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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12 Jan

All-ability education is a route to success

Treasa Harkin, former pupil of Oakgrove Integrated College, didn’t sit the 11 plus and is proof that non selective schools can provide the same standard of education and put you on the pathway to success as selective grammar schools.

Age 11 is a year of change for the majority of young people in Northern Ireland – the closing of our primary chapter and turning the page onto our secondary years. Naturally, this age is a competitive and defining time in any young person’s life.

In Northern Ireland, the ‘best’ schools are often translated as those with the highest proportion of top ranging grades at GCSE and A-level; however, when defining my next chapter, the interpretation of the ‘best’ school was not solely contained to the interpretation of league tables. Of course, academic success was a huge factor but so too was having the opportunity to meet and interact with other pupils from a diverse range of backgrounds, and learn in an environment where all talents and abilities are valued and developed. As such, I didn’t undertake the 11plus exam and instead applied to Oakgrove Integrated College. This is the school I identified as the place which could help me achieve my academic ambitions, whilst preparing me for the wider world by endowing me with a well-rounded and fulfilling education. (more…)

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23 Dec

Words Fail Us….

A blog post by Maddy Bridgman; Press Officer at the Integrated Education Fund and a Governor of Cedar Integrated Primary School.

 

Words Fail Us… or, at least, lead us into a minefield.  Words can easily trap us and on occasion distract us.  I’m thinking particularly of current arguments over the use of the word “Segregated” in relation to the Northern Ireland education system.

Giving the impression that people have been lining up to be insulted, some contributors to the Education Committee’s inquiry into shared and integrated education (and indeed at least one committee member) expressed dismay that the word has been applied by some people to the duplicated education provision we see in Northern Ireland.

We are happy to look at contentious issues; indeed we promote the idea of shared spaces where differences are aired and diversity explored!  So let’s bring the debate into the open. (more…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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