The Dickson Plan

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The Dickson Plan

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Review of "The Dickson Plan"

published 16/09/2004 | mark1961
Member since : 11/08/2004
Reviews : 41
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Pro No transfer at 11+
Cons None
very helpful

"Why do we need Grammar schools?"

The Dickson Plan - The History

In Northern Ireland there is a region called Craigavon which incorporates the towns of Lurgan and Portadown and all the area in-between. Within this area the Secondary School education is different to the rest of the UK, and is made up of three parts

1. Primary School,
2. Junior High School and
3. Senior High School.

This system is known as the Dickson Plan for Secondary education. This system began its roots in 1969 and has been one of the most successful types of secondary education, in the Province and one of the least known, in the UK.

In Northern Ireland there is still the obsession with selection at 11+ and pupils are pressurised into taking the ‘transfer test.’ The transfer test separates pupils at 11 and labels them as successful (and they go to a grammar school) or a failure (and they go to a secondary school). The actual timing of the tests are in November of the Primary 7 year and a lot the children are still only 10 years old. Thus putting the older pupils who are 11 at advantage. When the pupils are finished their transfer tests until the end of June the next year they are not motivated to do work as they realise there is no need because whatever they do it can’t change the results of the transfer test. (This is not the fault of the pupils, as it is only human nature. It is the fault of the system, which allows this to happen). This make life very difficult for the teacher who has to deal with this class and try to keep them motivated throughout the rest of the year.

This is an unfair system for a number of reasons:

1. It puts pressure on the pupils at an early age to complete a very subjective test, which will label them.
2. The parents in some case pay for extra tuition for their children to enable them successfully complete the test. The reason for this is that some people’s perception of the Secondary system is one, which is poor and does not offer their child a good high standard of education. This is BS as all Secondary school give all pupils as good an education as the pupils ability would suggest.
3. A number of pupils get very good at the tests and well succeed in getting the top grade, but when they go to the Grammar school they suffer academically and could drop out of the system. This is failing them and not allowing a pupil a place in the school. In the days of leagues tables Grammar schools inevitably concentrate their work on the examination classes and the junior school pupils loose out.

To sum it up quickly the system fails
1 – THE PUPILS, as they need to set test at 10, or 11 and the results are used for selection
2 - THE TEACHERS, as they need to concentrate their work in Primary 6 and at the beginning of Primary 7 on the transfer test. This has a number of disadvantages, mainly being that not all pupils are suited to taking this transfer and school life can be difficult for them at this early age and could lead to behavioural problems.
3 – THE PARENTS – as they suffer the stress of putting their children through the test and perhaps paying for extra lessons. Can you imagine the pain a parent goes through the morning of the results when their child does not get going to the same school as their best friend whom they have known from Primary 1, and,
4 – THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT as they have to administer the system, with marking, assessing and appeals etc.

All in all there are a lot of people put through a lot of unnecessary hardship – FOR WHAT!! - A GRAMMAR SCHOOL EDUCATION – SO WHAT.

The Dickson Plan – How it Works

Stage 1 – Primary School

Pupils enter Primary education at the normal age and continue until it is time to leave at Primary 7. What is different about that? The only thing different is that the pupils transfer at 11+ to a school known as a Junior High School. There is NO transfer test, NO selection on academic ability, nothing, just a straight transfer. In this way the teachers of all years can concentrate so all the pupils all of the time right up to the time they leave the school. This make the teacher’s workload different as they can keep the pupils motivated until the end of the term as they are still accountable to the parents who want and expect the school to keep their children following the National Curriculum.

Stage 2 – The Junior High School

The pupils enter these schools and are not selected. This is similar to the comprehensive system in the rest of the UK. The difference in the comprehensive system and the Junior High school is that the junior school only takes the pupils until they are 14. This gives the teachers the opportunity to concentrate their efforts on the age group, and gives the pupils a very firm grounding in the basics of secondary education.
Throughout the time at this school pupil’s progress is monitored very closely and a clear profile emerges based on the work completed by the pupils. This is something, which can be easily checked by anyone who wants to inspect the schools and the pupil’s progress. In these schools the work is carried and the pupils do not loos out in any way from the curriculum.
At the end of the 3 years the school is better prepared to advise the pupils which would be the best school for them to go to. This is based on the profile built up over the 3 years in the school.

Stage 3 – The Senior High Schools

There are two types of Senior High Schools, one that offers an academic course leading to GCSE’s and A Level and another school, which offers a more vocational type of courses. The vocational school offer link courses to the community and the local collage of further education, thus boarding the pupil’s minds as to which job they would prefers.

The Dickson Plan has many advantages over the selection at 11+. (as described above). True there is also selection in this system but it is at a later date when the pupils are older and are more knowledgeable about their abilities and wants for the future. What selected for the vocational courses the pupils are in smaller classes and given a more intense course leading to a vocational qualification.

Hope this has been of some help to some people.


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Comments on this review

  • ice_pink published 08/09/2006
    Interesting piece of writing on something I previously knew very little about xx
  • muttleythefrog published 15/02/2005
    Interesting stuff Mark, I had never heard of the Dickson Plan. Completely agree with your views about Grammar schools and the selection for them. Well analysed and I think sometime soon we're going to have to come to some long term certainty about the education system and the qualifications. Pete
  • badgirl99 published 05/10/2004
    Sounds like a very good idea. It's terrible that they're put under such pressure at a young age. I really disagree with it. Very well written review. Amy x
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Listed on Ciao since: 16/09/2004