, they have got their nice new titles of Further and Higher Institutes. They have lost where they started from.
Mr Walker: That is an important point. One of the themes that we have pointed to in the Curriculum Review is encouraging work related education. We have been in discussions with the Department of Education over the last number of months indeed about a scheme which has begun this year where the Department of Education has enabled schools to dis-apply aspects of the Key Stage 4 curriculum for 14 to 16 year olds, for young people to spend additional time in work related education, perhaps on Link schemes with Colleges of Further Education, doing sample courses relating to specific occupations in the way you have described. We gather that schools have submitted about 20 schemes just in this year and the scheme will be running for a further year. There will probably be a great many more schemes submitted for September 2001 and we will be talking to those schools, looking at the schemes and helping in the evaluation.
We will be using that information within the Curriculum Review in order to build up that aspect particularly of the Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 curriculum, which is work related and which does produce people leaving schools, those who chose to leave at 16, who are ready to move into the workplace along with further training.
Mr McHugh: I would like to say we do welcome your aims and objectives in the review. I think that a key question is trying to marry the three points that you have there, delivering someone as an individual, as a contributor to society and contributor to the economy. That is difficult to do and I will just ask you, you have all that down as aims and particularly objectives, some people have called it a wish list, but if there are objectives there, can you deliver what is there?
In relation to the economic development, if you look back to the last curriculum, I think people were bogged down with the amount of work they had to do as teachers, there was too much paperwork. There are lot of parts of the curriculum, a lot of history which was debatable on how much benefit it would be to anyone, and particularly if they get into the hi-tech side, schools were not geared up in terms of the equipment to actually deliver the high tech side for the industry and the industry is demanding it.
The other question is, should the private sector, be it big business, be doing something to lay out the equipment side, the training side maybe themselves? They have demanded this from us for so long, while in many parts especially the outer rural areas they have not been prepared to go there with their industry. In particular, who is going to share the enormous cost of actually delivering it?
A lot of time has been spent trying to get people geared up for certain levels and for scaling ICT and so on. It was very small amounts, it was very, very low levels and low inputs in terms of money that is going to be needed to deliver what you have here in the curriculum.
I have to say that the objectives, what is in there to deliver the person as a whole, is necessary because youngsters have been leaving school for years quite well skilled in many ways but unable to actually be world wise in their own personal development. The fact from here on in you are never going to see the situation where you have a job for life, you are going to have change all of your life and that is something that everybody has to face and teachers like a lot of us in industry, have a difficulty and reluctance to face the change. I am afraid it probably has to come.
Ms Gallagher: Can I answer the first part in terms of trying to set the stall out. It may look extremely comprehensive and challenging, but I think I take Mr Gallagher's point, that already a lot of it is there. What we are trying to do was rationalise it and make it clear, set it out clearly, not hide it in ring binders under loads of words. The curriculum framework fits on to one page, admittedly an A3 page in small type, but the idea is again coming back to Oliver Gibson's point, we are only in the first phase. We were trying to get a framework clear; is this what we want? The idea is not to ask the teachers to analyse that and deliver it.
In phase two, we will then map these things through the subjects. We are already doing that. We already know that a lot of it is done, that kind of page that you have opened, individual, society, economy and environment, is not new to teachers. They are quite comfortable with a great deal of it. You are not asking all teachers to do all of it. You are asking when you put the jigsaw together it can all be responded to in some way.
When you write the curriculum documents, I am struck by Mr Wilson's having gone through and looked at all the lobbies and whatever, of course we as advisors have to look at the big picture and we have to see all of these agendas as relevant. How do we make these agendas appropriate, and how can we deliver them in a way that teachers can handle? The message is evolution not revolution. The message is slimming down not adding. The message is delivering the teachers, the schemes of work that will give them that next level of insight that will save them having to translate and many of them absolutely welcome it.
I have to reiterate, the teachers welcome it. The issue they are saying is, initiative overload and assessment. They like what is being suggested in terms of the curriculum.
The Chairman: We are approaching the end of our time but I am going to ask for a couple of quick questions because members have indicated, a couple of quick contributions if we can keep them short and concise and likewise the answers;
Mr Gibson, Mr McElduff, Mr Wilson and then myself.
Mr Gibson: One point, I noticed that 'Strategy 2010' you had in one of the quotes, but I thought the world of business which was always a great group of educators, they provided much more education than probably schools ever did in reality. They have escaped; they are amiss in this curriculum somewhere or other. That is number one.
The next one, if we take education, life long learning, where does the Curriculum Review fit into that? What is it we are trying to achieve? I am not being scathing of age 15, very far from it, I am too well aware in private life unless you have those skills you are a loser. But we recognise in education that 20% don't make it in numeracy and literacy. I don't know how many people don't succeed in business either because they are fired, change jobs or whatever; there is no public record. Education is devoid, a loose term, unless it is part of the activity of society.
Mr Lennon: First of all, I agree with what Mr Gibson said. I did O levels, A levels, a degree and a Phd and I think my education only started when I got into the world of work. I have a lot of empathy with the point that he is making. If business and the world of work doesn't seem to be well represented in the feedback, that is not the case and will not be the case going forward.
Just to re-emphasise, we are at a stage in the process, we have surveyed a lot of people within the education system. We will ensure that this review is widely based, naturally people within the system tend to have their say and it is more difficult to get more people outside the system to contribute to a review. We will work hard to do it and given my particular background that is a particular interest for me.
Mr McElduff: My point is this, and it is somewhere between Mr Gibson's point about the global economy and the education curriculum and the local. What influence has the new political dispensation post Good Friday Agreement, had on devising the curriculum in respect of this whole emphasis on citizenship and 80% interest on the level of pupils in politics? Previously there was a fear of politics but what influence has the new political dispensation which we are here today as a result of, had on the curriculum?
Mr Walker: It is difficult perhaps to point to particular spots on the page where you can trace the political change that is being reflected in the words, but we have been conscious of the process that we have been involved in over the last couple of years, that the development of devolution within Northern Ireland provides an opportunity to re-think things at a level perhaps that we wouldn't have had an opportunity to do in the previous dispensation and we hope that what we are presenting here is a fundamental review that allows us to think through these issues instead of being handed a model from the situation in England where we would simply tinker with the little bits around the edges which is what happened in the early part of the 1990s. We are providing an opportunity to re-think from the ground up which reflects the current situation.
Mr Boyd: Can I make one further comment? If we are looking at the philosophy behind this, part of the philosophy is we have the opportunity to develop our systems here. Because we have the opportunity we have all the ability in the world, we have all the ability that we need to develop a world class education system. There is no intrinsic or inherent reason why we can't develop that. We have got the opportunity and we have got the skills and our objective is to provide a framework where we can develop that.
Mrs Bell: Just quickly. I want to endorse passionately what Mr Benson said about vocational training. You said one of your problems is trying to energise or motivate 14 to 16 year olds. Part of the reason that is not happening is exactly what Mr Benson has said. I would like that to be taken on board.
The other thing as regards consultation, nowhere have I seen, I haven't studied in-depth, but consultation with the parents. I am sure it has been done at some stage, even however informal, but also the Board of Governors who have had a lot more duty given to them in the last number of years. Again there are two groups of people who will be able to tell you about the problems of 14 to 16 year olds and how we can deal with them.
Mr Lennon: We would endorse all those comments.
The Chairman: Keen that we are now beginning to draw to a conclusion. Mr Wilson.
Mr Wilson: Mr Chairman, just coming back, I have a worry about all of this, a niggling doubt in the back of my mind. I have spent the last 23 years of my life trying to make education enjoyable for youngsters, also relevant and hopefully help them to gain some skills and all of those objectives are laudable. But coming through a number of the comments in the presentation, was this kind of view when children focus on academic ability and everything else, they lose sight of -- I can't remember who it was that mentioned children age 11 were interested in what was going on around them but as they got more involved in the academic work they lost that. They had no interest at all by 14. It worries me that maybe there is a kind of anti-academic bias in all of this, a move towards maybe even the kind of child centred learning of the 1960s, which I don't think serviced any of that generation, and moving towards, I am caricaturing it here, singing and dancing at Key Stage 1, talking politics and talking to trees in Key Stage 3 and 4.
There is always a danger that when you caricature things people can attack that, but I hope that the movement towards training people in skills is not going to lead so much to a slimming down as to a dumbing down of the whole curriculum. I think whilst sometimes academic achievement is criticised and I noticed what the Chairman said about that - He did his A levels and O levels, a degree and a masters, and he got education after that - I think sometimes it is the done thing now to do down academic achievement. Academic achievement enables people to get a lot of skills which are valuable to them in later life. My worry about this, less formal time on literacy and numeracy, the kind of emphasis more on social skills, is that we will finish with a curriculum which is dumbed down rather than just slimmed down.
Mr Lennon: Could I respond to that? We absolutely will not, to use your phrase, "dumb down" anything. As a Board we believe that we have got some of the highest standards in the United Kingdom in terms of rigour but the word "relevance" remains important.
Let us leave aside the vocational stuff, if you spent the next 10 years focusing on vocational education, we maybe still wouldn't have addressed the balance that exists in terms of parity of esteem on both sides of the system.
Even focusing within the academic, we all know very well there is a widespread view that focusing on 3 A levels at the age of 16 to 18, is narrowing down the focus too soon for most people. The International Baccalaureate is broader. What we are attempting to do in the United Kingdom as a whole is to introduce A/S levels, half an A level, in order that people will take A levels in a science area for example and take an A/S in a language so that you could describe all of that as highly academic. Yet we are talking about broadening people so that this choice that kids have at the age of 16 will not be separating the scientific sheep from the arts goats. It is really not helpful for them nor for their opportunities in the world of work and I guess what I would need in business would be a marketing person who can count. I would need engineers who could communicate as well as count. So we are really looking for more breadth.
It is not a zero sum game. We need to see changes within the so-called academic, massive changes within the so called vocational, we are looking at the ability to pick and mix. We are looking for people to go forward to university with 3 A levels, some A/Ss, GNVQs and some sort of qualification in key skills so that when they turn up for their exam to get into Cambridge, as well as having the nine A stars in GCSE, they actually can demonstrate some of the things that the University is looking for.
The Chairman: I am going to conclude our discussion. It has been extremely useful and I have allowed it to run on you will be glad or sorry to know. Some people might make the allegation that this is all a means of achieving security for CCEA itself, and that by concentrating on a Northern Ireland Curriculum then you are going to reduce the scope that many schools have already to use other examining boards. So is it a sort of grandiose plan to keep yourselves in a job?
Mr Lennon: Can I just put it this way, Mr Chairman, I think there are many things that we have been in a sense forced to do because we are part of a centralised system where, for example, we have made recommendations in the past, we have been out-voted, we have got a national system of education, there are things and I wouldn't like to give anybody the impression that we are going to have a hugely different system. It has to be international currency that we are talking about in terms of qualifications, but we do have the ability to do things better. We do have the ability for example to develop GNVQs here that might be higher quality than GNVQs that already exist. They might be broader in terms of choice. So I don't want anybody to get the impression that we are trying to make this parochial, all we are trying to do is have the freedom to do it better when we can and not be constrained by other views that might be slightly different.
The Chairman: I sense Mr Boyd was bursting to say something.
Mr Boyd: Only that in my three to four months I have been Chief Executive, nobody has mentioned security and CCEA in the same phrase before.
The Chairman: If I can express thanks on behalf of the Committee and on behalf of the members to yourselves for coming and giving an excellent presentation. I think it has been a useful thing and I think it is something that we will want to continue at an appropriate stage. Thank you very much. This brings to an end the open session of the Education Committee. Thank you very much indeed.
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