19 Feb

Extra £427m for education in Northern Ireland requested

Extra £427m for education in Northern Ireland requestedThe Department of Education (DE) has bid for an extra £427m in funding in the 2020/21 budget.

Pressures have increased across a number of areas, a DE official told MLAs.

By 2022, an extra £716m will be needed compared to this year, according to the DE’s director of finance Gary Fair.

The education budget – which covers schools and youth services – is one of Stormont’s biggest at about £2bn a year.

Mr Fair detailed the need for extra money while giving evidence to Stormont’s education committee.

He said the increase was needed to pay for things like a teachers’ pay settlement, increasing special educational needs (SEN) support costs and essential maintenance work in schools.


18 Feb

A challenge to the separation of schools…

A challenge to the separation of schoolsA closed and boarded-up primary school must be one of the commonest, and saddest, local sights. Crumbling façades. Peeling paintwork. Broken windows. The silent playground that once resounded to excited chatter. Weeds breaking through the tarmac where generations of children played football, rounders and ‘chasies’. Schools aren’t just places of education, they are centres of community and repositories of communal memories, but there is little place for such sentimentality in educational planning. Empty school desks and restrictive budgets mean that savings are imperative.

Duplication is surely the quintessential indicator of luxury – the two-car family, the second home – when money is tight the aspiration shifts to having just one that does the job efficiently. Yet it seems, at times, that even the smallest community requires two schools – one for them and one for us.


18 Feb

Budget: Extra money for education and health

Extra money for education and healthHealth, education and roads in Northern Ireland will benefit from an extra £18m in spending this financial year.

The money has been made available as a result of late spending decisions made by Whitehall departments.

Those spending decisions have an automatic knock-on effect to devolved administrations.

They will also lead to an unexpected reduction in the capital budget, which will be deferred until the new financial year.


14 Feb

‘Are you a Fenian, Miss?’: inside the sectarian classroom

'Are you a Fenian, Miss?': inside the sectarian classroomOpinion: the structure of education in Northern Ireland reflects the deep sectarian divisions in the community

It’s winter in Northern Ireland and the colours on the kerbstones have lost their bright summer hues. The once pristine lamppost flags hang in tatters now, and no one cares to parade down even the most contested wind and rain-battered streets. Outside of the July and August “Marching Season”, it is the separation within education that most obviously defines the demarcation lines of community division.

To the informed observer, the kaleidoscopic spectrum of school uniforms in bus depots at 3.30pm are a code that identifies the community identity of each child. Autumnal greens, yellows, oranges and browns dominate the attire of those who attend Catholic schools, whose blazer badges are resplendent with Celtic crosses and crossed papal keys, underscored with sage words in Irish.


11 Feb

‘Part of a mosaic of peace’: The schools bridging religious divides

‘Part of a mosaic of peace’: The schools bridging religious dividesThe inclusive ethos of Northern Ireland’s integrated schools has been replicated in other divided lands

Hazelwood Integrated primary school in North Belfast sits on the boundary between two communities that were once at war: Catholics on one side, Protestants on the other.

“Traditionally this was a very troubled space,” said Patricia Murtagh, the school’s principal. “We used to come in after a summer of strife, picking up the pieces of the fighting that went on in the local community. That’s unheard of now.”

At the height of the Troubles, integrated schools like Hazelwood were beacons of hope in a divided land, breaking down barriers between Catholic and Protestant communities by welcoming children from both.


6 Feb

Autism training: MLAs accused of ‘bad politics’ in debate

Autism training: MLAs accused of 'bad politics' in debateThe umbrella body for teachers’ unions has accused MLAs of “bad politics” in claiming it supports mandatory autism training for teachers.

MLAs voted to introduce mandatory training for trainee teachers, teachers and classroom assistants on Monday.

During the course of the debate some MLAs claimed all of the teaching unions had called for the move.

But in a letter to party chief whips the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council (NITC) said that was “not the case”.

There has been a significant increase in the number of autistic pupils in Northern Ireland’s schools in recent years.

That had led to calls for the Department of Education (DE) to introduce mandatory autism training for teachers.

On Monday, MLAs debated a motion brought forward by DUP MLA Pam Cameron calling on Education Minister Peter Weir to explore the introduction of mandatory autism training for all teachers and classroom assistants.


Page 1 of 6312345102030»