29 Apr

Integrated AlumNI launch Ten Asks.

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and the Integrated AlumNI recently launched a joint message prior to the Northern Ireland Assembly Election on 05 May ‘Educate children together in the same classrooms, learning side by side, every day’ at Parliament Buildings.

Tina Merron, Chief Executive of IEF, said “A long-term plan is needed with a road map over the next 20 years to normalise the education system in Northern Ireland. This plan needs to set targets to measure progress that will ensure Integrated Education is available to all pupils who want it. We are calling upon the all new MLAs to support children learning together side by side and ensure this is top of their priorities.”

Michael Lynch, Chair of Integrated AlumNI, said “The last 12 months has seen substantial progress in making Integrated Education available to all pupils. This can be illustrated by the passing of the Integrated Education Bill, the Fair Employment (School Teachers) Bill, four new Integrated schools opening in September 2021 and the setting up of the Independent Review of Education. We hope the new MLAs continue to build on this momentum as they take up their new roles.”

The ten key asks from the IEF and Integrated AlumNI of the new Assembly are:

1. An increase in the number of young people from diverse backgrounds educated together in the same classrooms, learning side by side, every day.

2. A single body for the administration of education that is accountable to the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

3. Area planning shaped by the community and reflects parental choice and community needs. This will ensure Integrated Education is given due consideration in the area planning process.

4. A presumption is established on overarching area planning that all new schools being built should be considered as Integrated.

5. A single model of governance and good practice for all schools.

6. A single teacher education system, where teachers of all faiths and none are educated together.

7. The implementation of the Fair Employment (School Teachers) Bill to end religious discrimination in the recruitment and promotion of teachers.

8. The implementation the Department of Education’s Integrated Education Strategy as outlined in the Integrated Education Bill.

9. The provision of ring-fenced funding for the Department of Education for a dedicated team within the Department to match the demand for Integrated Education, in line with the Integrated Education Bill.

10. Cross–departmental working to allow best use of resources and to help develop Shared Housing and Integrated Education.

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14 Apr

Citizenship education in Northern Ireland – An opportunity not yet realised?

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has welcomed the publication of the latest briefing paper from the Ulster University UNESCO Centre that looks at Citizenship education in Northern Ireland – An opportunity not yet realised.

Dr Clare McAuley, Lecturer in Education, UNESCO Centre Ulster University says:

The hope was that the introduction of Citizenship education would help to foster a more peaceful, tolerant and socially cohesive society in Northern Ireland after the dark years of ‘the Troubles’. However, 15 years after Citizenship education became a statutory curriculum requirement, it remains a subject about which little is known, there is limited shared understanding or commitment to its purpose, teachers generally favour teaching the ‘global’ aspects over the potentially more contentious ‘local’ dimensions.

In a recent survey of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland, 24% reported they had not any ‘classes or assemblies, done projects or had class discussions’ on the ‘NI conflict’.[1] It would seem, therefore, that Citizenship education is in a poor state of health and, as division between the two main communities continues to permeate everyday life in Northern Ireland, this deficit in school learning related to the ‘NI conflict’ leaves potentially partisan narratives unchallenged and wider society unchanged. It has been said that ‘in education not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts’.[2]

Surely, it is young people who count and it is they who deserve a rounded and relevant education in local and global citizenship.  In the post-Brexit era, and at a time when a referendum on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland may be looming, the future direction of our society will rest in the hands of young people as the next generation of the electorate. In that context, education in Citizenship cannot be left to chance or be seen as an ‘add on’. Young people need, deserve and are entitled to be properly prepared to participate as active informed citizens, equipped with the skills to engage with the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead in a diverse society.”

 Commenting on the paper, IEF Chief Executive, Tina Merron says:

The purpose of this briefing paper was to provide a succinct overview of Citizenship education in Northern Ireland and discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with this. The paper concludes with recommendations on how to recalibrate Citizenship education to realise its transformative potential. There is an urgent need for the review of the deliver of Citizenship education within Northern Ireland.  This paper is timely as it will feed into the Independent Review of Education as well as help inform education policy in the next mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly”

[1] S Smith, A., O’Connor, U., Bates, J., and Milliken, M. (2019) Citizenship Practices and Political Literacy in Young People, Research Update https://www.ark.ac.uk/ARK/sites/default/files/2019-09/update129.pdf .

[2] Cameron, W.B. (1963) Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking. New York: Random House. p 13.

 

The paper can be accessed here.

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13 Apr

‘A Community Lens on Education’ | Conference Invitation


 

 

 

The Integrated Education Fund would like to invite you to join them on 17 May in Crumlin Road Gaol for their latest Community practitioners conference. During the day delegates will explore how we can ensure that the voices of communities and civic society are heard in the process of education planning and practice and how you can support young people in/outside school and help address some of the key issues facing our education system.

 

One of the themes that came out of our 2021 Feile festival and Good Relations Week webinars was the need to democratise education and increase the influence of communities in education planning, policy and practice – including parents, local communities and young people. This is also one of the outcomes of our 2019 conference, ‘Education: We All Have a Role to Play’. This conference aims to build on those presentations and discussions.

A key focus of the educational Area Planning process is to put “the needs of children and young people at the core of education” and above the interests of other stakeholders. The Education Authority’s recent draft Strategic Area Plan highlights that “co-operation and collaboration across all stakeholders will be needed” to achieve this. Communities and civic society have a lot to offer our education system and we believe that communities and organisations, parents and young people should play an important role in education conversations, alongside schools and other educational stakeholders.

We hope you can join us!

Our chair for the event is Peter Osborne, a public policy, good relations and community development practitioner and analyst. Peter is an IEF Board Member, Director of Rubicon Consulting and former Chair of the Community Relations Council.

 

Our event speakers will include:

  • Aspire NI
  • Baroness May Blood
  • Education Authority, Area Planning
  • Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • Ulster University, Future Schools Project
  • Ulster University, Taking Boys Seriously Project

 

To register for your free place and get more event details, please visit:

https://a-community-lens-on-education.eventbrite.co.uk

 

For more information on the event, please contact:

jessica@ief.org.uk | 028 9069 4099

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12 Apr

Two More Schools on the Path to Integration.

Parents at two rural schools, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of beginning the process of Transformation to Integrated status. Sion Mills Primary School and Gillygooly Primary School both held the parental ballots necessary to begin the Transformation procedure.

All parents were eligible to vote in the ballot, with 69% of Sion Mills PS parents casting a vote.  98.7% voted yes to Integrated status for the school, providing a resounding endorsement for their future plans.

In Gillygooley PS there was 100% turn out and 100% voted in favour of moving to the next stage of the transformation process.

A third school, St. Mary’s on Rathlin Island, voted to reject the move towards Integration.

Oonagh McNelis, Principal of Sion Mills PS said:

“Sion Mills Primary School has had a long history of serving all parts of the community and surrounding area since the Herdman family set up a school in the village in 1879. Cross community education and inclusivity has been part of our ethos for almost 150 years. The natural next step for the school was to seek to formally integrate through the Transformation process.”

“In everything we do as a school, we put the children and families first. We’d like to thank the parents for pointing the way forward. We know through experience that learning together in an inclusive environment, even from this young age, is what is best for all children.”

 

Janye Baird, acting Principal of Gillygooley PS said

“Gillygooley Primary school are delighted to have unanimous support from all parents for a move to Integrated Status. We have a long tradition of providing a high standard of education to the rural community on the outskirts of Omagh, and we pride ourselves in encouraging our pupils from all communities to respect and learn from each other.

Everything we do within our school community has the overarching ethos of “Loving to Learn, Learning to Love” and integrated status is an exciting next step for Gillygooley Primary School. ”

Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund said:

“We welcome the positive response to the parental ballot and stand ready to provide support for the next steps in the journey. This positive news coming so soon after the success of the Integrated Education Act shows that parents are firmly behind the ideal of educating children together.”

Roisin Marshall, Chief Executive Officer of NICIE, said:

“The ballot result is a validation of all the hard work by the school community at Sion Mills PS. With such a resounding endorsement from parents, we look forward to supporting the school to develop their proposal further as they build on their long standing tradition of educating children together.”

The ballots were carried out by Civica Election Services, and every adult registered as a parent or guardian was eligible to vote in confidence on the school’s future.

The next step will be compiling a development proposal, which will be submitted to the Department of Education. The Minister for Education will then make the final decision.

Almost every school in the country can apply to Transform to Integrated Status and the parental ballot is a major step in this journey. The IEF and NICIE provide support and advice for parents, staff and Governors considering taking the first steps to Integrated education.

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7 Apr

Great turnout at Integration Works Conference.

On Wednesday 30 March, 15 schools from across Northern Ireland joined the IEF and Council for Integrated Education for our 2022 ‘Integration Works’ event at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island. The schools represented nursery schools, primary schools as well as post-primaries from both the Controlled and Catholic Maintained sectors.

At the event, the participants were provided with information about Transformation – the legal process for a school to become Integrated – and what that could mean for their school community. In addition to presentations by the IEF and NICIE, we were delighted to hear from Sean Spillane, Principal at Loughview Integrated Primary School, Ashleigh Moran from Seaview Integrated Primary School and Catherine Murray from Harding Memorial Integrated Primary School as well as Shirley Sweeney, Department of Education and Frances Donnelly, Education Authority.

This follows the success of five schools who transformed to Integrated status opening in September 2021, with 3 more schools having recently held successful ballots among their parents in favour of becoming Integrated. In addition, we are awaiting the results from one other parental ballot, with another four schools planning to hold a ballot within the year. It has never been a more exciting time for schools exploring Transformation.

We’re looking forward to working with many more schools who are exploring Integrated Education as an option for their school.

If your school was unable to attend this year’s Integration Works event and you would like to receive more information about the process of becoming Integrated, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: andrew@ief.org.uk | 028 9069 4099

To download the Integration Works guidance document from the Department of Education website, please click here.

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25 Mar

FETO Exception ended – a new dawn for teaching.

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has welcomed the passing of Chris Lyttle MLA’s Fair Employment (School Teachers) Private Member’s Bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Until now teaching staff have not enjoyed the same protection as other employees from discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.

Tina Merron Chief Executive officer Integrated Education Fund (IEF) says:

“The passing of the Bill along with the Integrated Education Bill signal a significant move forward for education in Northern Ireland. The Bill allows the ending of discriminatory employment practices in teaching and help provide our children with the best education to prepare them for full engagement in society. I would like to thank Chris Lyttle and indeed the whole Northern Ireland Assembly for supporting this Bill”

 

Dr Matthew Milliken School of Education, UNESCO Centre Ulster University says:

“The Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 outlawed discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and political opinion in a number of settings. Article 71 of the Order however specifically exempts schoolteachers from employment protection under the legislation; in effect allowing Boards of Governors (who appoint and promote teachers) to discriminate between candidates on the basis of their faith and their community identity.

 

The exception also means that there is no requirement for authorities that employ teachers to monitor the community composition of their workforces. This meant there were no official records of the community profile of teachers employed in Controlled schools, non-Denominational Voluntary Grammars, Integrated schools, Irish medium schools, Catholic Maintained schools and Voluntary Grammar schools managed under the auspices of the Catholic authorities.

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