9 Dec

Baroness May Blood has an uncomfortable conversation with An Phoblacht

Baroness May Blood, Campaign Chair of the Integrated Education Fund speaks to An Phoblacht as part of the publications ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ series.

At the Ard Fheis last year Martin McGuinness said “The challenge we as Republicans face is to articulate a vision of a united Ireland which will accommodate, safeguard and cherish the British identity. In the meantime the challenge for political unionism is to demonstrate to Irish citizens in the North how they intend to accommodate, safeguard and cherish our identity.”

So why is there such reluctance by some Republicans to support a model of education in Northern Ireland that works to address and meet these challenges? (more…)

8 Dec

Stormont has the power to build institutions of trust to mend our divided society.

A blog post by Ben Kirk. Ben is a Religious Moral and Philosophical Studies teacher from Portadown who currently lives and works in Scotland.

In recent weeks the discussion over integrated education has received its share of attention from both supporters and critics. Although it’s encouraging that all this attention has prompted greater dialogue, I hope that more comes of it as what we have yet to see is any significant action from our political representatives.

To date, the chief driving force behind integrated education has been from public support and activism. And although there is sizable public support for integrated education, there is a distinct lack of support from Stormont, despite a statutory duty to promote it. Nevertheless, I should say that I’m thankful for the support from a small number of MLAs, but for the majority of Stormont the silence is deafening, and as a result the integrated sector has had its work cut out for it. (more…)

5 Dec

Response to some submissions to the Shared & Integrated Education Inquiry

Some contributors to the Education Committee’s enquiry on shared and integrated education have seized the opportunity to criticise the integrated education sector. I think it’s time to examine their evidence. It isn’t surprising that crucial issues such as education and social cohesion provoke a voluble and impassioned response but let’s pick our way through this labyrinth of a debate and get to the truth of the matter.

Critics seem to assume that integrated education has been favoured because of the Education Order of 1989. They go on to say that the small percentage of pupils attending integrated schools shows that despite the preferential treatment, parents are choosing other sectors. (more…)

17 Nov

Time to push for integrated schools in Northern Ireland

A blog post by Cahir O’Doherty who is the longtime arts editor and feature writer for The Irish Voice, Irish America magazine and IrishCentral.com. He has reported on the culture, politics, and heritage of Irish America for over a decade. O’Doherty is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Ulster.

Ninety-five percent of pupils in Northern Ireland still attend either a maintained Catholic school or what they call a controlled school (mostly Protestant but open to all faiths). Both are funded by the state to varying degrees. Campaigning parents have established the few integrated schools there are in the North, with no help at all from the main churches. There are currently 62 integrated schools over all, which comprise 20 second-level colleges, and 42 primary schools. Poignantly, there are just 19 integrated nursery schools, so from birth most children are segregated.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t have a problem with this. Political and religious leaders, the people with the power to bring about positive change, usually prefer to sit on their hands. I’m not sure what sort of society they think they’re protecting. (more…)

7 Nov

We need a culture of listening in the process of planning education

By Baroness May Blood, IEF Campaign Chair

Northern Ireland is facing an economic crisis. We can’t afford to waste money and the LucidTalk poll results show that people want to see waste in education tackled urgently. Further, those questioned think communities should have a say in how that is done.

Apparently more than a hundred schools have been closed by education ministers over the past 15 years, yet it seems the public don’t see any real, effective moves to tackle the problem of empty desks and a maintenance backlog – both the legacy of duplication. The education budget has so far been ring-fenced, identified (correctly) as one of our most important public services. Yet this means that the pressure on the Department of Education to spend efficiently and save wisely has therefore been less than that on other departments. This is why critical scrutiny by the public – the users of the service and stakeholders in education – is so important. (more…)

28 Oct

What exactly are you afraid of?

A blog post by a concerned parent on why she wanted an integrated education for her children. 

I am not an ‘academic’, I am not politically minded and I am not particularly religious. Yes I have my faith as such but that’s about as far as it goes.

What I am is a single mum with a demanding job and two fantastic kids. My children are now 19yrs and 15 yrs old and I would do practically anything within my power for them. I made a very conscious decision that they would be educated in an environment free (well as free as can be expected) from sectarianism and tribalism as possible.

My own upbringing was one of working class with two fantastic parents who happened to be protestant Christians. However, my life was interjected with bombs, needless killings and my mother wanted to know my every move; ‘in case I got caught up in an incident!!’. My parents were unionist voters, a fact I only became aware of in my late twenties, but had friends from all walks of life. As my mother worked in Community Development she had worked quite a bit with ex prisoners and some would like to call themselves ‘combatants’. (more…)

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