Is it time to bin the NI transfer test?

Is it time to bin the NI transfer test?

As most of us heard in recent news, the AQE Transfer test was finally cancelled after various debates and rescheduled times due to COVID-19, which is completely understandable. Although the decision could have been made earlier to inform pupils before they put the hard work and effort into studying for it, I do feel like this could be the start of ‘reimagining’ how we proceed from primary school to secondary. 

It might be worth noting if you are not familiar with the transfer test, it is an optional test used to select pupils by the majority of Northern Irish grammar schools for secondary education. Earlier this year, a number of grammar schools had already said they would not use the test to select pupils this year as of course, it wasn’t exactly fair due to the circumstances. Instead, grammar schools who were planning to use the AQE test will now make alternative arrangements to admit pupils in 2021.

However, like many parents and past pupils, I was outraged when the Education Minister, Peter Weir, tweeted the below following the announcement of the cancelled test:

Is the transfer test outdated?

I am no teacher and I’m sure they know more than me about what is best for children. But to say that cancelling a test which enables 10/11 year olds to attend a grammar school if they do well, ‘severely limits parental choice & children’s opportunities, with disappointment for many children & parents’, is a real kick in the teeth for students who have attended comprehensive schools and achieve just as good, if not better, results throughout their secondary education. I do understand however, that grammar schools may have more subjects to offer children, but if all schools funds were equally weighted, would this be an issue?

Like a lot of things in life, you soon find out that the things you worried about as a child, have no relevance now! As a 10 year old who did sit the transfer test, I was the youngest and only sibling out of 5 who did not attend a grammar school, so you can imagine the disappointment I felt when I didn’t get in and realised I was going to a ‘comprehensive school’ – but this was only because it was portrayed that going to a grammar school was the better option! No 10/11-year-old should feel that amount of pressure and disappointment of not feeling good enough. Their choices should be unlimited at that age – which I soon found out was the case for me. 

As I write this, I am in my final semester studying a course at Ulster University which required 3 A’s to get into and had a capped number of places. I can’t describe how proud I was to get into it and be in the same position as my other siblings, even though I didn’t attend a grammar school. I simply would not be here without the help and knowledge I gained throughout my 7 years of education at my secondary school, and this is the case for so many students across Northern Ireland who have not attended grammar schools. Our universities also deserve credit as they are more than welcoming no matter what school you have come from, which is great to see!

I wish I could tell every Primary 7 student that this ‘test’ does not define their future, nor does the school they attend, and it most certainly does not ‘limit opportunities’ – if this test does anything, it creates self-doubt at such a young age and a stigma. I feel that this highlights these outdated systems do not work in a modern world, and I hope this is the beginning of scrapping the transfer test and developing new ways to give all children an equal chance so that there is no longer a backward stigma. 

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she worked as a digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

Did You Grab A ‘Deal’ In PLT’s 99% off sale?

Did You Grab A ‘Deal’ In PLT’s 99% off sale?

There is no denying that we are all partial to a bargain (as a student this is what I live for) however, with the increased consumption of fast fashion, these cheap clothes deals come at the cost of someone else along the chain of distribution.

Don’t get me wrong, I love online shopping as much as the next person however, recently I have turned away from fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing firstly because I am not a fan of the quality of their clothes and secondly, because I have learned more about the brands themselves. Both brands are owned by billionaire Mahmud Kamani and it goes without saying that the Kamani family deserve a lot of credit for the portfolio of brands they have built extensively since they began in 2006. They have grown in the UK and internationally and are now a platform which serves customers right across the globe, bringing in sales of over £1billion.

Boohoo Labour Exploitation

However, earlier this year it came to light in an undercover report by the Sunday Times that Boohoo factory workers in Leicester were allegedly being paid as little as £3.50 an hour, were forced to work during the Covid-19 lockdown and in poor conditions with little social distancing. As you can imagine, this caused uproar among the media and customers and their share price began to drop as other companies such as Asos, Next and Zalando removed all the brands clothing from their websites. However, Boohoo Group responded by launching an independent review into the supply chain which supposedly found some inaccuracies with the report although there was evidence that showed codes of conduct weren’t being followed.

Paying Pennies for Clothes 

This had a massive impact on Boohoo and their brand portfolio reputation however, it really struck a chord with me when I see on Black Friday that Pretty Little Thing (owned by Boohoo Group) were having a “up to 99% off sale” – sorry what? It was trending across Twitter that the site had basically sold out already with some items of clothing being reduced to as little as 25p (Yep – pennies). It’s not a hidden fact that Black Friday is a race for some companies to see who can offer the best discount, however, when the company has been subject to criticism like earlier in the year, selling clothes for as cheap as 25p doesn’t really paint an ethical picture does it? 

Even though the company is worth billions and can obviously afford to do this, the question still remains “How can they sell clothes at that price?”, it makes you wonder what the human cost of that £1.60 dress is and who within the supply chain has been exploited. In my opinion, I’m not sure who thought having a sale like that was a good idea due to the recent company backlash and also, the current environmental issues as over production and consumption of textiles contributes significantly to waste. 

So what?

The Black Friday situation has taught me a few things; we need to be more aware of where our clothes are coming from – if it’s being sold for a few pounds it’s probably came from a supply chain of exploitation; customers are still driven by fast fashion prices regardless of a company’s bad reputation; and that I would 100% rather pay more for a good quality piece of clothing if it was produced fairly. As well as that, it’s sad to see shops like Topshop, which used to be extremely popular, on the brink of administration as I believe people know they can get the same clothes for a fraction of the price on sites like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing and then opt for the cheaper option. 

Perhaps we can all try (myself included) to make better choices when it comes to shopping online in the new year and perhaps look at different ways to upcycle and re-wear outfits instead of buying a dress under a fiver for the sake of it being that cheap!

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she continues to work as a digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

DRINKING ALCOHOL PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19

Sadly, it’s doesn’t. But the headline caught your eye didn’t it? 

You might have heard the term ‘Fake news’ being thrown around lately, or perhaps from Donald Trump, as it is one of his favourite phrases! Fake news is essentially misinformation that is spread online as real news. I suppose you could say its big news right now as there has been a significant amount of it during this pandemic, however with so much media circulating about COVID-19, how do we know what is true anymore?

According to a survey by Statista (2020), almost 64% of UK respondents came across a false story at least once a day in the space of a week during September. In my opinion, this is absolutely crazy, how is fabricated news allowed to be shared across platforms millions of us use? 

A new study by MIT in 2018 found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social platform Twitter than real news does and not because of any algorithms or technology, it’s all down to users retweeting it and sending it onto their pals. No doubt this has increased over the past two years!  

Spreading inaccurate information online is more dangerous than we think, throughout the pandemic I personally have stumbled across many fake news articles and seen plenty of users sharing it across networks like Facebook. In concerning and tough times like this, reading a headline such as “Coronavirus is a Hoax” (I WISH!!) can have a massive impact on someone’s mental health if they believe this, especially when they are being kept from seeing loved ones and being told to stay inside. 

We have seen the impact fake news has had on political campaigns in America back in 2016, where it has been used and abused to target vulnerable people and influence their political opinions, which is why I feel more needs to be done about how to combat it – If this comes as a surprise to you, I would advise watching The Great Hack on Netflix!

So, what are social media platforms doing about it?

We use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter every day, so surely these big tech companies have a part to play in stopping the spread of false news? Well, they have previously turned a blind eye to the matter however, recently many have been taking action.

Facebook has vowed that they will continue to use fact checkers to review misinformation and then remove the fake news or perhaps sometimes, conspiracy theories. For example, at the start of the year when coronavirus began to spread, Facebook focused on removing false stories surrounding cures and treatment for the virus including “Avoid spicy food to avoid infection”– which was obviously not true. They also blocked certain hashtags on their platform Instagram which were linked to the topic. 

YouTube also took it upon themselves to remove any videos that include misleading information about vaccines and that contradict local health authorities like the NHS or World Health Organisation (WHO). 

And like I mentioned before, fake news has become the centre of previous election campaigns, and recently Twitter banned accounts which had been tweeting spam in relation to Donald Trump, which is against Twitters rules. 

What can WE do?

  1. Do a quick search on Google or Twitter. By doing this you can see if it’s came from a trusted source or if anyone else has questioned it. For any stories regarding COVID-19, only listen to health organisations like the NHS or WHO.
  2. If you’re unsure if a social media post is fake news or not, don’t like, comment or share it – this can increase your chances of seeing more fake news as social media platforms like to show us more of what we interact with. The more engagement a post like this receives, the more likely it’s seen as something relevant. 
  3. If it does in fact turn out to be fake news, report it! You can do this on any social media site, the World Health Organisation has published a great guide on their website which can help you do this.
  4. And lastly, just think before you share! Sometimes it can be hard to resist a click bait headline but try get used to reading trusted sources instead of what Sandra might have shared to her 200 followers (No offence to any Sandra’s out there) …

To sum it up, I think it’s scary to see how fast false information spreads these days and, in my opinion, it’s ruining people’s opinions on real journalism as they jump to believe the false article they just read on Facebook rather than the actual facts. There is definitely more work to be done here by social media platforms to stop the spread of fake news but for now, we can only look out for the warning signs!

Shauna McKillop is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She spent her placement year at The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast, where she continues to work as a junior digital marketing executive. Shauna can be found on: LinkedIn and Twitter.

Placement Panic

 

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It was the first day back to uni and I was into second year of studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Jordanstown. I knew the daunting process of applying for placement awaited me this year however, I did not expect a full debrief from my placement coordinator Conor McGrath on the matter on my first day back (bearing in mind this was first thing in the morning during Freshers week).

I slowly began to realise during this lecture that come summer time I wouldn’t be texting my friends asking to do stuff; I would be working 5 days a week, which I had never done before. However, a tiny part of me was excited and I suddenly felt (kind of) like an adult.

Conor warned us that our email inboxes were going to be bombarded with placement advertisements from him, the majority of them being across the water. This made me feel anxious because there were roughly only 30-40 placements in Northern Ireland and the rest were in England so I didn’t know where my fate lay. I had many questions in my head “Why can’t we be assigned a placement?”, “What if I get rejected or don’t get an offer at all?” And I can guarantee I wasn’t the only one who was or still is, thinking this.

I tried to put the subject of placement to the back of mind – until 20 minutes after I left that classroom and the emails began flooding my phone screen. As John Green said in The Fault in Our Stars, “Like falling asleep: Slowly and then all at once”, this is the only way I can describe the emails.

Building a CV

I knew the competition was going to be fierce so eventually I began preparing my CV. I had barely any experience in Marketing and PR as my last two jobs were in hospitality, what was actually going to set me apart from everyone? From using tools like V Mock (It gave me A LOT of criticism which I was glad of) to reading a blog by Orlagh Shanks (a PR student at Liverpool John Moores University), I tried to make my CV sound and look the best it could be.

Applying 

Conor reinforced to only apply to placements that sparked interest. I wasn’t going to apply for a placement at BMW – what did I know about cars? I wasn’t interested in communications so I avoided that field and focused on Marketing and PR. It was around October time when I saw an ad for a Marketing role in Belfast at a company known as ‘Your Body Map’. I was intrigued by the name so I read further into the description of the business and the role being advertised. I read the words ‘Software platform’, ‘Health and Beauty businesses’ and ‘online’ and was interested right away. I knew this was the sector I wanted to gain experience in and this could be the perfect opportunity.

Things were about to get serious…

I sent my CV to the employer and about a week later I received an email that I was being invited for an interview. I honestly couldn’t believe it. This was one of the three applications I had sent so far and my first interview. After the disbelief and excitement settled, I began to get nervous. I had been to interviews before but nothing as formal as I imagined this one was going to be. In order to prepare for an interview I would advise:

  • Do a lot of research into the company
  • Prepare typical questions that your CV might raise – The night before my interview my friend Bronagh attempted to run through some questions with me but we both couldn’t take each other seriously if I’m honest.
  • And be prepared for the unexpected (lol I was asked what my ideal superpower would be)

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The morning arrived and I dressed smartly and headed to the office. As I waited in the front foyer the butterflies in my stomach got worse, I hadn’t felt this nervous since I was waiting to hear if I had passed my driving test or not. I was brought through to a room and there I sat in front of a panel of CEO’s. I began telling them about myself and responding to a series of questions which put me at ease as the panel was extremely nice and NORMAL – I think everyone assumes an interview panel are going to be scary and intimidating but they really weren’t.

The interview lasted roughly 20 minutes and I left it feeling relieved, content and hopeful. I really liked this company and if I got offered a placement there I knew I would be happy. The following week I received an email from one of the CEO’s; I read the first line on the preview “Hi Shauna, following your interview on Friday…” I felt sick. Was I about to get rejected or actually succeed? I opened the email and scanned to see my fate. I had actually got it; I couldn’t believe that the first interview I done, I succeeded in!

What am I doing now?

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Fast forward to where I am now, I started working one day a week for Your Body Map in November which I think has helped me massively as it has eased me in slowly and made me feel comfortable. We are currently transitioning to ‘Aubergine’, a really exciting project that is launching in April so keep your eyes peeled as students will love it. My role consists of market research and managing/writing social media content which has allowed me to gain new skills alongside my studies. I have met so many new people within the company and outside it. Placement isn’t so daunting after all!

For anyone who is yet to receive a placement offer or is awaiting a response, do not panic. Make use of the resources to build your CV and be yourself in the interview. I doubted myself and my ability a lot but it worked out in the end – like it does for everyone. I just kept telling myself ‘What’s for you won’t go by you’ and it was true!

Thanks for reading X

 

Shauna McKillop is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @ShaunaMcKillop – LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/shauna-mckillop-499596176 – Instagram: shaunamckillopx