10 Oct

We must unite against segregation.

Seán Fearon, Chair of Queen’s University Sinn Féin, gives his personal perspective on education.

My experience of the education system in the Northern state of Ireland is one of an unremarkable nature. I was raised a Catholic (having since wholly renounced this upbringing) and educated in a Catholic school in what is a uniformly Catholic area. I can distinctly remember a strange humdrum when a Welsh protestant had moved to the area, much to the bewilderment of the primary school class who simply couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t take communion, or why they were exempt from our religious ‘education’. They were other, or at least they were perceived as such by a class of children who had likely never come into a contact with a protestant, a community which comprises the majority of the population of the North. (more…)

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29 Sep

‘Laugh Together, Learn Together’: Culture Night Belfast 2014

Jess Frith, a former pupil of Collegiate Grammar School and Erne Integrated College, recently graduated from the University of Bangor is and currently a communications intern with the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education via the Graduate Access Programme.

Well we had a fantastic time at Culture Night Belfast! Did you?

It was a vibrant and busy evening which really showcased the best of Belfast. People of all ages and backgrounds mixed together to laugh and have a great time! Integrated Education is playing its part in leading the way in ‘laughing and learning together’, taking children on a journey through the past and into a future, where laughing and learning together is the norm. Our event followed the journey of the Pied Piper through the streets, visiting a total of four locations, starting from Writer’s Square. Our cats involved everyone in the fun, parents and children alike, playing traditional street games and learning together. Our actors then performed an extract from ‘Sunnyside’. The event was closed by Hazelwood IPS’ wonderful choir performing two songs, as our balloons were released. (more…)

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23 Sep

Streamlining should mean eliminating division: the latest education plans reinforce it

The proposal to form a single ELB is a fall-back, a sad plan B which exemplifies the disfunctionality of the Stormont Executive.  After the Executive failed to reach agreement on the form and structure of ESA, the Minister was forced to find an alternative as part of the government’s commitment to reform of public administration.

The new body will to some extent streamline education provision in that it will reduce the management and governance previously running five education and library boards. But whereas ESA would have included representation from the CCMS, integrated schools and the Irish Medium sector, the ELB will basically manage controlled schools. Add to this an additional body to represent the controlled sector which will include transferors’ representatives (ie drawn from the Protestant churches) and streamlining begins to look very much like copper-fastened segregation. (more…)

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2 Sep

Stormont must heed groundswell of support for integrated education

Comment from Tina Merron, CEO Integrated Education Fund

Once again we have evidence of the public wish to see children of all communities educated together. LucidTalk carried out a micro-poll focussing on the views of parents within a 12-mile radius of Clintyclay Primary School in County Tyrone. This is the school which is challenging tradition as the first Catholic Maintained School to apply to become formally integrated through the Department of Education’s transformation process. This is the school which, having always played an important role in the local community, is one of the latest representatives of a citizen-led movement to create an education landscape which meets the needs and demands of local parents.

The results in support of integrated education should not surprise us; they echo the results of earlier, Northern Ireland-wide surveys which showed not only approval of the idea of integrated education, but also that almost 80% of parents would support their local school if it, like Clintyclay Primary and others, sought to transform to integrated status. (more…)

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21 Aug

Integrated Education is our right

By Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund.

In his article for the Belfast Telegraph (DebateNI, August 20), Education Minister John O’Dowd observed that shared and integrated education are complementary and that “increasing shared education should be welcomed”. Everyone should indeed welcome and encourage all steps, no matter how small, which will eventually lead us to an education system where all our children, regardless of religion, ethnicity, social class or ability, are sitting side by side in the same classroom every day.

The Minister rightly points to the importance of parents having the freedom to choose the type of school they want for their child. Unfortunately, as a recent ruling in the High Court highlighted, the Minister and his officials denied that choice to many parents who wanted to send their children to Drumragh Integrated College. (more…)

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6 Aug

Integrated Education – The Key to a Shared Future

Robert Magee, recent graduate of Politics with Criminology at the University of Ulster, member of the Washington Ireland Program’s Class of 2014 and past pupil of Lagan College.

Albert Einstein said ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning’. This has a lot of resonance in regards to the current educational situation in Northern Ireland. Sixteen years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is enjoying relative peace. Yet, despite efforts to promote integration in our political institutions, the teaching system still remains fundamentally segregated.

Integrated education is a passion of mine. Growing up in a predominately Loyalist estate of South Belfast, cross-community interaction was extremely limited. However, following the now defunct Eleven Plus examination, I had the invaluable opportunity to follow in the footsteps of my older sister and attend Lagan College – a decision which undoubtedly changed my life. Here, ill-informed fallacies and misconceptions that I had previously held were replaced with a more open, deeper understanding of all sections of our increasingly diverse society. (more…)

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