22 Nov

Shimna Integrated College Gay/Straight Alliance

‘Homophobia kills. LGBT kids are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. They are also more likely to self-harm and suffer from depression or substance abuse. And that’s before we begin to count those who are harmed by others, attacked because of their sexuality, real or perceived.’

Charlie Condou from the article ‘Why Is School Such a Hard Place to be Gay?’, The Guardian, 10th November 2011 (more…)

17 Nov

Robinson: “shared education is the way forward”

I was fortunate enough to catch the end of an event in Newcastle on Monday night when children from thirteen maintained, controlled and integrated primary schools ‘graduated’ from the Shared Languages, Shared Cultures programme, run by the town’s Shimna Integrated College.

The programme, supported by Queen’s University’s Sharing Education Programme (hats off to Prof Tony Gallagher) and funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and businessman Gerard O’Hare, recently picked up the TES Outstanding Community Partnership Award.  The TES judges’ commented: “The main hope forNorthern Ireland’s peaceful and prosperous future lies in its schools and the brave pioneers who are devising shared education programmes between educators in either sector. Shimna’s example is at once humbling and inspirational.” (more…)

14 Nov

“Learning through Play – Learning for life – learning to Care”

New friends playing together

 

This year my class is lucky to be part of a link up project between 3 local schools funded by the Integrated Education Fund. The 3 schools involved are 2 nursery classes, Windmill & Drumshee & a primary class in a special school, Sperrinview. I love having links with others but unfortunately it does cost money, we have to be able to pay for the transport costs to visit each others settings or to go on trips to other places. So I was delighted to receive over £3500 to help fund a great project this year with the 3 classes, it’s called “Learning through Play – Learning for Life – Learning to Care”. (more…)

14 Nov

The education system in N.Ireland

I am very conscious that when I am talking about ‘my school’ most people don’t know much of anything about the education system in Northern Ireland where I teach. Like most things about N.I it is complicated & if you are as confused at the end as you were before, then I have done my job correctly!

Stormont, N.I Parliament Building.

(more…)

19 Oct

It’s the way they tell it

It wasn’t quite the Oscars but I hope the winners at the IEF’s annual Carson Awards ceremony felt proud of their work – and that we made them feel special when they travelled to Belfast to collect their trophies and certificates. 

Frank Carson, who founded the awards, couldn’t join us but still managed to make everyone laugh – via video.

There was high praise from his son, businessman Tony Carson, speaking for the family who sponsors the occasion. He commented that the art, films and drama produced for the competition should be like a beacon shining beyond integrated schools.  (more…)

10 Oct

Quality Not Quantity – The Future For Our Schools?

The current necessary budget cuts have led the Education Minister to demand a thorough look at the effectiveness, as well as the efficiency, of each school in Northern Ireland – though, surely, with the “Every School a Good School” policy in place, this should have been a paramount concern for several years?  Yet we recently heard a respected educationalist, Sir Robert Salisbury, tell us that there is no room for complacency about the academic service our schools provide.

The Minister, John O’Dowd, has pledged that he will not flinch from closing a school which is not performing well or which is deemed overall surplus to requirements.  Some say intervention should be tried first, though that could be seen as a luxury in an overcrowded public sector. But if we are to close a school, the alternatives for its pupils and wider community must be considerably, and palpably better.   No-one should be left feeling their new arrangement is a second choice, or a fallback position, of that they or their child has been forced to make a sacrifice for economic reasons.  The result must be an improvement in the learning and development experience for all involved.  I include in this the social health of the communities involved.

 We do not need a piecemeal shaving of expenses, but rather a radical change in our approach budgeting, thereby spending what we have to best effect.  Greater sharing and integration offers the chance to work economically but also to offer an enhanced experience in which children grow, learn and play together.   The crisis should be turned into the opportunity our young people have been waiting for.

The minister has acknowledged that he would countenance cross-sectoral mergers of schools, but he has left it to the sectoral management bodies to propose them on an individual basis.  So he has grasped the opportunity to scrutinise and improve standards, but not the chance to promote collaboration, integration and meaningful sharing.  This in the face of evidence that most parents, it seems, would welcome the opportunity for their children to mix with people of all backgrounds, as long as the education they are receiving is of a high standard.  We can only hope that the sectoral bodies recognise and reflect this, moving forward to offer a holistic restructuring of education.  We hear so much about parental choice but if every school becomes truly welcoming to and nurturing of every young person in its area, then the standard of education becomes the over-riding factor in choosing a school, not the name or the badge.  We have seen in integrated schools that is it possible to not only accommodate but also support and value  different backgrounds under one roof; the education experience becomes richer and more complex and stimulating.

Literacy, numeracy and exam results all count….but so does the ability of a school to grow confident, enquiring young people, ready for the increasing diverse world of adulthood which awaits them.


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