Integrated Sector Takes A Hit

Alliance leader, David Ford, has voiced his anger at the decision by Education Minister, Angela Smith, to reject appeals for funding for four new Integrated schools. What is particularly revealing is the grounds cited by the Minister for rejecting the appeal- i.e. that there is already surplus capacity in school provision in the local areas concerned. Does this signal a shift away from the Good Friday Agreement by the British government in terms of its commitment to promote Integrated and Irish language schools?

  • wild turkey

    its no coincidence that the key phrase here, as in the article on the bill of rights (8 years and counting) is ‘the commitment of the british government’.. hmm .

    have to declare my hand here as my kids go to integrated schools.

    the minister and her advisers, (who is the current perm secretary at DENI?) are being at best disingenuous in that they cite an alleged surplus of capital plant, ie schools, as the reason to ignore increasing parental/consumer demand for integrated and irish language medium education.

    In particular, can’t get my head around the ballycastle refusal as (a) the school already exists and (b) ballycastle does not seem appear (on the surface at least) to be a sectarian snakepit.

    In effect govt is supports intergrated and/or irish medium education only in so far as it does not undermine the existing status quo of segregated education. In the face of falling school rolls, increased provision in the integrated or irish sectors would undermine the viability of schools in the maintained and controlled sectors. By this decision british ministers are validating the persistence of the status quo. but the $64,000 question though is whether under a devolved administration a different decision would have been made. i dunno

    Commitment means putting your (our) money where your mouth is. More often than not british government ‘commitment’ and £1.20 will get you city bus ride out of downtown belfast…and not much else.

    Ever get the feeling that these $(*!ers would chop down a redwood tree and then stand on the stump to pontificate on their commitment to the environment?

  • pakman

    So something in the Belfast Agreement has turned out to be as lasting as the snow vanishing of the ditches this morning. How can anyone be surprised? Remember, if it’s not in the Act, as opposed to the Agreement, it’s not going to happen.

  • Crataegus

    All schools should be integrated, or be capable in their structures of being integrated. If they don’t they should not receive state funding. There should be one system AMEN. I for one am fed up paying tax to fund the various systems and I resent paying for institutionalised sectarianism. Someone has to grasp this nettle or there is little prospect of a coherent future Education policy that can provide pupils real subject choice.

    On Education generally this is the tip of an iceberg, we are in for dire times ahead with the current half baked proposals for reform as they have not been adequately developed. The decision on Ballycastle would be typical of the muddled thinking evident elsewhere.

    I am not from a Christian background and my children went to state schools and those schools all had mixed intake in terms of religion and race. I had absolutely no problems and perhaps am lucky as others on other threads mentioned they did. Schools should have nothing to do with religious ethos or racial identity. They are there for educating all young citizens equally and try to give them a good foundation for their future life.

  • Crat. – couldn’t agree more. My suggestion is to remove any form of worship from schools altogether and allow only teaching about religions from a theoretical point of view, rather than brainwashing children by teaching them beleifs as facts.

  • And with all that time freed up by not participating in worship, they might be able to teach pupils how to spell beliefs!

  • urquhart

    The timing of this announcement from Smith was incredible – hours after defending the decision to scrap academic selection, her department gets the boot into the integrated sector.

    Our enlightened rulers are determined that children will not be segregated on the basis of their individual ability, but will fight tooth and nail to ensure that they can be selected on the basis of their parents’ religion. Pathetic.

  • willis

    Hmmmm!

    With £41m to Methody and now this, I smell a charm offensive towards Sammy Wilson, Photoshop artistes do your worst!

    willis

  • Alan

    Oh really !

    Look there is a crisis in Education and has been for a number of years. I have a background in IE that is longer than most, but the reality is that you can’t continue to invest in new schools when there is an ongoing review of over provision.

    Why should every integrated school be a brand new school ? It seems perfectly reasonable, if we are looking at a programme of school closures and amalgamations, that policy on IE should be at the heart of that programme.

    Let’s ensure that CCMS are not allowed to continue with their policy of separation over sharing, let’s encourage the Bishops to step up to the challenge of educating Billy, Seaneen and Hamid under the same, integrated, roof.

    This is integrated education’s opportunity, and it has been since the DE agreed to a review of education provision, with integration as an serious option, at the Assembly PAC.

    I understand the frustration of parents groups who want to build something different now ( I’ve been there myself – before Mawhinney’s legislation made the process so much easier ), and I understand the loss for children when they are shunted into segregated schools. We have, however, the opportunity to achieve in one fell swoop the 10% of pupils attending integrated schools that has been the integrated sector’s objective since 2000 – if we can ensure that the IE option under the review is sufficiently robust.

    Tackling the development of integration on a school by school basis will take 15 years to achieve the same results, and I do remember calculating the cost to the exchequer of so many new schools – now that was frightening.

  • D’Holbach

    I agree with Alan that we cannot go on just opening new Integrated schools at a time when there is over-provision and a declining birth rate. This was a difficult conclusion for me to come to, since I too was a member of a parent group which opened an Integrated school some years ago and my children have been educated in IE since then.

    The problem is that nobody seems to have an alternative strategy. There is nothing magical about the target figure of 10% set by the IE movement – I would guess that this was just an aspirational figure plucked out of thin air some years ago. And even if this 10% figure were reached as Alan suggests, the signs are that those 10% of children would be in the middle of an even more segregated society. The Catholic church is unashamedly using the Costello framework to create huge schools whose pupils, like many of my generation, nay never have a serious conversation with anyone other than fellow Catholics till they start work or move out of Northern Ireland. I suspect that the Protestant/State sector may shortly follow suit.

    If the Government is serious about creating a “Shared Future”, then it needs to start making funding conditional upon an acceptance of the principles of sharing and the development of schools that are at least “mixed”, if not fully Integrated in the sense that Alan and I would understand.

  • Alan

    “The problem is that nobody seems to have an alternative strategy. ”

    Well, the existing legal position is that 20% of parents at any school can have the board of governors put the option of changing to integrated status to parents.

    What if every school that was being considered for closure, amalgamation or extension had to invite the Board and interested parties to put the integrated option to parents? I believe that, rather than lose two local schools, rural areas, in particular, would opt for sharing over separation.

  • D’Holbach

    “Well, the existing legal position is that 20% of parents at any school can have the board of governors put the option of changing to integrated status to parents.”

    Fair point, Alan. I know this can and does happen. I suspect that parents who choose to do so face considerable opposition from vested interests within the two main religious/community blocs and need more support. I just think that in a society which goes on so much about the Good Friday Agreement and the need to build community relations, there should be a concerted push to promote sharing in education. I fear that the UK Government doesn’t have the will to confrontthe traditional segregated mindset.

  • idunnomeself

    “Well, the existing legal position is that 20% of parents at any school can have the board of governors put the option of changing to integrated status to parents.”

    can parents in a CCMS school do this?

  • Alan

    Yes.

    There is some uncertainty over who actually owns CCMS schools. I understand it to be the Trustees. There has always been a suggestion that problems would emerge from a parental ballot, but the right exists.

    To my knowledge no CCMS school has ever transformed, which I think is appalling. Indeed,in discussions over school transformation, CCMS argued that there should not just be a right to transfer to integrated status, but a right to transfer to CCMS status as well. Balanced, but pointless for the promotion of integrated schools.

    One reason for the importance of a review of provision is to tackle just such problems by refusing state funding where it is possible to justify it against low pupil numbers. The decision as to which school a child then goes to should not depend upon its previous school

  • kensei

    “Let’s ensure that CCMS are not allowed to continue with their policy of separation over sharing, let’s encourage the Bishops to step up to the challenge of educating Billy, Seaneen and Hamid under the same, integrated, roof.”

    You totally miss the point of a Catholic education. The Catholic religion plays a very strong role in it. I had an excellent education at a CCMS grammar and I feel I benefitted from not only the academic side but also the ethos of the school, which would be totally lost if it was forced to go integrated. If I ever had kids, I’d want that for them.

    I was never taught anything other than respect for all faiths and opinions, and there are other options to mingling with other children than IE. I

  • Crataegus

    The question is should the state fund schools that are sectarian? The CCMS has its vested interests and in my opinion is a major problem. If we are to have Water Charges, possible local funding of PSNI etc why not a Government proposed time table for reduced financial support? May sharpen minds! Why are we wasting money and institutionalising sectarianism?

    The government is going to end the 11 plus and I cannot see how a coherent secondary system can work with such division.

    Apart from that if I as an employer have to keep all sorts of records to prove I am a fair employer it seems more than a little odd that state funded schools can be as sectarian as they like.

  • Crataegus

    Wild Turkey (2) or who ever.

    As someone who is not Christian I have to ask would my children have felt at home in the local CCMS maintained school. The simple answer is NO.

    The local state school however was fine and simply looking at the names of the children it is obvious that the Chinese and Indian communities as well as many Catholics go to that state school. Indeed I have been round a number of state Primary Schools recently and note with interest all sorts of anti racist posters in which would tend to indicate a mixed intake.

  • Alan

    “I had an excellent education at a CCMS grammar and I feel I benefitted from not only the academic side but also the ethos of the school, which would be totally lost if it was forced to go integrated.”

    Why might that be? I don’t doubt you had a good education – we have some of the best teachers in the world teaching in all our sectors. However,
    I have still to hear a coherent detailing of the catholic ethos in relation to school – and I have spoken to many people about this.

    I believe that a “good school” has more to do with the quality of the Principal and the Head Teachers than anything else.

  • The Beach Tree

    Guys

    Before you start trying to bring in compulsary religiously integrated schooling you might want to look at the following…

    – Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

    “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”

    Article 13 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    “The States parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents…to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”

    Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

    “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents…to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”

    European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (1952)

    First Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 2

    “No person shall be denied the right to education, and in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”

    Oops…

    The Beach Tree

  • kensei

    “Why might that be? I don’t doubt you had a good education – we have some of the best teachers in the world teaching in all our sectors. However,
    I have still to hear a coherent detailing of the catholic ethos in relation to school – and I have spoken to many people about this.”

    What on earth do you mean? You go to a Catholic school, you get Catholicism drummed into you :P. As a practicsing Catholic I will want my children to be well versed in the faith, while retaining respect for other people. Catholic school’s are a good place to get that, and that is not a bad thing to want either. I’m unamused by social engineering. But it goes deeper in that, in how the school addresses discipline and the like. Unless you have been in it and had the whole atomsphere it’s hard to understand.

    Perhaps the best thing I can say is that my school was all about teaching *people* rather than subjects. And while you can get that elsewhere, of course, CCMS is always going to take a broader view.

    And the thing about an ethos, is that once you have a good one in place, it’s hard for even bad heads to mess it up because they’ll always be pushing against the grain.

  • idunnomeself

    Beach Tree

    It doesn’t say anywhere that the state has to pay for them, just not ban them.

  • The Beach Tree

    “in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect

    THe necessary implication appears a lot stronger than simply ‘failing to ban’!

    I’m not an expert on this area, but my understanding is that this has been taken to mean by the courts that where the State decides to provide compulsary universal education, and a significant number of parents ask for that education in a religious school, the state has to provide for that education on the same basis as ‘other’ education – in our case, since they fund ‘other’, they should also fund ‘religious’ schools.

    So the issue then becomes one of simple practicality. I would be interested in the avowedly secular french experience if anyone has the info?

    The Beach Tree

  • Crataegus

    Seaside Tree

    “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”

    Respect does not mean you have to implement. I respect your right to whatever belief you may have, but I don’t have to pay for your place of worship. Let us take your argument to the logical conclusion, should the state pay for separate schools for Buddhists, Muslims, Methodists, Hindus, Zoroastrians etc. Utter anarchy. Who benefits?

    “to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities,”

    Note it is OTHER than

    If you have large portions of the population deliberately partitioning themselves of from society it is reducing opportunities for others. Surely people who are secure in their faith should not feel threatened by having schools of mixed denominational intake?

    Crataegus