3 Feb

Continuing the conversation: thoughts on Chris Hazzard’s article

We welcome the response from Chris Hazzard to the article from Baroness May Blood – both published in An Phoblacht’s “Uncomfortable Conversations” series. As Baroness Blood said we are open to discussion and it’s good to have prompted thought and debate.

We’re glad that Chris shares Baroness Blood’s opinion that parents’ wishes should be respected in education planning; now we need to move forward with that aim and formulate Area Plans based on community audits and a survey of what parents want, rather than on existing structures.

I do wonder that Chris Hazzard can dismiss the experience of schools as a mere 9% of a child’s life.

Why are we protecting the Education budget if it is so unimportant? Why indeed would any party seek the Education Ministry if the service counts for so little?

Learning counts for life, and learning with and about others of all backgrounds is vital preparation for an increasingly diverse world of work. Young people will need to be confident in themselves to participate in and contribute to this. (more…)

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29 Jan

Mr. Robinson, where’s your ambition for our society?

A blog post by Stephen Donnelly, Chair of QUB Alliance; Development Officer at Alliance Youth; Politics, Philosophy & Economics student at Queen’s University Belfast.

I was disappointed with Peter Robinson’s announcement at his recent Education Policy Conference that the DUP were to abandon its support for educating children in an integrated setting, just five years after condemning the current system as a form of ‘apartheid.’

Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. Those us involved in promoting and encouraging integrated education have grown used to this pattern of treatment. Politicians note the consistent 70-80% demand for shared and integrated education, puff out their chests and preach some half decent soundbites about how our children deserve better, but once the media spotlight fades, their enthusiasm for changing the segregated nature of teaching and learning in this country dissipates. Those of us who press for a follow-up on these commitments are told we want to water down identities, impose our values on people with different ideas, and deny parental choice. (more…)

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26 Jan

Why is there no positive reference to integrated education in DUP education policy document?

Comment from Tina Merron, CEO of the Integrated Education Fund in response to the recent DUP education policy document.

It is very disappointing that, in a major policy document, the DUP has made no positive reference to integrated education and its role in a future education system for Northern Ireland.

Throughout the paper the party makes repeated reference to parental choice and to what it says parents and communities want for their children. Successive independent surveys (including the OFMDFM’s own Good Relations Indicators research) have shown clearly that the majority of people would like to see integrated education as the main model for our education system. Further, a majority of people see integrated education as a major contributor to a shared future. Unfortunately, for many families who would opt for an integrated school the choice is not available to them. (more…)

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13 Jan

Chris Hazzard MLA responds to May Blood’s ‘Uncomfortable Conversation’ in An Phoblacht

In last month’s ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ May Blood posed a number of questions to republicans in relation to Integrated education.

Fundamentally she asked how some republicans can articulate a vision of a united Ireland that accommodates, safeguards and cherishes a British Identity; yet fail to support a model of education in the North (Integrated) that works to address and meet these challenges.

In one regard May Blood is correct; some republicans are indeed reluctant to ‘support’ the Integrated model of education she has referred to. So too are some Unionists; and indeed many who do not subscribe to any political affiliation are also reluctant to ‘support’ what is in reality an ecumenical model of Christian education. (more…)

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12 Jan

All-ability education is a route to success

Treasa Harkin, former pupil of Oakgrove Integrated College, didn’t sit the 11 plus and is proof that non selective schools can provide the same standard of education and put you on the pathway to success as selective grammar schools.

Age 11 is a year of change for the majority of young people in Northern Ireland – the closing of our primary chapter and turning the page onto our secondary years. Naturally, this age is a competitive and defining time in any young person’s life.

In Northern Ireland, the ‘best’ schools are often translated as those with the highest proportion of top ranging grades at GCSE and A-level; however, when defining my next chapter, the interpretation of the ‘best’ school was not solely contained to the interpretation of league tables. Of course, academic success was a huge factor but so too was having the opportunity to meet and interact with other pupils from a diverse range of backgrounds, and learn in an environment where all talents and abilities are valued and developed. As such, I didn’t undertake the 11plus exam and instead applied to Oakgrove Integrated College. This is the school I identified as the place which could help me achieve my academic ambitions, whilst preparing me for the wider world by endowing me with a well-rounded and fulfilling education. (more…)

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23 Dec

Words Fail Us….

A blog post by Maddy Bridgman; Press Officer at the Integrated Education Fund and a Governor of Cedar Integrated Primary School.

 

Words Fail Us… or, at least, lead us into a minefield.  Words can easily trap us and on occasion distract us.  I’m thinking particularly of current arguments over the use of the word “Segregated” in relation to the Northern Ireland education system.

Giving the impression that people have been lining up to be insulted, some contributors to the Education Committee’s inquiry into shared and integrated education (and indeed at least one committee member) expressed dismay that the word has been applied by some people to the duplicated education provision we see in Northern Ireland.

We are happy to look at contentious issues; indeed we promote the idea of shared spaces where differences are aired and diversity explored!  So let’s bring the debate into the open. (more…)

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