Reducing Duplication Within the Education System?

In the interests of not derailing anymore threads as I normally do when the topic of education comes up Mick has let me post this blog (probably in the hope that it’ll finally shut me up).

My own views on ‘integrated’ education (now a seemingly bland yet toxic term) have changed somewhat since I started reading posts on Slugger. One of the things that strike me most is how the discussion is always thrown to the most extreme scenarios.

Someone might suggest that there is perhaps a link between groups of people having no interaction with each other and the increased likelihood of tensions between them.

Instead of exploring and dissecting this possibility we might find that someone else takes up the extreme stance of “SO! You want to close all Catholic schools and ruin the best education we have?!”

“Erm, no, just pointing out there might be a link and we should maybe explore it a b…”

Followed by…


Or the most popular one (from what I can see) is the ‘magic bullet’ argument; “Integrated education won’t solve all the ills of society so what’s the point?!”

NOTHING will solve all of Northern Ireland’s ills in one fell swoop, it’ll take many actions and many years before anything approaching such a vision could be possible, but it doesn’t mean that the potential routes for paving the way to such a goal shouldn’t be explored.

People are always quick to point out that Catholic schools exist in places like England, the USA and Switzerland and that they don’t suffer from the same sectarian problem.

Well quite, but it’s difficult to imagine teenagers in Zurich being beaten to death for being of a different religion, or being potholed with an airgun, so it’s a very bad comparison.

Also, many people see the discussion as an outright assault on the Catholic schools and that it insultingly implies that Catholics are taught to hate or be sectarian.

Quite simply, stop your jibber-jabber, no one is saying that (apart from perhaps the nuttier elements of the unionist community, but they too would be opposed to children of different backgrounds mingling) so quit angling the argument in that light.

It is simply that things being what they are in Northern Ireland, having a Catholic school system offers an extra opportunity for people to choose where to send their kids and in most cases they choose the course that effectively separates them from the other group.

Hence, division and the breeding potential for ill-informed dogma and consequence-free, bigoted opinions (much harder to make derogatory remarks about the GAA ‘terrorist lovers’ when you’re in the same class as a temperamental hurler…) are given a helping hand.

Not to mention the additional cost of having two small primary schools in a village where one bigger would suffice, this state of affairs could also fall into the ‘buzzword of the moment’ as far as the united Ireland argument is concerned; ‘duplication of services’.

So, in the spirit of extreme scenarios, why not start off with the extreme proposals?

Scenario 1: The death of the Catholic Controlled Schools

This is always how the topic is derailed to begin with, that the topic of non-segregated integration by its definition must involve the dissolution of the Catholic schools and the lining up of priests against the walls and other exaggerated conclusions…

If this very unlikely scenario were to come to pass, then what would be the advantages and disadvantages?

Well, it’s possible that any ‘forced mingling’ might be offset by the understandable amount of resentment and hurt that would come about from having the entire system closed/forced out.

It would result in the closure (or merger) of many of the land’s top schools, force some people into the private school sector (not cheap) and realistically wouldn’t affect the religious make up of a large number of schools in and around the land (really, how many Catholic schools in West Belfast or Derry’s cityside would see an influx of Protestants?) So, what’s the point?

While it might be easier on the treasury and at last have the potential for mixing in mixed areas, it’s nonetheless a tall order, almost impossible to pull off and it would be bad news for some of the best schools in the land.

Scenario 2: “Build Integrated Schools and They Shall Come”

As pointed out by Zeno, this is not necessarily the case:

In my experience the people who send their kids to Integrated Schools and on Cross Community schemes are the ones who don’t really need to.They are the already enlightened.

Bitter sectarian Parents are never going to send or allow their children to participate in cross community bridge building projects because they themselves are sectarian. They probably have the gift of seeing themselves as not even being bigots so again I say. The problem is not with children. It is with the Parents.

How could a child of biter sectarian Parents handle of the conflict and contradictions of meeting and liking people from the other side when their own parents hate and detest them?

There is indeed an element of preaching to the converted in that the demographic of people who send their children to integrated schools are unlikely to be movers and shakers in the Orange Order, SF, loyalist bands, DUP, TUV or anyone else who has a hand in stirring the pot.

(Though, no doubt, there might be the odd exception).

Furthermore, for people who enjoy playing Gaelic games at school and enjoy learning Irish I am given to understand that state-built integrated schools are less than appealing.

Not to mention the tightrope that these schools have to walk, they can lose indignant parents at the drop of an O’Neills hat.

So while it’s nice to have the option, especially for those of us in ‘mixed marriages’  as Zeno alluded to is it really going to broaden the horizons of those who could perhaps benefit from them the most?

And even then, there’s no guarantee that once they come out the other side they’ll be free of sectarianism, as highlighted by one of Harry Flashman’s amusing anecdotes:

I once went out with a nominally Catholic woman of impeccable liberal credentials, middle-class professional, single mum with a school-age daughter.

Determined that her kid was going to represent the future of the new Northern Ireland she decided that not only would she not put her daughter forward for the 11-plus she would send her to the local integrated school.

Sure enough most of the girl’s friends were protestant, great stuff think I and her ma, that’s the way to the nice new multi-culti, liberal, all-must-have-prizes future.

Well that’s what we thought until the time when I discovered her in Ferryquay Street watching the Apprentice Boys march, all dolled up in her Rangers scarf, “UVF Simply the Best” badges and shouting abuse, with her buddies, at them fenian-loving cops.

I’d have wept if it wasn’t so freaking funny.

Integrated education is not the panacea for Northern Ireland’s ills, the Catholic schools are not the cause of the divided society in Northern Ireland.

Scenario 3: Merging Schools Where Falling Attendance Rates or Budget Cuts Necessitate/Permit

This is one that I reel off continually as it is the closest thing to a pragmatic compromise that I can find.

Using my own Mid-Ulster stomping ground as an example, there is a way that the fantastic records of Catholic Schools can be maintained, the costs reduced and the potential for proper mixing can be created:

Five Become Three

Magherafelt has five secondary schools; St Mary’s, the Rainey Endowed (mixed), St Pius X, Magherafelt High School and the Sperrin Integrated College. (Again, ‘duplicity duplication’ springs to mind).

Now, in the past decade or so, St Pius (situated on the Moneymore Road) has had a re-fit of sorts. A few years later the crumbling Magherafelt High School (situated 100m away on the other side of the same Moneymore Road) was bequeathed a nice new shiny replacement school.

In the meantime, the integrated school was built.

This was millions of pounds thrown at three schools, in the same town, two of which are almost within ‘spitting’ distance of each other (emphasis on spitting).

Now, imagine a scenario where the money used on building the integrated college and re-building/refurbishing the other two was used to build a split campus school on the sites of St Pius and MHS. (NOT along the same lines of the merged campus primary schools in Omagh which are still separate schools but an actual merged school, split only in terms of junior and senior blocks).

There are numerous Catholic schools nearby for any parent who seeks the religious aspect for their child’s education (St Mary’s, St Patrick’s Maghera, St Paul’s Kilrea).

If Irish was offered as an elective along with Gaelic sports teams and suitable arrangements were made for the various religious classes then who would lose from this set up?

No doubt some unionist hardliners would be appalled, but in this instance they would have chosen to send their children to a state school and in this particular case there is a need for the state to provide the facilities for some additional sports and topics.

If they are so very appalled they could then send their kids to Ballymena or form a private school.

The suggestion of offering Irish and Gaelic sports would no doubt act as a focal point of demarcation to begin with, but it only takes a few of the ‘cooler’ kids to dabble with the dark arts of Gaelic football and Irish before it is accepted or tolerated by some of the others.

After a generation of pupils there could (potentially) be the hitherto unseen (?) image of Protestants playing Gaelic games in South Derry.

Almost in a stroke we will have seen savings to the budget (and therefore would have removed some of the ‘duplication egg’ from some faces) as well as the potential for Protestants to be exposed to aspects of Gaelic culture.

Although the Protestants might not participate in any great way they may at least tolerate these aspects and accord them the respect they are due, the lack of this respect is something that some nationalist commentators on this very site bemoan.

Cynics would of course poo-poo this possibility but on this very site it has been highlighted in numerous instances that there is an increasing acceptance of Gaelic games amongst Protestant children.

So an encouraging ‘nudge’ and convenient opportunity to embrace it (i.e. thrown on their lap) may be no bad thing.

No doubt the reality would yield a spectrum of reactions with hostility, resentment and indignation from some Protestants at one end and acceptance if not enthusiasm at the other.

Money for the Irish Language Kitty

For those who would like to see the old Maghera High School site turned into an Irish language school, well, with the above merger (and subsequent sell-off of excess assets) the local education board would be in a greater financial position to make this possible, so that would be a potential boost to that particular campaign.

Scenario three covers most of the points that are raised during discussions on this topic:

  • Is there still a choice of Catholic education for those who wish their children to receive it? Yes
  • Does it offer the chance for children from both sides of the community to grow up together and be exposed to one another’s culture (GAA, Irish, marching bands) as opposed to the current culture that can shelter ignorance and suspicion? Yes
  • Does it remove some of the instances of  duplication of services? Yes
  • Does it save money? Yes
  • Could this freed-up money be used to prop up the Irish language schools? Possibly
  • Does it retain academically excellent schools such as St Mary’s and St Patrick’s? Yes
  • Does it affect schools in areas where there are no significant population of ‘themuns’? No
  • Is it a magical overnight fix? No
  • Will it guarantee that children don’t segregate themselves? No

But it is worth asking the following question:

Even with the misfortune of having bigoted parents who encourage sectarian views, which child is more likely to be bigoted?

  1. Someone whose bigoted parents fill his/her head full of sectarian rubbish and goes through 5 -12+ years of education without hardly ever speaking to one of themuns.
  2. Someone whose bigoted parents fill his/her head full of sectarian rubbish but goes through 5 -12+ years of mixed education and has therefore potentially sat beside themuns, spoke to them, fancied them, fought them, fought alongside them, played sports with them, acted in a play with them, been invited to their birthdays, gone on holidays/excursions with them, been invited to their sports games, family occasions….

Do you really think it would be 50-50 or no change whatsoever?

As I have mentioned before, there was a culture of Loyalist bands and marching at my state (Protestant) school.

I joined a loyalist band (just like my friends).

My brothers and cousins who went to a mixed school did not join loyalist bands. Yes, it’s anecdotal, but is it really just a coincidence?

Does it stand up to logical reasoning that a loyalist culture could prevail or be anywhere near as strong in a mixed school?

Or could there be link between loyalist bands and exclusively Protestant environments and their relative absence in mixed environments?

“Do you know why we can’t hear any loyalist bands? Because there are no loyalist bands to hearrrrr…” (

I for one found it harder to march in mixed areas once I came to know some of the people living there (and I almost certainly would have met them sooner had we not went to different schools on account of our different religions).

Do integrated schools or mixed grammar schools have loyalist alumni registers equal to those of entirely Protestant schools?

It’s possible, but is it probable?

From my experience, ignorance and segregation add fuel to the sectarian fire.

If we are truly appalled by what we see on 11th night bonfires, parades and daubed on walls then are we not obliged to remove these fuel sources wherever and whenever it’s possible?

Talking, blogging* and tweeting about it will do nothing, exposing kids to whom they have to live with potentially will.

*Yes, rich coming from me, I know.

  • Chris Browne

    Interesting blog. I generally agree with the principle of your argument.

    Although if you see the education system as providing some solutions to some of our social ills – surely you cannot ignore the continued existence of academic selection and grammar schools in their current form? The long tail of underachievement in secondary schools in NI is surely as much of a contributing factor to problems in these communities as anything?

  • mjh

    Well maybe the budget of the Education Department could be restricted to the level necessary to run one system instead of three and the money saved used to boost technical education, apprenticeships and preparation for work schemes with specific targeting on the most economically and socially deprived areas.

  • Mike the First

    AG – when you say “duplicity” in the title and the article, do you mean “duplication”?

  • Zeno1

    I’m in favour of Academic Selection. In brief, I don’t believe that all children have the same ability when they enter the education system. Some are capable of absorbing knowledge at a faster rate than their peers. Some can become Doctors and Lawyers etc and some can not. That should be fairly obvious. So say we mix a class of children, half are quick to learn and want to learn and the other half are not. I’d say mixing them will hinder the children who want to learn. The way they used to solve that problem in Secondary Schools was by streaming. The Secondary I went to had an exam when you arrived and the brighter children went into an A or B class which were the grammar stream. Anyone who is in favour of streaming is by default in favour of academic selection.
    You can say every child should have the same opportunity, but they don’t and the reason is not because of the school system which mirrors life, but because of their Parents. Any Primary School Teacher will tell you they get children in at 5 years old who know their ABC’s ,can do basic reading and even count. They also get children who really don’t know how to open a book because they have never seen one ,can’t button their own coats and can’t go to the toilet on their own. Educate the Parents if you want to solve the problem.

  • Mirrorballman

    Great blog on the LAD page AG

  • Chris Browne

    Zen – Do you not think that the fact that it is ‘academic’ selection which is the problem? Our schools are entirely focussed on academic education at the expense of everything else. Selection exacerbates these problems.

    Plus it’s not selection that is the problem – but how it currently operates. The success of the grammars comes at the expense of everything else. Looking at other successful education systems will tell you that we have our priorities wrong.

    mjh hits the nail on the head

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Yes Mike, that’s exactly what I meant!

    Not sure where I got ‘duplicity’ from.

    Anyhoo, I’ve amended it accordingly (quite a lucky catch too, I’m trying to stay away from here for a while, I kill too much time here)


  • Zeno1

    Zen – Do you not think that the fact that it is ‘academic’ selection which is the problem?

    Chris, I’m not sure what you mean. There are careers that require “Academics”. ( Definition: Relating to studies that are liberal or classical rather than technical or vocational.) I went to a Secondary where we did Woodwork, Metalwork and Technical Drawing while the Grammar stream did Latin etc. That was OK at the time but now there are very few Apprentice Jobs as we can’t compete on manufacturing with countries in the Far East.

    Yesterday I read that nearly 1000 people applied for a Job in a new shop opening in the Victoria Centre and a lot of them were Graduates. Years ago they would have been in the Shipyard etc.

  • Chris Browne

    It’s partly a vicious circle Zeno. Yes there are fewer of those jobs – but to create those jobs we must have a sufficiently skilled workforce in those areas to encourage investment/ growth and we currently do not.

    We also need to recognise that the world has changed and, as you rightly point out, things like manufacturing have shifted East. However that means we need to move to a knowledge based economy and, whilst I recognise government is working hard to encourage that, it does not appear to be reflected in our educational system.

    There’s a central problem with your argument. (Although it is not a problem isolated to Northern Ireland.) You equate academic excellence (and those who enter grammar schools) as “brighter”. That is the crux of the problem. At 11 years old we write people off as not being “bright”. This is wrong. Yes your education must be adapted to your strengths, but this does not currently happen in NI. Unless your strengths are traditional academic, then they are written off, condemned as sub-standard and not encouraged.

    The German system is not perfect, but I believe much more appropriately structured than the UK’s (and of course NI’s which is even worse than England etc.)

    Currently we write off 75% of our kids before they have even had a chance to explore their full skill set. From a purely economic perspective of creating a broad skills-based workforce – that focus on grammars and ultimately universities is madness.

  • Zeno1

    You equate academic excellence (and those who enter grammar schools) as “brighter”. That is the crux of the problem. At 11 years old we write people off as not being “bright”.

    I don’t write them off as not being bright. At one time I knew 7 people who were all millionaires and didn’t have a GCSE between them. They were all a good bit sharper than bright.The truth is everything is there for you in education if you want it enough. You can go to night classes and go to Uni if you want. You can do Open University. You can build qualifications if you really want to. My point is not everyone has the ability or the desire. So what’s going to happen to a kid who is bright and ends up in a class where no one else is interested in education or capable of learning what is being taught? Wealthy people will send their children to Private Schools like they do in England if we change our system. You can do nothing about that. They will have all the best Teachers, so instead of a fairly level playing field like we have now. The “bright kids who could have succeeded in the system will be handicapped.

  • “The death of the Catholic Controlled Schools” – never understand that argument. Ending a sector does not end the schools, just the particular funding and distinct control structure. Those schools would still exist. The essence of the Board of Governors would not change significantly in the near, probably medium and possibly even the longer term. In reality, there are a number of ‘Catholic’ schools which are already mixed, one with a Protestant Headmaster in recent years. The ‘ethos’ of Methody may be less Methodist, Belfast Inst less Presbyterian, but that does not mean the schools are less distinct with the end of ‘church’ control – or that they are unattractive to parents who are neither Methodist, Presbyterian, or indeed Protestant. It is institutions which exaggerate differences. One system, but wide choice seems desirable, and ultimately parents will choose what is best rather than the State.

  • kensei

    This is still “I have a policy preference and others should follow it”. With a good bit of social engineering underneath

    Are the schools in your example under subscribed? If not, what right have you to go over the heads of the parents and close the schools?

    The only way this works is if it is demand led. This still requires a fair bit of discipline. If school type X cannot make numbers, close it or move to shared campuses. If school type Y is oversubscribed, build more. A bit of duplication is okay, because plurality in a system is a strength and not a weakness which we should encourage if we can afford it.

    So, if you want more integrated schools, convince more parents to send their kids to one. “Anyone else who has a hand in stirring the pot” – whoever they are, that don’t fall into your neat worldview – will be swayed by academic results and facilities. Maybe if integrated schools offered Irish and GAA, they might have more success. But I’d take leaving this in the hands of parents over do gooders 1 million times over.

  • Tacapall

    “Even with the misfortune of having bigoted parents who encourage sectarian views, which child is more likely to be bigoted”

    Well cherry picking isn’t going to sort things out either. Seeing as arrogance and ignorance seems to be the problem why not start at the top and get rid of the idea of privileged birth saving us more than just money.

    Maybe people here couldn’t care less about the duplication of services, for some the more it costs to maintain this place the better, you might as well get the arm in seeing as its the squatter paying for it.

    The choice of education for children is best left to those who are responsible for their upbringing. Mrs Windsor couldn’t have inherited her dominion without the help of her state education system pulling the wool over the eyes of the masses.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I didn’t read the entire piece AG – apologies. However I believe education should do two main things – i) leverage as much of the child’s ability as is possible; ii) prepare the child to provide as much into society as possible. Following my “logic”, kids should be selected on ability and religion should never come into the equation, ie, schooling should be secular. I’m sure this highly simplistic post will be castigated.

  • mjh

    All education is social engineering. That is what education has always been for. So I shouldn’t get too concerned with that charge. It is really a question of what kind of social engineering we want.
    AGS has been quite clear in what he wants and why. Perhaps those who oppose his view should be equally clear about the social engineering they wish to achieve and why.
    And I wouldn’t assume that we can afford duplication, or triplication, at a time when the budgets for technical education are under threat. There is always a price to be paid for duplication. And it will probably be those who can least afford it who will end up paying it.

  • carl marks

    Both my Daughters are through the whole school thing, we live halfway between Ballymena and Magherafelt, both on passing the 11+ opted for St Mary’s M/felt (we are a mixed marriage, but allowed the girls to make up their own minds they define themselves as Presbyfenians) the eldest thrived at the Convent (without accepting the religious ethos but willing to sit quietly during the faith bits) and is starting her masters this year, the youngest was too much of a free spirit and clashed antlers with the RE teacher she transferred to Slemish in Ballymena she is now on her gap year and will start a degree in Astrophysics next year.

    Both systems served my family well but IMHO Slemish was the better school, less tradition and a more flexible approach to the individual pupils needs.
    Good leadership and good staff have built a school that the kids have pride in.

    I suppose my point is that while I recognize that the catholic church has produced great schools it is time to pull the whole god thing out of the system, as to duplication it is ridiculous that that expensive resources which may be underused (very few teachers are underused) in one school is copied in another school and underused there.

  • Sean Healy

    “………In my experience the people who send their kids to Integrated Schools and on Cross Community schemes are the ones who don’t really need to. They are the already enlightened………….”

    Please tell me how this post is not bigoted.

    That it is cited in support of ‘a more tolerant society’ is a little scary and points to everything that is wrong in forcing other people’s kids to attend the school of your own ideology. Make no mistake, such an authoritarian view is the very opposite of tolerance.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well, it was Zeno’s post so why don’t you ask Zeno?

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    I have a policy preference, true.

    Said policy preference is unpopular and impractical so I’ve offered another policy that ticks numerous boxes and saves money.

    With regards to the schools being under subscribed. Well actually, they’re not at present, just the opposite in fact.

    A major contributing factor for this is that the neighbouring schools in Cookstown (a town with TWO secondary schools in contrast to Magherafelt’s five) are heavily oversubscribed.

    There’s no money in the kitty to build another school either (from what I can gather).

    Now, although not an authority on the matter (of anything) I would have thought that such circumstances would call for the provision of a new school.

    A new school obviously (QED) chews up money.

    Had the schools in Magherafelt been merged (properly) then, perhaps, depending on how money is handled in the Education system this money could have found it’s way there. If not to the proposed Irish medium school in Maghera. (Or both?)

    So, at a stretch, the traffic and travel time for pupils from Cookstown to Magherafelt would be reduced (traffic is a big problem there hence the call for a bypass and yes MORE MONEY), people who have no chance of mixing would get to do so and the Catholic system get to keep their great schools open.

    As much as you call it social engineering by opening the path to greater integration, how is propping up a system where they almost certainly WON’T get to mix any different?

    It’s openly supporting a system that pushes people down likely avenues of life, THAT is a clear case of social engineering too.

    So if we’re going ‘engineer’ things anyway (i.e. by inaction) then why not ‘engineer’ a potentially cheaper path that potentially gives South Derry an Irish school, or East Tyrone another (badly needed school) and saves traffic, travel and (perhaps) alleviates the need for the Magherafelt Bypass?

    Keeping things the way they are now is expensive and divisive.

    If there is another way to do things then I for one am all ears.

    ” If not, what right have you to go over the heads of the parents and close the schools?”

    Me? None. Education minister? Some, as has been demonstrated recently with some schools being closed down.

    So, it happens.

    “A bit of duplication is okay”: We don’t have ‘a bit’, we have bucket loads.

    “So, if you want more integrated schools, convince more parents to send their kids to one.” – Did you even read the article, it was not FOR integrated schools per se, it was making use of the state schools that we have in an efficient manner which included an example of CLOSING down an integrated school and flogging its assets off.

    Not building more schools and wasting more money.

    Much better to save some money and maybe pay a bit to keep the lights on?
    “oh darn, the street lights have went off again. Aw well, at least our kids are educated in a needlessly expensive segregated fashion, so it’s worth it….”

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Best of luck to both your girls CM.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If only we could find some way of efficiently cutting the education budget to help with plans like university expansion. Or building new schools where needed. Or building and Irish language school or two. Or keeping the lights on.

    What to do what to do….

  • Siún Carden

    Are there really any integrated schools that don’t offer Gaelic games or Irish as an elective? Having been integrated to within an inch of my life, I find this hard to imagine.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Although, upon reflection, given SF’s stance on ‘duplication of services’ and their unwillingness to tackle it in the education sector, I may accidentally have been correct with the original title too…?

  • Sean Healy

    The question was an open one, not directed at anyone. Since you cited it in support for a more tolerant society, do you not have a response?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Apologies Sean, I thought it was directed at me and my instinct was “what?! Out of the thousands of words I wrote THAT is what brings it down?!”

    So, with that it mind there’s a few ways of looking at it:

    Was Zeno being deliberately rough when he used the word ‘enlightened’?

    1/ If so, then yes, it’s not very tolerant, you’re right.

    2/ From looking at Zeno’s posts I don’t think it was intended as a pejorative, rather the point was that parents who send their kids to integrated schools and cross community projects are more likely to be people like Carl Marks’ ‘Presbyfenian’ daughters (see below) rather than parents who name their kids ‘Kai’ or shave ‘KAT’ onto the back of their heads for the 12th.

    IF that is what Zeno means then it’s a fair enough remark is it not? As in who would (potentially) benefit most from integrated education; a person whose parents are a ‘mixed marriage’ and sends the kids on cross community schemes or someone who is brought up to believe that ‘all taigs must die’?

    As I mentioned in the post, there’s no guarantee that the ‘das KAT kind’ will come out the other end a model of open mindedness and it is wrong to say that they assuredly will.

    But one can almost guarantee that sending das KAT kind to a school where there are none of themuns and plenty of other KAT kinder to mix with will result in the kid coming out the other end with the same negative views that he/she had before he/she went to school, if not worse.

    So, taking Zeno’s remark to be option no.2 I think it has valid enough logic behind it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I’m chuffed to hear that about Slemish college espcially if it can give St Mary’s a run for its money, impressive indeed!

  • Sean Healy

    I think part of a school education is to foster a cultural togetherness through shared experiences. One problem in integrated education is that it just creates another set of people that share the values as ordained by school educators. Secular education very often becomes a fight over curriculum followed by a dumbed down politically correct, anti cultural syllabus which is detrimental to students outcomes.

    It is much preferable to be who you are and argue for tolerance rather than give your kids over to to a self proclaimed ‘enlightened’ bunch of educators who arrogantly claim an exclusive tolerance that others are incapable of based on their own prejudices.

    No thank you.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    You’re trying to steer this debate into the realms of ‘integrated education vs the rest’.


    In the above example the integrated school is the one that gets closed down and sold off to developers.

    MHS and St Pius do not.

    Ergo, integrated school loses out.

    With regards to yer points:

    “I think part of a school education is to foster a cultural togetherness through shared experiences


    Hence I advocate a scenario where they are sharing the experiences together.

    In the same class room.

    Not in different schools (roughly) divided by religion.

    “One problem in integrated education is that it just creates another set of people that share the values as ordained by school educators.


    One problem.

    All schooling systems have problems.

    Including dividing up kids according to their religion.

    One of the problems with this is that some kids are more likely to want to wish harm on the other group on account of never having their dogma challenged by real life encounters.

    So, give me problem #one any day.

    ” Secular education very often becomes a fight over curriculum followed by a dumbed down politically correct, anti cultural syllabus which is detrimental to students outcomes.”

    Do you apply this to state schools?

    If so, you’re saying state schools are somehow disadvantaged in this regard? Are people from a Catholic school more likely then to be ‘cultured’?

    With regards to the ‘information poverty’ wrt religion in Australian state schools (third link) might I point out that in my (state) school some religious groups had their own special religious requirements taken into consideration and as such the Free Presbyterians had no such information disadvantage.

    A similar mechanism could solve that problem for you if it really is a concern (or you or any other parent could, as highlighted in the blog above send your child to one of the many other Catholic Schools in the Magherafelt area).

    It is much preferable to be who you are and argue for tolerance rather than give your kids over to to a self proclaimed ‘enlightened’ bunch of educators who arrogantly claim an exclusive tolerance that others are incapable of based on their own prejudices.

    1/ Kids in state schools can’t ‘be who they are’? Could you back that up please?

    2/ Arguing for tolerance is good.

    As (I think) is arguing for teetotalism or moderation and warning of the perils of drugs.

    These are addressed in the schools.

    Saturday night in Belfast or Magherafelt would lead one to believe that such fine sentiments are routinely ignored, so please forgive me if I’m not convinced that a Mr McKay-esque approach to sectarianism is the best approach:

    “Sectarianism is bad….mmmkay…?”

    Also, in your opinion, who would be the better musicians after 5 years of school:

    The ones who were told to be good musicians 5 days a week or the ones who practiced five times a week?

    Better sportspeople: Those that were told to be good sports people or those who trained?

    Does it not stand to reason that a kid might stand a better job of being tolerant if said kid is sat beside one of the group from the community that he or she is implored to be tolerant towards rather than just preaching such sentiments to the child but ensuring that they seldom get to meet a member from said community in any meaningful way?

    If not, why not?

    3/ ” self proclaimed ‘enlightened’ bunch of educators who arrogantly claim an exclusive tolerance that others are incapable of based on their own prejudices.

    Does that bear any resemblance to the report given by Carl Marks regarding Slemish College? If not, why not?

    If schools are merged (as per the above example) then the ‘arrogant’ educators who ‘claim’ (but in actual fact don’t…) an exclusive tolerance would be teachers mainly from the ranks of Magherafelt High School and St Pius.

    So, your assertion falls down right away.

    “No thank you.

    Well fine, send them to another school.
    That’s the point of the frickin’ idea: It saves money, brings kids together and STILL leaves options for those appalled by the idea.

    I’d rather the money was saved and then spent on an Irish school in Maghera or another school in Cookstown and /or the Magee expansion (admittedly a different department though).

  • carl marks

    Sean I don’t get it “by a dumbed down politically correct, anti cultural syllabus” surely part of our problem is that we have two cultures in our education system and each culture is ignorant of the other.

    I’m Irish my good lady is British, it our job to culturally educate our children (by this I mean the prod/taig/ British /Irish thing ) it should not be the job of the education system.

    The “self proclaimed enlightened bunch of educators you refer to are by and large doing an excellent Job and I have never heard one of them claim an “exclusive tolerance” however I have seen in schools with a religious ethos (I went to a Christian Brothers school) many examples of teachers pushing their cultural/religious superiority at pupils.

    Could you perhaps give us examples of fights over curriculum which is detrimental to students, Slemish College certainly has not had any fights over Curriculum and from my experience knowing many students from that school they seem remarkably free from detrimental effects quite the opposite in fact they seem like happy well rounded kids.

  • carl marks

    Sean why did you change your handle from Abuccs?