11 Feb

‘Part of a mosaic of peace’: The schools bridging religious divides

‘Part of a mosaic of peace’: The schools bridging religious dividesThe inclusive ethos of Northern Ireland’s integrated schools has been replicated in other divided lands

Hazelwood Integrated primary school in North Belfast sits on the boundary between two communities that were once at war: Catholics on one side, Protestants on the other.

“Traditionally this was a very troubled space,” said Patricia Murtagh, the school’s principal. “We used to come in after a summer of strife, picking up the pieces of the fighting that went on in the local community. That’s unheard of now.”

At the height of the Troubles, integrated schools like Hazelwood were beacons of hope in a divided land, breaking down barriers between Catholic and Protestant communities by welcoming children from both.


6 Feb

Autism training: MLAs accused of ‘bad politics’ in debate

Autism training: MLAs accused of 'bad politics' in debateThe umbrella body for teachers’ unions has accused MLAs of “bad politics” in claiming it supports mandatory autism training for teachers.

MLAs voted to introduce mandatory training for trainee teachers, teachers and classroom assistants on Monday.

During the course of the debate some MLAs claimed all of the teaching unions had called for the move.

But in a letter to party chief whips the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council (NITC) said that was “not the case”.

There has been a significant increase in the number of autistic pupils in Northern Ireland’s schools in recent years.

That had led to calls for the Department of Education (DE) to introduce mandatory autism training for teachers.

On Monday, MLAs debated a motion brought forward by DUP MLA Pam Cameron calling on Education Minister Peter Weir to explore the introduction of mandatory autism training for all teachers and classroom assistants.


6 Feb

Schools require £400m for maintenance on top of £400m needed to keep system going

Schools require £400m for maintenance on top of £400m needed to keep system goingThe repair bill for the backlog of school maintenance in Northern Ireland currently stands at £400m – although another £400m is needed to keep the under-pressure education system going as it is.

The stark figure was presented to the Stormont education committee yesterday by the Education Authority (EA).

The committee heard that the £400m maintenance cost to ensure all schools operate at a modern standard equates to 1,600 schemes yet to be completed.


3 Feb

We don’t know enough about academic selection – ScopeNI

We don’t know enough about academic selection - ScopeNIA comprehensive study on the effects of academic selection in Northern Ireland is needed. A new report from Stranmillis University College’s Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement shows why.

Educational inequality is a mainstay of schooling in Northern Ireland.

A lot of local pupils achieve excellent results. A lot do very poorly. The system is one of extremes.

According to new research from the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) at Stranmillis University College: “Internationally, a long tail of underachievement belies Northern Ireland’s reputation for producing academically high-achieving pupils, indicating a country-level problem requiring a Northern Ireland-specific focus.”


31 Jan

One in three Northern Ireland primary schools facing costly legal challenges over admissions criteria

One in three Northern Ireland primary schools facing costly legal challenges over admissions criteriaOne in three primary schools are in danger of costly court challenges from disappointed parents after including potentially “legally indefensible” admissions criteria – despite clear warnings.

Two years after a judge banned a school from giving preferential treatment to the children of school staff and its governors, hundreds of schools are continuing to include it and other unreliable selection criteria to award places.

An Irish News investigation has identified more than 260 of Northern Ireland’s 801 primary schools could potentially be found to be discriminating against pupils who have a legal right to P1 places in September 2020.


30 Jan

Priest offers to ‘step aside’ over school delays

Priest offers to 'step aside' over school delaysA County Tyrone priest has offered to “step aside” from his parish over delays to a shared education campus.

Fr John Connolly told parishioners in Moy about his decision at a service at the weekend.

Fr Connolly told BBC News NI that he had offered to move because of concerns about details of the plans.

The Department of Education said it was aware of “sensitivities” around the planned campus.

There have been plans to house a Catholic primary school and a controlled primary in Moy in one building since 2013.

The Department of Education (DE) subsequently approved the new building under the shared education campuses programme in 2014.


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