23 Sep

Streamlining should mean eliminating division: the latest education plans reinforce it

The proposal to form a single ELB is a fall-back, a sad plan B which exemplifies the disfunctionality of the Stormont Executive.  After the Executive failed to reach agreement on the form and structure of ESA, the Minister was forced to find an alternative as part of the government’s commitment to reform of public administration.

The new body will to some extent streamline education provision in that it will reduce the management and governance previously running five education and library boards. But whereas ESA would have included representation from the CCMS, integrated schools and the Irish Medium sector, the ELB will basically manage controlled schools. Add to this an additional body to represent the controlled sector which will include transferors’ representatives (ie drawn from the Protestant churches) and streamlining begins to look very much like copper-fastened segregation. (more…)

2 Sep

Stormont must heed groundswell of support for integrated education

Comment from Tina Merron, CEO Integrated Education Fund

Once again we have evidence of the public wish to see children of all communities educated together. LucidTalk carried out a micro-poll focussing on the views of parents within a 12-mile radius of Clintyclay Primary School in County Tyrone. This is the school which is challenging tradition as the first Catholic Maintained School to apply to become formally integrated through the Department of Education’s transformation process. This is the school which, having always played an important role in the local community, is one of the latest representatives of a citizen-led movement to create an education landscape which meets the needs and demands of local parents.

The results in support of integrated education should not surprise us; they echo the results of earlier, Northern Ireland-wide surveys which showed not only approval of the idea of integrated education, but also that almost 80% of parents would support their local school if it, like Clintyclay Primary and others, sought to transform to integrated status. (more…)

21 Aug

Integrated Education is our right

By Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund.

In his article for the Belfast Telegraph (DebateNI, August 20), Education Minister John O’Dowd observed that shared and integrated education are complementary and that “increasing shared education should be welcomed”. Everyone should indeed welcome and encourage all steps, no matter how small, which will eventually lead us to an education system where all our children, regardless of religion, ethnicity, social class or ability, are sitting side by side in the same classroom every day.

The Minister rightly points to the importance of parents having the freedom to choose the type of school they want for their child. Unfortunately, as a recent ruling in the High Court highlighted, the Minister and his officials denied that choice to many parents who wanted to send their children to Drumragh Integrated College. (more…)

6 Aug

Integrated Education – The Key to a Shared Future

Robert Magee, recent graduate of Politics with Criminology at the University of Ulster, member of the Washington Ireland Program’s Class of 2014 and past pupil of Lagan College.

Albert Einstein said ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning’. This has a lot of resonance in regards to the current educational situation in Northern Ireland. Sixteen years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is enjoying relative peace. Yet, despite efforts to promote integration in our political institutions, the teaching system still remains fundamentally segregated.

Integrated education is a passion of mine. Growing up in a predominately Loyalist estate of South Belfast, cross-community interaction was extremely limited. However, following the now defunct Eleven Plus examination, I had the invaluable opportunity to follow in the footsteps of my older sister and attend Lagan College – a decision which undoubtedly changed my life. Here, ill-informed fallacies and misconceptions that I had previously held were replaced with a more open, deeper understanding of all sections of our increasingly diverse society. (more…)

24 Jul

Lord Brian Mawhinney, former Minister for Education in Northern Ireland, says it’s time to comply with legislation he introduced 25 years ago

As the role of schools in promoting respect for religious and cultural difference is under the microscope in England, it is timely to reflect on the work of Northern Ireland’s integrated education sector in overcoming division.

When I became Northern Ireland’s Education Minister in 1986, 97% of Catholic children went to Catholic schools, as a matter of parental choice.  By definition, therefore, State schools overwhelmingly catered for Protestant children.  Like me, Northern Ireland’s young people grew up having little or no contact with religiously and/or culturally different peers.  It was a system that, whilst not directly responsible for the outbreak of Troubles in 1969, none the less helped to polarise the community along religious and cultural lines.

One of the most memorable moments of my political career was putting integrated education in Northern Ireland on the statute book. The 1989 Education Reform order  placed a statutory duty on the Department of Education to encourage and facilitate integrated education.  I put those words in deliberately because, without them, I was not confident that the Department would throw its weight behind facilitating those parents who wanted integrated education for their children. (more…)

17 Jul

Young people deserve a focus on the future

An opinion piece by Tina Merron, Chief Executive, Integrated Education Fund.

The threat to Stormont institutions during discussions of parades and flags has served to amplify the divisive nature of politics in Northern Ireland, highlighting that our politicians are letting down voters past, present and, most importantly, future. Many young people have no memory of any administration prior to the Good Friday Agreement or the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and we owe it to them to look forward. (more…)

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