Children have handed Stormont politicians a radical plan for the future of the NI education system. Keisha Fee and Jamie Nesbitt, from Mallusk Integrated Primary School, presented the Integrated Education Fund’s Alternative Manifesto to politicians at Stormont on Monday (16 April 2018).
Guests at the launch also included educationalists and planners as well as academics and representatives of teaching unions.
IEF director Richard Lemon told the invited audience:
“Northern Ireland currently supports an effectively segregated education system. This is dependent on duplicated resources and unwieldy bureaucracy at a time of severe budget pressures. At the same time we see continuing social division and increasing concern about educational outcomes. This manifesto is about a holistic approach which would direct resources to improving outcomes and will contribute to a future cohesive community.
“We want to see children, rather than institutions, at the heart of policy.”
The event was sponsored by Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle and education spokespeople from six Stormont parties were present. Chris Lyttle said
“If we are to have a society where everyone is respected, we need to start by respecting parents’ wishes to have their children educated together in an integrated ethos. The education of our children together is a vital step towards building the united community the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to see.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt presented his own vision for education, saying he believes a single education system is the best tool available to tackle the toxic legacy of sectarianism in our society.
“Mixing children from age four would provide a virtual inoculation against sectarian thoughts. As we approach Northern Ireland’s centenary, I can think of no finer way to enter the next hundred years than with a commitment to educating all our children together.”
Responding to the publication, Sinn Fein’s education spokesperson Karen Mullan said
“Sinn Fein welcome the launch of IEF’s Alternative Manifesto so close to the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education is an important part of that agreement and successive Sinn Féin Ministers have sought to build on that as a crucial element of moving to a genuinely reconciled society.
Education is key to achieving that and this Alternative Manifesto is an important contribution to the debate as to how we shape our schools system and develop our educational policy together for the benefit of children and the benefit of society.”
The IEF’s Alternative Manifesto is a ‘road-map’ of achievable steps to move us away from the current divisive nature of our education system. Key areas include the creation of unified teacher training, the extension of fair employment legislation to the recruitment of teachers and the introduction of a single model of governance for all schools. The IEF is also calling for every publicly-funded school to be actively open and welcoming to pupils of all backgrounds, faiths and traditions and for meeting this requirement to be an inspection matter. Ultimately, we see the steps leading to a single authority to plan and deliver education in Northern Ireland.
The Alternative Manifesto can be downloaded here.
Click on a picture below to enlarge it.
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