20 Apr

OFMDFM Summer Camp Programme – 2015 Pilot

As part of the Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) is launching a pilot programme of 100 Summer Camps for young people.

The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister in partnership with the Education Authority are seeking to appoint organisations to deliver the Summer Camp Pilot Programme.

The programme is about building positive relations among young people across all parts of our community. They will operate on both a local and regional level and will be open to young people aged 11 to 19 years. The ultimate goal of the Summer Camps is to build positive relationships across what have become divided parts of our community. They are about challenging historic positions, encouraging debate and discussion and providing a way for young people to get to know each other, try new experiences, have fun and help to build longer term relationships. (more…)

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14 Apr

Fulbright scholar Prof. James Nehring turns spotlight on education in Northern Ireland

The traditional exam system in Northern Ireland’s schools was queried at Stormont today (Tuesday 14 April) as a Fulbright scholar from the USA presented his study of four Northern Ireland post-primaries to an audience of politicians and educationalists. His research was prompted by the observation of “an increasing mis-match between the skills that a modern society needs for its workforce and citizens … and the skills that students are tested on.”

Professor James Nehring, from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, made a case for the education of the “whole child” and said the best schools teach academic knowledge alongside skills which equip pupils for modern adult life. Professor Nehring visited four schools in Northern Ireland to explore how ethos, pastoral care and academic demands could work together to develop competencies which students will need in work and civic life, known as “21st Century learning”. (more…)

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30 Mar

NICIE responds to DE decision on Drumragh IC and Court decision on Clintyclay PS

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) has responded with dismay and disbelief to the decision by the Education Minister to reject a proposal for expansion at the popular and oversubscribed Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh. This is the second rejection that the college has experienced in the last 3 years. On the first occasion a judicial review on the matter was taken by the school and in his findings Justice Treacy reminded the Department of Education DE of its duty under legislation to ‘encourage and facilitate integrated education’ and stated the need for the Department ‘to be alive to this duty at all levels including the strategic level.’

NICIE Chief Executive, Noreen Campbell said ‘This decision is bitterly disappointing and it is hard to understand how a Minister, who has previously endorsed the right of popular, oversubscribed schools to grow, and whose department has had cause to be reminded of its legal obligation towards integrated education, can see fit to ignore the wishes of those parents who want to have their children educated together under one roof. (more…)

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30 Mar

Principal comments on Minister’s “deeply disappointing” refusal of Drumragh IC development proposal

From Nigel Frith, Principal, Drumragh Integrated College:

Last week the Minister of Education refused for a second time to allow Drumragh Integrated College to expand. In his press release on the matter, Mr O’Dowd says: ‘As Minister I must ensure that education provision reflects the full range of needs in the local area and that we maintain a network of sustainable schools. It would not be right for me to make a decision that benefits one school and which also carries a strong risk of negatively impacting other nearby schools unduly.’

2014 saw a successful challenge in court to the Department of Education regarding its failure to fully implement its legal duty to facilitate and encourage integrated education. The Department and the Minister of Education were instructed by Judge Treacy to ‘be alive to this duty at all levels including the strategic level.’ The subsequent mention of that legal duty in the above-mentioned press release means very little; the refusal of this Development Proposal could be seen as suggesting that the Department and the Minister either have not understood the 1989 Order and Judge Treacy’s ruling, or they are disregarding them. (more…)

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27 Mar

Fund’s Chief Executive responds to rejection of Drumragh IC proposal to expand

Commenting on the Minister for Education’s rejection of the Drumragh IC development proposal, IEF CEO Tina Merron said “This decision is completely incomprehensible, as it flies in the face of a High Court ruling. Last May Mr Justice Treacy said that ‘The Department of Education needs to be alive to Article 64 at all levels, including the strategic one.’

“During the judicial review , the DE denied that the growth of integrated schools was in the hands of ‘competitor schools’ and added that when considering proposals in the future, consent of other schools would not be a prerequisite to a proposal being granted.

The judgment of the High Court means that consideration of wider school enrolments ought not to overrule the Department’s statutory duty to integrated education. Yet this – the impact on neighbouring schools – is exactly what the Minister says is behind his decision.

It seems that Drumragh IC is too popular to be allowed to grow. The College sought to increase enrolment to meet demand for integrated education in the area. Yet it seems the concept of parental choice does not apply where integrated schools are concerned – instead, we find the Minister maintaining the status quo of a divided education system rather than challenging vested interests. (more…)

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27 Mar

A High Court judge today quashed a decision to shut Clintyclay PS, the first Catholic school in Northern Ireland attempting a transformation to integrated status.

Court report by Alan Erwin, Laganside Media.

Mr Justice Treacy held that Education Minister John Dowd’s approval of a proposal to close Clintyclay Primary was “infected” by relying on erroneous information that the school had financial problems. He said: “In fact, not only was it not in financial difficulties, it had a budget surplus.”

The Minister will now have to take a fresh decision on the future of the school in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. But the delighted parents of a pupil who brought the legal challenge claimed the court verdict will inject new confidence into the entire community.

With Clintyclay’s enrolment having dropped below 30 pupils, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had proposed that it should close. An alternative proposal advanced by the school’s Board of Governors to change its management to grant-maintained integrated status was rejected. (more…)

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