8 May

Concentrate on what happens in the Classroom

A blog post by Sir Robert Salisbury

As the old saying goes ‘everyone remembers a good teacher’ but for years, I have been tempted to add ‘but it takes a lifetime to get over a poor one’. A sad tale involving an eleven year old who transferred to a local grammar school last September recently reminded my of this. On the first day he went through the doors with a spring in his step, eager to learn with a new-found confidence following his Transfer Test success. Eight months later he has become increasingly disillusioned with education as the daily diet of copying and memorising grinds him down. In his own words, “Teachers put up the power point slides and we have to copy them and learn them for a test the next lesson. They say it is to get us through the exams but often we are doing this for the whole day and it is really boring.”

Research the world over shows that to raise standards in schools the priority should be to concentrate on what is actually happening in our classrooms. Improving the quality of teaching and learning young people experience is the only real way to sustain their motivation, commitment and enthusiasm. Why then are so many of our education establishments ignoring this sound advice? (more…)

8 Apr

Change will have to come to Northern Ireland’s schools….

 A blog post by Sir Robert Salisbury

Sir Robert Salisbury was a successful and widely-respected school principal before becoming a professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham. He was knighted in 1998. He moved to Northern Ireland in 2001 where he has been the Chair of the Literacy/Numeracy Task Force and Chair of the Educational Funding Review. Among his many public offices, Sir Bob is a past Trustee of the IEF.

Though virtually every political or educational observer from outside Northern Ireland sees our divided educational system as one of the root causes of tensions in this small country, most of our current political and religious leaders continually deny this and fiercely resist the development of any kind of integrated system. Repeatedly, they have been urged to consider schooling which educates all of our young people together because it is fairly obvious that separating children, often from the age of three, into different schools, clearly divides communities and creates misunderstanding and prejudice. (more…)

27 Mar

‘Dancing’ the Northern Ireland dance

A blog by Brian John Spencer, Whitecollar scrawler, assiduously seditious – http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/aboutbrianjohnspencer/

I made acquaintance with my first Catholic at University. The proverbial ‘you-know-what’ cousins, children of a Bob McCartney humanist and a Catholic atheist from Bangor totally didn’t count. Actor Charlie Lawson didn’t meet a Catholic until aged 20. This Trinity student from Northern Ireland didn’t meet a Catholic until she went to Dublin. Bernie never met a Protestant until she went to the University of Ulster.

Isn’t this “weird”? Perhaps you could steal Fergus Halloran’s words and say, a “Freak show”?

No wonder we do a clandestine social profile every time we meet someone new from Northern Ireland no matter the part of the world we’re in. ‘Oh what school did you go to?’ Or, ‘Oh what’s your name?’ Euphemism for, ‘Protestant or Catholic, what are you?’ (more…)

6 Mar

Delivering a shared future through our education system will help ensure prosperity and stability

A blog post by Rebecca Hall, President NUS-USI 

As the true impact of the recent budget comes to light, it’s obvious that this is an extremely challenging time in terms of public finances.

We need to make sure that when times get hard, instead of putting their heads in the sand, politicians start delivering. We need politicians who are prepared to make the right choices to safeguard our future.

Instead of holding tight to the outdated education system our government maintains, I think it’s time for us to demand ambitious strategies to deliver the best outcome for our children, and for a fair and equitable future.

Staggeringly, a report by Deloitte in 2007 showed that societal division costs Northern Ireland around £1.5bn annually. If we started investing seriously in integrated schooling, and tackled the division in our education system, this could help enable significant resources to be freed up and reinvested. (more…)

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…)

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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