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Instead of holding tight to the outdated education system our government maintains, I think it’s time for us to demand ambitious strategies to deliver the best outcome for our children, and for a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

26 Jan

Why is there no positive reference to integrated education in DUP education policy document?

Comment from Tina Merron, CEO of the Integrated Education Fund in response to the recent DUP education policy document.

It is very disappointing that, in a major policy document, the DUP has made no positive reference to integrated education and its role in a future education system for Northern Ireland.

Throughout the paper the party makes repeated reference to parental choice and to what it says parents and communities want for their children. Successive independent surveys (including the OFMDFM’s own Good Relations Indicators research) have shown clearly that the majority of people would like to see integrated education as the main model for our education system. Further, a majority of people see integrated education as a major contributor to a shared future. Unfortunately, for many families who would opt for an integrated school the choice is not available to them. (more…)

13 Jan

Chris Hazzard MLA responds to May Blood’s ‘Uncomfortable Conversation’ in An Phoblacht

In last month’s ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ May Blood posed a number of questions to republicans in relation to Integrated education.

Fundamentally she asked how some republicans can articulate a vision of a united Ireland that accommodates, safeguards and cherishes a British Identity; yet fail to support a model of education in the North (Integrated) that works to address and meet these challenges.

In one regard May Blood is correct; some republicans are indeed reluctant to ‘support’ the Integrated model of education she has referred to. So too are some Unionists; and indeed many who do not subscribe to any political affiliation are also reluctant to ‘support’ what is in reality an ecumenical model of Christian education. (more…)

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