26 Jun

My week’s work experience at the IEF

A blog by Nancy Eaton a year 12 student at Lagan College

Some people find the prospect of work experience quite daunting. I will not deny that I felt that way on my first day as well. I was going to the Integrated Education Fund or the IEF, and was very interested to see how the organization worked. I am very passionate about integrated education myself, being a student at Lagan College. But I was nervous. I had never worked in a singularly adult environment before.

However, I found that everyone was extremely friendly, welcoming, and relaxed.

I particularly enjoyed a meeting where we met a political advisor and journalist. I did not feel bored at all in his company, as he is a very flamboyant personality, with an outlandish character and a tendency to positively scrutinise, as well as tell things as they truly are. In the meeting they discussed Northern Ireland’s troubled politics and the difficult way that integrated education fits into that equation today. He stated that some communities, political parties, and politicians feel that a compromise is a loss in many situations in politics today and then often act over aggressive about what they want. I would agree with that, but also say that people only ever lash out in anger when they are afraid of change. I found his words refreshingly honest and daring, and I hope I have learnt some important lessons and skills which will help me in the future. (more…)

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15 Jun

‘Shared Education’ is spin

An open letter by Margaret Kennedy, a campaigner for integrated education in Northern Ireland, and a founding member and former chairwoman of ACT (All Children Together, which led to the establishment of the first planned integrated over school thirty years ago)

As parties urgently discuss the Stormont budget crisis, it is vital to remind politicians, policy makers and especially the public that duplication of services in Northern Ireland is costing in excess of a billion pounds each year.

The figure was arrived at by Deloitte in a study of the cost of maintaining separate education, housing and other facilities to the two communities in Northern Ireland.

How does the continuation of this segregation contribute in any way to a “shared future” or to “building a united community” — on the other hand, how does the waste of resources add to the current problems? The profligate separation certainly adds nothing to the credibility of our political class in terms of economic management — but perhaps both unionist and nationalist parties find this division advantageous in maintaining their tribal vote. (more…)

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29 May

Integrated education is one of the most pressing needs for Northern Ireland.

A blog by Aidan Jones, Chairperson of Young Greens NI, the Youth Wing of the Green Party in Northern Ireland. He is serving his last year in secondary school, at the Erne Integrated College in Fermanagh. His interests include grassroots democracy, education reform and indie music.

In a culture with such a divisive history, and such a segregated society as ours, the integration of students and children is vital to making our society meaningfully peaceful, cooperative, progressive and safe.

The current scandalously segregated education system in Northern Ireland perpetuates mistrust between communities, perpetuates inequality between people of different backgrounds (backgrounds that often transcend the traditional Catholic-Protestant divide) and perpetuates unaccountability in our political sphere. (more…)

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21 May

“Excellence, equity and integration…”

A blog post by Professor James Nehring, (University of Massachusetts Lowell Visiting Research Professor, Queens University Belfast Fulbright Scholar, Northern Ireland, 2013-2014)

There is a disturbing mismatch between the skills that schools are required to teach on the one hand and the skills society needs on the other. Because of high- stakes standardized exams decreed by government in many nations, schools are pressured to teach a narrow set of shallow skills. At the same time, economists, industrial organizations, and common sense say that people need to master deeper and broader skills to succeed with work and life. But it’s the test that counts. Which means that schools are stuck in the middle. (more…)

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8 May

Concentrate on what happens in the Classroom

A blog post by Sir Robert Salisbury

As the old saying goes ‘everyone remembers a good teacher’ but for years, I have been tempted to add ‘but it takes a lifetime to get over a poor one’. A sad tale involving an eleven year old who transferred to a local grammar school last September recently reminded my of this. On the first day he went through the doors with a spring in his step, eager to learn with a new-found confidence following his Transfer Test success. Eight months later he has become increasingly disillusioned with education as the daily diet of copying and memorising grinds him down. In his own words, “Teachers put up the power point slides and we have to copy them and learn them for a test the next lesson. They say it is to get us through the exams but often we are doing this for the whole day and it is really boring.”

Research the world over shows that to raise standards in schools the priority should be to concentrate on what is actually happening in our classrooms. Improving the quality of teaching and learning young people experience is the only real way to sustain their motivation, commitment and enthusiasm. Why then are so many of our education establishments ignoring this sound advice? (more…)

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8 Apr

Change will have to come to Northern Ireland’s schools….

 A blog post by Sir Robert Salisbury

Sir Robert Salisbury was a successful and widely-respected school principal before becoming a professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham. He was knighted in 1998. He moved to Northern Ireland in 2001 where he has been the Chair of the Literacy/Numeracy Task Force and Chair of the Educational Funding Review. Among his many public offices, Sir Bob is a past Trustee of the IEF.

Though virtually every political or educational observer from outside Northern Ireland sees our divided educational system as one of the root causes of tensions in this small country, most of our current political and religious leaders continually deny this and fiercely resist the development of any kind of integrated system. Repeatedly, they have been urged to consider schooling which educates all of our young people together because it is fairly obvious that separating children, often from the age of three, into different schools, clearly divides communities and creates misunderstanding and prejudice. (more…)

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