30 Jan

To “See ourselves as others see us”

There are a few additions to the IEF website this week – I’ve been watching the “history of sharing” video in the Community section.

Thanks to Tim McGarry’s unique presentation style the film is amusing. I started writing this on Burns’ Day and it strikes me that perhaps the only honourable response when we (anyone), in the Scottish Bard’s words, “see ourselves as others see us” is to laugh.    But the video isn’t just a joke – it gives a brief roundup of various attempts over nearly two centuries to eliminate segregation from the education system on this island. (more…)

23 Jan

Response to the Bishop: Developing The Whole Person!

By Anne Odling-Smee

(As featured in the Irish News 18th Jan 2012)

I am a Catholic who served for 12 years on an Education and Library Board and have also had the privilege to be a governor for many years of both controlled and integrated schools.    I was dismayed – though, in honesty, not very surprised – by Bishop Donal McKeown’s comments,  quoted in the Irish News earlier this month.  In an article headlined  “Bishop: diluting religion in schools is unfaithful to God”, His Grace suggests that controlled or integrated schools teach only “fragmented information”; the implication is insulting and ignorant and certainly does not accord with my experience.   The article takes the Bishop’s address for World Peace Day as a challenge to supporters of a single education system, and quotes him as saying:  “The Holy Father is clear that education affects the whole person, and means leading young people to move beyond themselves, and leading them to a reality, toward a fullness that leads to growth.”   Many would agree with His Holiness; my issue is that the Bishop, or perhaps the Irish News, seeks to give the impression that there is only one type of school which offers this. Yet all schools in Northern Ireland include religious studies in their teaching and a Christian element in their governance – and certainly maintained schools are not the only establishments to teach and discuss justice and peace as the Bishop also implies. It would be difficult to find a school of any type which did not have as its aim the development of the whole person. (more…)

9 Jan

Spend Less on Sharing

By Dennis Loretto

THE commitment to greater collaboration in the Programme for Government and in recent political speeches is encouraging. It is essential that the integrated education movement contributes to any consultation on sharing. I would expect the experience of integrated schools to be taken seriously by anyone mapping out a shared future for Northern Ireland.

There has been a focus recently, from politicians and the media, on sharing projects between schools, as an example of how we can work together across traditional divides to enhance the education experience of young people. Clearly the prevalence of programmes and projects like this are firm evidence that most people want to look beyond traditional divisions and reach out to the rest of their wider community. Opinion polls consistently show that when it comes to education, the majority of people want to see their local schools welcoming everyone, cherishing diversity and promoting inclusion.

Yet if the Executive is planning to promote sharing between schools, it is missing a vital opportunity to encourage cohesion whilst saving money. There are about a thousand projects promoting cross-community collaboration between schools, but very little of this activity is currently funded by the state. These schemes, apart from the Entitlement Framework for post-16 courses, operate outside the normal everyday life of the schools, and need targeted support. At present most are dependent on charitable funding. This cannot last forever; indeed many of the current schemes promoting sharing in education have a specific lifespan. Will statutory funding be found to maintain the work, in these times of budget cuts so severe that schools are already making cutbacks? We are not making progress towards a shared future, but relying rather on an artificial, temporary measure which barely begins to address the needs and wants of communities ready for collaboration and diversity.

The economic crisis means we literally can’t afford to move slowly on this; we have to find ways of sharing not specific activities but resources, spaces and time. The sixty-two integrated schools provide models for the way forward.A truly integrated system is sustainable and progressive, offering a rich and stimulating educational environment where each child’s identity is welcomed and cherished. Short-term schemes which mask divisions without demolishing them, take us only a short way towards where we want to be.

29 Nov

Inter-Faith Week 2011

OFMDFM Junior Ministers Martina Anderson and Jonathan Bell sponsored a panel discussion marking Inter-Faith Week, organised by the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum: “Accommodating faith and diversity in Northern Ireland”.

The panel discussion was chaired by Liam Clarke, and the panellists were: Steven Agnew MLA, Sammy Douglas MLA, Anna Lo MLA, and Conall McDevitt MLA. (more…)

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…)

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