Abandoning diversity in education?

Roy Hattersley has been over to Northern Ireland specifically to look at the integrated school system. Most of it is focused on Rowallane College in Saintfield, which was recently declined funding by the Department of Education, and is (in the style of the orginal Shaws Road Buncoil), going it alone, in what the parent’s call, an ‘act of faith’. It currently subsists on a small grant from the Integrated Education Fund. Simon at Liberal England laid out three reasons, why he believes the Department’s decision was flawed:Simon at Liberal England laid out three reasons, why he believes the Department’s decision was flawed:

First, if you give the state a monopoly over innovation in education, you are likely to end up with a sclerotic system. Fortunately, in this case the Integrated Education Fund stepped in to provide funding: £500,000 for Rowallane and £250,000 for Clogher Valley.

Second, we tend to distrust independent initiatives in education. But here is a clear case where what is proposed is more Liberal and more enlightened than the state-backed alternative.

Third, the policy of not allowing new school in areas where there is surplus capacity is ludicrous. Surplus capacity will tend to exist in areas where the schools are bad, because parents there are more likely to pay to send their children to independent schools or to make more effort to work the state system to get them into schools further away.

Hattersley, from a very different angle, makes some interesting points too:

John Hagan, the chairman of governors at Rowallane Integrated College, which opened this term, describes the hope exactly: “I want my boys to grow up respecting other people’s differences and backgrounds.”

There are thousands of other Northern Ireland parents who feel the same. A 2003 survey reported that 81% of the Northern Ireland population believed that integrated education was “important to peace and reconciliation”. Significantly, 52% said that they did not send their children to an integrated school because there was not one in their area.

The demand for integrated education is being frustrated less by prejudice than by inertia. Headteachers and governors in the state sector are reluctant to take the trouble that attracting a balanced intake requires. Integrated schools will only become a major force in Northern Ireland when the government makes them an object of policy. Setting up new integrated schools in temporary premises is heroic, but will not change the face of the province’s sectarian education system.

  • As Roy knows the development of normal politics is being frustrated by prejudice and inertia – mainly from the Labour Party.
    Any chance a reporter might ask him if his Party will stop discriminating against people just because they live in NI?

  • Brian Boru

    I generally favour integrated education but I have concerns about applying this in the North, because I believe Nationalist children are entitled to learn about Irish history and understand why their parents would want this. They shouldn’t be all lumped together with Unionists if that means being forced to learn a British perspective which glosses over Cromwell, the Plantations, the Penal Laws, the Famine etc. These events are an important part of Irish national identity and should not be purged from the history syllabus as I’ve heard tends to happen in the state-school system up there. This is the problem. A solution would be to have integrated education but with separate history syllabi.

  • Elvis Parker

    Perhaps more than any other posting Brian this reveals your poor understanding of things in NI.
    There are initatives to address these maters such as Education for Mutual Understanding and an agreed curriculum on history. The idea that integrated schools might gloss over Irish history is lauaghable!
    Your desire that good Catholic children have a good nationalist history lesson is nothing more than the whinging worries of a man who realises deep down than irish nationalism is on the wrong side of history – ie the battle for irish unity has been lost.

  • Proud

    a British perspective which glosses over Cromwell, the Plantations, the Penal Laws, the Famine etc. These events are an important part of Irish national identity and should not be purged from the history syllabus as I’ve heard tends to happen in the state-school system up there.

    Born, raised and educated in east Belfast and I was taught about all of these things, in quite some detail. Can’t speak for the A Level syllabus but certainly there was a comprehensive Irish history dimension up to and including GCSE.

  • IJP

    Elvis

    Well said.

    because I believe Nationalist children are entitled to learn about Irish history

    I want all children to learn this.

    But not the myths.

    One of the most fascinating aspects of an all-integrated education system would be the simple fact that instead of “agreeing to disagree”, we would actually have to “agree to agree” on the curriculum.

    Small wonder even the “moderate” sectarian parties oppose even the principle of so strongly…

  • Alan

    “Integrated schools will only become a major force in Northern Ireland when the government makes them an object of policy. Setting up new integrated schools in temporary premises is heroic, but will not change the face of the province’s sectarian education system.”

    I wholly agree with that point – and disagree with a continuing policy of opening integrated schools in areas where there is a surfeit of places. The Integrated Movement cannot ignore the simple economics of education. Equally, the Government – and particularly the slow moving department – must move decisively to prioritise sharing over separation in amalgamating local schools.

    There has been a policy of developing Community Audits on education provision. Communities throughout NI have to be asked – “Do you want your local school to continue as an integrated facility, or are you prepared to see it close and your children travel to segregated schools?” The answer will be to integrate and stay local.

    Brian Boru – you seriously need to educate yourself on this issue if you think integrated schools don’t tackle those areas.

    Also, off thread, one crucial education question needs asked – “Will the department be in a position to immediately move regulations to introduce pupil profiling should the Assembly fail to meet its 24 nov deadline?”

  • Ciaran

    I attended All Children’s Integrated Primary school in Newcastle, Co. Down and achieved an A in the 11+.

    I moved on to attend the (adjacent) Shimna Integrated College. Shimna College recently achieved the highest GCSE pass rates in Northern Ireland outside grammar schools.

    We were taught more about Daniel O’Connell and Robert Emmett than we ever learnt about Cromwell, and what we did hear about Cromwell was that he was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Irish in Drogheda and Wexford.

    If I raise children in Northern Ireland, they will ONLY attend integrated schools.

  • Ciaran

    Forgot to add that I am now halfway through a degree in Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, which my Integrated/Comprehensive education has left me more than able for.

  • Martin

    a British perspective which glosses over Cromwell, the Plantations, the Penal Laws, the Famine etc. These events are an important part of Irish national identity and should not be purged from the history syllabus as I’ve heard tends to happen in the state-school system up there.

    The teaching of history anywhere should be about equipping children with their own tools to interpret the past rather than shoving a series of selected facts, myths or otherwise down their throats. And separating history clasees, in the same way that parents throughout the UK can object to their children going to RE lessons, will totally undermine the point of an integrated education

  • Puzzled Jackeen

    “These events are an important part of Irish national identity and should not be purged from the history syllabus as I’ve heard tends to happen in the state-school system up there.”

    Do you have details or is this just vague hearsay?

    PJ

  • Brian…. having been a history student in the UK, NI & ROI.

    I can safely say ROI is at the top of the “glossing” over certain historical facts league.

  • soda farly

    i’m no educator or educated by any means but i am 100 percent against intergrated eduction and i do speak for the majority of my fellow catholics. 300 years of division can’t be swept under the carpet by a couple of lentil eating hippies who live in lala land. if you can’t force the adults to live and work beside one another then don’t expect the kids to do the same. segregation is normal and for the good of everyone lets keep it that way!

  • slug

    “We were taught more about Daniel O’Connell and Robert Emmett than we ever learnt about Cromwell, and what we did hear about Cromwell was that he was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Irish in Drogheda and Wexford. ”

    Although I appreciate whar you are saying, and I don’t want to be critical, this doesn’t 100% reassure me. Shouldn’t there be more on Cromwell than that? I suppose there is an issue regarding what topics are covered in history and I must say I think that British history is very important too. (I did both British and Irish at school).

  • Oilibhéar Chromaill

    Strange as it may seem, the Integrated Education Sector doesn’t have the monopoly on liberal pluralist education. As good an option if not better is the Irish Medium Sector which is also getting the cold shoulder from the Department of Education, now seemingly back to its old irredentist ways, back on the dark side, after the days of enlightenment when Martin McGuinness was Minister.

    Their recent strategy plan of the Department omitted any mention of the Irish Medium Sector, something which doesn’t chime with the commitment entered into by the British government to take resolute action to promote Irish in the GFA, not to mention the specific commitments in respect to Irish of that same agreement.

    I have no criticism of the Integrated Sector, this is merely to point out that there is another way, which is also outside the traditional sphere.

    Interestingly the GCSE Results bear out the contention that the motivational environment of the Irish medium sector is giving rise to excellent results in Belfast’s Irish medium secondary school, Coláiste Feirste, which this year ended up as the top perfoming non Grammar school in the city.

    And don’t forget that Irish medium education only enhances the diversity dividend within the educational sector

  • Alan

    Soda,

    Great quote !

    That should raise a few million for integrated education in the States on its own.

  • Martin

    Strange as it may seem, the Integrated Education Sector doesn’t have the monopoly on liberal pluralist education. As good an option if not better is the Irish Medium Sector which is also getting the cold shoulder from the Department of Education, now seemingly back to its old irredentist ways, back on the dark side, after the days of enlightenment when Martin McGuinness was Minister.

    Personally I think that a bilingual integrated sector would be no bad thing. People who can think in two languages think with two minds, as they say, but I guess that a great number of parents would be needing some persuasion

  • Agree with other contributors on Brian’s point. I went to a very hard-line controlled high school and we had a lot of Irish history taught, including the Easter Rising.
    Whether my classmates were listening intently, I can’t say.
    I also attended an integrated primary school, where we learned a lot about the famine, so to soda farly – yaaaaaaaawwwwn.
    “lentil eating hippies” “lala land” or as my mother was called, “a wishy washy liberal living a pipe dream”.
    Change the record.
    Integrated education is 25 years old. It works, deal with it.
    “if you can’t force the adults to live and work beside one another then don’t expect the kids to do the same”
    I’m an adult. Nobody is forcing to me to sit beside my workmates (different religion) or see my other half (different religion) for the past five years, and that is in Derry, a “divided city”.
    As they say here, gone wise up.
    Or perhaps, as I guess, you may be joking.

  • Puzzled Jackeen

    I see Brian Boru still hasn’t responded to my question about the source of his claim that pupils in an integrated school are “being forced to learn a British perspective which glosses over Cromwell, the Plantations, the Penal Laws, the Famine etc.”

    If he doesn’t reply soon, I’ll assume his claim is based, at best, on hearsay, at worst, on prejudice.