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Grades model not fit for purpose

Many questions remain unanswered about this process

‘Today’s exam results show that the model being used to determine ‘A Level’ grades is clearly not fit for purpose and that the criteria being used to reach these decisions must be published for all to see’ says Party spokesperson Joanne Lowry.

‘ It beggars belief’ , she said, that Education Minister Peter Weir and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) refuse to accept that major mistakes have been made and that these will adversely effect the livelihoods and future prospects of thousands of local pupils’

‘Many questions remain unanswered about this process’, Joanne said.

Did the CCEA or the Minister deliberately limit the number of pupils receiving A and A* grades?

To what extent was a school’s ‘past performance’ a factor in determining pupils’ grades?

Was ‘ past performance’ applied universally across all schools?

Have non-grammar schools been disproportionately effected?

‘As if to add insult to injury we are told that the measures taken were to ensure the integrity of the education system. This is the same education system that still has selection at 11, educates Catholics and Protestant children separately, has separate teacher education colleges and has 52% of non grammar school pupils leaving school with a minimum of five GCSEs’, she said.

Scotland, England and Wales have already reviewed and amended their grading systems. Northern Ireland remains unchanged. Nothing short of full transparency and a recognition of the long term damage caused to a generation of A level and GSCE students can turn this educational fiasco around’, Joanne concluded

Party condemns intimidation

A clear message to vandals and gangsters – “get off our backs and get off our streets”

The Workers Party in West Belfast has condemned the intimidation and threats directed against local Councillor Tina Black because of her condemnation of last Saturday’s rioting in the Distillery Street / Grosvenor area.

What we witnessed last Saturday was a destructive orgy of violence imposed on an already hard pressed working class community by a combination of miscellaneous mavericks and groups whose only contribution to society is to drag it backwards.

Not content with a rampage of community vandalism, these same people are now attempting to physically intimidate anyone who opposes them. It is more important than ever that the community in West Belfast sends a clear message to these vandals and gangsters – “get off our backs and get off our streets”

Anyone with any information about Saturday’s rioting or about threats of intimidation should contact the PSNI, confident that the vast majority of the community supports them.

Grades fiasco a class wake up call

A school’s previous academic record must not feature in the awarding of A level grades

The A Level results fiasco, created by the Minister and the Department of Education, must be resolved immediately, and in an open, transparent manner”, the Workers Party has said.

Party spokesperson Joanne Lowry has called for the previous academic record of a school to be removed from the equation when determining pupils grades.

“If anyone ever doubted the class nature of education then this is a wake up call” she said.

“This represents a blatant and deliberate policy of a leg up for high achieving  schools at the expense of the pupils from more socially disadvantage backgrounds, further compounding the gap between the two” said Joanne.

“It is bad government but also grossly unfair of those students awaiting their results”, she said. “Scotland has already reviewed its decision on the awarding of grades, England has introduced the ‘triple lock’, but the Minister of Education here doggedly refuses to even recognise the problem he has helped to create, or the inequity which it is causing”, said Joanne.

“A school’s previous academic record must not feature in the awarding of A level grades and the minister should state that clearly and immediately”, concluded Joanne

No excuses – no justification

Violence is being imposed on already hard pressed working class communities

The recent rioting, hijackings and attacks on police in Belfast and Derry are completely without justification. They cannot, and must not, be ‘explained’ away by apologists for community vandalism.

What we have been witnessing in the past few days is the dwindling annual ritual of destruction and rampage with neither purpose nor political rationale. It is a self-destructive orgy of violence imposed on already hard pressed working class communities by a combination of local hooligans and sections of the political fringes who seek self-promotion through other people’s misery.

None of these events have anything to do with internment or any other issue. These days and nights of petrol bombs, rioting, wreckage and personal injury are the outworking of miscellaneous mavericks and groups whose only contribution to society is to drag it backwards and justify it with their own invented indignation.

All of those involved, whether they be front line rioters or back line generals, should remember the rioting of April 2019 which resulted in the murder of a young journalist. Even then there were those who sought to justify, explain and rationalise those events.  That must never be repeated.

Hard-pressed working class communities deserve better. Communities beset by poverty and neglect need positive leadership towards genuine progressive political and social change and a better future through the creation of a socialist alternative.

These communities and those young people who live in them need a life free of the parasites who visit destruction, disruption and even death and who sabotage efforts to build the working class movement. There are no excuses for these events – none should be accepted”

Hiroshima 75 years on

Between 230,000 and 280,000 people were killed, most of whom were civilians.

On this day, 75 years ago, one of the great tragedies in human history took place. It was no accident but a deliberate and brutal attack by the U.S. against Japanese civilians.

On 6th August 1945 an atomic bomb was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Three days later, on 9th August 1945 a similar bomb was detonated over Nagasaki.

Long term effects

Between 230,000 and 280,000 people were killed, most of whom were civilians. The long-term effects of the devastation are still being felt. Hiroshima and Nagasaki became haunting monuments of death and destruction and brutally painted the consequences of nuclear war.

Today we remember the many victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and we deplore the abuse of technology in the relentless arms race and the pursuit of imperialist warmongering and aggression.

Arms race continues

Imperialism remains a threat to global peace. Weapons of mass destruction, much more powerful that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now exist. The arms race continues apace, devising ever more dangerous and destructive weapons.

The UK remains a member of NATO which for its entire existence has been a military instrument of imperialism amounting to a permanent threat to the peoples of the world. Ireland, despite its constitutional commitment to neutrality, remains a member of NATO’s so-called “Partnership for Peace” (PfP). The European Union has an ever closer and increasing relationship with NATO.

An end to aggression and interference

The Workers Party calls for an immediate end to weapons of mass destruction and an end to the arms race, an end to imperialist aggression and interference in the affairs of sovereign states and respect for the guiding principles of the World Peace Council. We also demand that the UK leave NATO and that the Republic of Ireland leave PfP.

We pay our respects today to the victims and survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, we extend our solidarity to those throughout the world dedicated to the struggle against nuclear weapons and we recommit ourselves to building a future free from the terror and destruction of imperialist war. 

Nursing vacancies: an emergency, but no accident

Nurses and Midwives were forced to take industrial action to demand safe staffing levels and the awarding of an overdue pay rise.

The chronic shortage of nurses in Northern Ireland, highlighted by the recent Audit Commission Report, is a clear sign of the failure to invest in nurse education, a failure of workforce planning, but, more ominously, an indicator that privatisation of the NHS comes in many forms‘, Party spokesperson Hugh Scullion has said.

‘The lack of registered nurses employed by the NHS has resulted in payments of almost £115 million to private nursing agencies in 2018/19. In addition to the 2,700 current nursing vacancies a further 1600 registered nurses are needed to ensure safe staffing levels for patients’, said Hugh.

‘For the first time in their unions’ histories members of the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives were forced to take industrial action earlier this year to demand safe staffing levels and the awarding of an overdue pay rise’, explained Hugh

‘Ironically, the same local political parties which had repeatedly withheld the pay increase and precipitated the safe staffing levels crisis were clapping for the NHS and lauding local nurses as heroes only a matter of weeks later, he said

Situations like this don’t simply happen – they are made.

‘It is impossible to ignore the fact that between 2011 and 2018 the EU Commission made 63 demands on member governments to cut spending on healthcare and/or outsource or privatise health services.

‘Taken together with successive local cuts to health and social care budgets, to nurse education funding and a reduction in the number of trainee places available and we have the origins and cause of this crisis’ he said

‘The recruitment of at least 2,700 nurses, to fill the vacancies in hospitals, community settings and in GP practices, must now be underpinned by safeguards such as legislation setting out minimum staffing safety levels for the protection of nurses as well as patients.

‘There must also be a public and trade union led campaign to bring pressure to bear to reverse the privatisation of our health and social care services and their surrender to the private profit sector’, Hugh concluded.

Sectarianism: condemnation alone not enough

Sectarianism: condemnation alone is not enough

“Condemnation of sectarianism and sectarian hate crimes is, by itself, not enough to overcome the cancer that blights this society”, Workers Party spokesperson Lily Kerr has said.

Her comments come after  sectarian graffiti was daubed on a house and car in the Kilcoole area of north Belfast.

“Of course we must condemn these kinds of outrages”. Lily said, “but unless we address the underlying factors we are doomed to pass the sectarian gene onto another generation”. 

How can we ignore the fact that our children are the product of a segregated education system, that our system of government is based on the myth of “two communities” and that almost every public and political initiative in Northern Ireland has to be counterbalanced to accommodate  ‘nationalists’ and ‘unionists’ – and then assume that automated condemnation of the inevitable outcomes of that segregation will be sufficient to end it?”, asked Lily.

“Furthermore, these incidents highlight the political hypocrisy of those who condemn on one hand and casually stoke sectarian tensions with the other”. said Lily

“We must never forget that there is a deeply traumatised family at the centre of this latest attack. They need the swift support of all the relevant statutory bodies to meet their immediate needs but most of all they need the unequivocal support of the entire community and the reassurance of a public commitment to remove the frameworks which enable sectarianism as well as the  political parties which peddle in and profit from it”, she said

Anyone with any information about this or any other sectarian incident should report it to the PSNI” Lily concluded

Black Lives mattered in Belfast’s radical past

Commemorating revolutionary ideals

The Workers Party has marked the anniversary of the death of Henry Joy McCracken to highlight the links between today’s Black Lives Matter campaign and the anti-slavery movement in Belfast in the late 1700’s.

Leaflet

Party members handed out leaflets in Belfast’s Cornmarket this afternoon drawing the parallels between the local opposition to the slave trade then, and the struggle to overcome the systematic targeting of black people for discrimination and oppression today. A poem recalling Henry Joy’s life and death, written by veteran Party member Marian Donnelly, was also recited.

The ‘United Irishmen’ of McCracken, Jemmy Hope , Thomas Russell and others were appalled by the practice of slavery. They attacked it in their publications. They applauded the liberation of slaves by French troops.  They expressed their solidarity with the uprising in Barbados in 1795. They organised campaigns against the consumption of tea, rum and sugar as the products of slave labour.  

Mary Ann McCracken, led by example. She refused to eat sugar and even in her later years she could be seen handing out leaflets at Belfast Docks highlighting the evils of slavery and demanding its abolition.

These were radical thinkers and activists who were unquestionably ahead of their time. They recognised the link between social and economic inequality and the demand for political change and,of course for the unity of Catholic Protestant and Dissenter. Today that struggle continues as we strive for a socialist, secular and anti- sectarian society

NHS: not safe in private hands

NHS: not safe in private hands

This weekend saw hundreds of demonstrations marking the 72nd anniversary of the NHS. A few celebrated its past, a number praised its present, but the most significant ones were those that sought to protect its future.

Were it not for the Covid 19 pandemic, and the magnificent way in which health and care staff have risen to the challenge of a generation, there may have been few if any events to mark this NHS birthday.

Wealth not health

Prior to 1948, your health depended on your wealth. The National Insurance Act of 1911 provided only limited access to a GP and covered only those in work – it did not cover their family.

The foundation of the NHS in 1948, and the securing of the principle that health care would be free at the point of use and available to every citizen from the cradle to the grave, was amongst the most significant social developments of the 20th century in Britain and Northern Ireland. These changes were not given freely, they were won by the struggles of the organised working class.

Neither are safe today

Seven decades later neither that principle nor the institution itself are safe from private enterprise and greed, aided and abetted by free market parties at Stormont and Westminster

Only a few months ago, for the first time in its history, the Royal College of Nursing, had to call on its members to take industrial action to secure pay parity and safe working conditions. Sinn Fein, the DUP and the other executive parties had been denying them both demands for years.

For at last ten years the NHS budgets have been slashed by Tories in Westminster and in Stormont. All seems to be forgotten as the very people responsible for the cuts have been falling over themselves to applaud the nurses they refused to pay.

Lucrative profits

With less than  thirty years to its centenary, and in the wake of its response to Coronavirus, neither capitalism, nor the political parties which support and administer it, will be looking at the NHS and saying ” How can we improve this, how can we make it better , or how can we fund it more effectively?”.

Instead they will endeavour to seek ways of privatising and profiting from public and personal health. They are already drafting plans for even further privatisation of health and social care services, selling off the potentially lucrative areas to the private sector much as they have done with the care of the elderly

Circling Vultures

Some will celebrate the NHS while forgetting to look up at the circling vultures. The life changing principles gained  over seventy years ago have transformed our health and wellbeing and have brought significant benefits to the working class. In the coming period we need to be prepared to defend those principles

We can do that by demanding that the state invests in and grows the service, values NHS staff and protects and advances their terms and conditions of employment and supports innovation and research.

We must collectively and forcefully say ‘Hands Off’ to privatisation and profiteers, to the exploitive pharmaceutical companies, the political parties which facilitate them and ultimately to the economic and social system which places wealth above health.

A publicly funded health and social care service designed to deliver quality outcomes is central to a humane and decent society. Only a socialist society can guarantee that – for this and future generations.

School Governors must be held to account

Academic selection reinforces privilege and disadvantage

Members of the Board of Governors of local grammar schools should be asked to explain why they continue to support academic selection at 11 despite it being scrapped by the Assembly in 2008 and universally criticised in report after report.

The call comes from Workers Party spokesperson Joanne Lowry, after six local grammar schools – St. Mary’s CBS, St. Dominic’s, Rathmore, St. Malachy’s, Aquinas, and Dominican College – all announced that they would be going ahead with transfer testing, run by private companies, for next year’s intake of pupils.

“School governors are currently using the Covid 19 crisis as a smokescreen behind which they can talk about welcoming the delay in this year’s tests when the realty is that academic selection at 11 is wrong, it doesn’t work and it results in educational disadvantage, particularly for children from working class families”,  Joanne said.

“Numerous reports and studies by bodies ranging from the United Nations to the recent Iliad Report (Investigating Links in Achievement and Deprivation) – undertaken by experts from Queen’s University and Stranmillis University College in Belfast – repeatedly confirm that academic selection reinforces “privilege and disadvantage” and recommend the end of academic selection in Northern Ireland as a key way to reverse educational disadvantage”.

“Some grammar schools have decided to proceed this year without the use of selection tests because Coronavirus makes sitting the tests unsafe. If testing is not needed this year, it is not needed any year.”

All those opposed to academic selection – parents, teachers, trade unions and others – must reignite this debate and campaign for the complete and final abolition of academic selection at 11 – and an explanation from school governors would be a good place to start“, Joanne concluded

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