“there are too many schools in Northern Ireland”

The NIO minister Angela Maria Eagle seems enthusiastic about the 61 recommendations in George Bain’s Independent Strategic Review of Education while the BBC highlight the recommended raising of minimum enrolment levels for primary and post-primary schools, and that a third of schools – 440 in total – do not have the required minimum number of pupils. The Report is available here Adds Press Association report hereBain highlights what he sees as the problem in the introduction and summary of his report[pdf file]

CHAPTER 3: NORTHERN IRELAND EDUCATION SYSTEM

9. DE is responsible for the central administration of education and related services in Northern Ireland, with the exception of the Further and Higher Education sectors, which are the responsibility of the Department for Employment and Learning. DE’s main areas of responsibility are pre-school, primary, post-primary, and special education; the youth service; the promotion of community relations within and between schools; and teacher education.

10. Inspection and monitoring of all education and training establishments is the direct responsibility of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI). In keeping with key government principles for inspection, ETI provides an independent professional assessment of the effectiveness of existing or proposed policy.

11. Responsibility for the delivery of day-to-day education services within the policy, strategy and procedures set by DE currently lies with: the five Education and Library Boards, including the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards; the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools; the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment; the Youth Council for Northern Ireland; other grant-aided bodies, including the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta; and schools.

12. The system of schools in Northern Ireland comprises five main sectors: Controlled Schools – including Controlled Integrated Schools – Catholic Maintained Schools, Voluntary Grammar Schools, Grant-maintained Integrated Schools, and Irish-medium Schools.

13. The diversity of school type, the selective system of education, the existence of single sex schools, and the substantially rural nature of Northern Ireland largely explain both the relatively large number of schools that exist and the sizeable proportion of small schools. Although the range of provision is explained, and indeed justified, by the principle of parental choice, the inefficiencies manifest in the system need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

And from the foreword to the report

5. At the beginning of the Review’s work, I thought it would be mainly concerned with the issue of “surplus places” and the economic case – cost-effective
provision that gives good value for money – for rationalising the schools’ estate. As the work advanced, the economic case for rationalisation remained important, but two other arguments for rationalisation became even more important: first, the educational case – access for pupils to the full range of the curriculum, to high quality teaching, and to modern facilities – and second, the social case – societal well-being by promoting a culture of tolerance, mutual understanding, and inter-relationship through significant, purposeful and regular engagement and interaction in learning.

6. In short, the argument for rationalising the schools’ estate is not primarily about saving money – the savings, in any case, being difficult to quantify and, whatever their amount, being required for reinvestment in Northern Ireland’s schools – but about giving the children of Northern Ireland an excellent education that will benefit both them and the society in which they live. That is what the Review’s sixty-one recommendations are intended to achieve, and I commend them strongly to the Government and to the citizens of Northern Ireland.

The majority of his recommendations concern Planning: A Strategic Approach [recommendations 11-42] emphasising a local area based approach, some of those recommendations are

Planning: A Strategic Approach

11. The Education and Skills Authority should plan the schools’ estate on a local area basis, within a strategic framework of vision, policy, principles, and guidelines provided by the Department of Education.

12. Within the strategic framework established by the Department of Education, the Education and Skills Authority should have overall operational responsibility for the strategic planning of the schools’ estate.

13. Until the Education and Skills Authority has acquired the capacity to exercise its estate planning function, the Department of Education should act quickly and decisively to take forward area-based planning as soon as possible in the year 2007, with the full support of the relevant education authorities.

14. The Department of Education should establish a provisional timetable, to be refined and taken forward by the Education and Skills Authority, specifying target dates for the following key steps in setting up and implementing the area-based planning strategy: (a) the Department of Education’s strategic framework of vision, policy, principles, and guidelines; (b) the specification of local areas; (c) the review of local provision; (d) the initiation and conclusion of local planning; (e) the submission of area proposals to the Education and Skills Authority; (f) the finalised and approved area plans; and (g) the implementation of individual plans for the estate as a whole.

15. Future school building projects should be approved only after area-based planning is established, and previously announced capital projects that are currently underway should be reviewed, according to their stage of development, for their consistency with the area-based approach.

16. Local areas should comprise coherent sets of nursery, primary and post-primary schools, and, as appropriate, special schools, as well as accessible further education provision, and as far as possible lie within a single local council’s boundaries.

17. Planning should ensure that proposals for contiguous local areas are considered together, and that their interrelationships are identified and taken into account, before investment decisions are made.

18. Area-based plans should ensure that each area is served by sustainable schools that provide high quality education for all pupils and that, taken together, balance the expressed wishes of parents and the projected requirements of each school sector, with the cost-effective use of capital and recurrent funding.

and he makes a number of recommendations on integrating the education system

Perspectives on Integration and Collaboration

52. In undertaking its functions in relation to the planning of the schools’ estate, the Education and Skills Authority should be required to maximise opportunities for integrating education within a system of sustainable schools.

53. To encourage and support a more inclusive approach to integrating education, additional funding – in the form of (a) an enhanced unit of resource, and (b) special funding for particular areas of work such as staff development – should be provided to schools that are actively engaged in sharing with other schools, or a school that is developing an inclusive environment in recognition of the diversity of its pupils’ religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

54. Either through new arrangements under the Review of Public Administration, or through a dedicated strategic forum, the Department of Education should help education stakeholders to discuss issues pertinent to integrating education and improving collaboration, promoting trust and mutual understanding, and working to develop collaboration and sharing.

55. The Department of Education should make clear that, in discharging its legislative duty in respect of integrated education, it is committed to facilitating and encouraging a variety of approaches to integrating education within a framework of sustainable schools.

56. The Department of Education should develop a comprehensive and coherent policy for Irish-medium education.

57. The planning for Irish-medium education should make use of a variety of feasible options capable of providing the accommodation and facilities that support a high quality of education through the medium of Irish, including:

• creating new sustainable Irish-medium schools through new builds, adapting existing surplus capacity in the schools’ estate, and transformation; and
• collaborating and sharing within the Irish-medium sector, and with English-medium schools, including the provision of Irish-medium units or streams in English-medium schools.

The full list of recommendations is available separately[pdf file]

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  • BeardyBoy

    This is just the latest installment of the secularists attack on Catholic Schools in particular and religious schools in general. They tried to buy us by promoting “integrated” schooling, and when that did not work they now propose to force us to share classes and facilities saying that it was just for economic reasons.

    All nonesense of course, they want to control our children by teaching them their secularist agenda.

    I will not agree and I hope our Bishops come out with guns blazing and just refuse to cooperate.

    They cannot force us into this. We are too many and too strong – I hope that the Church tells them where exactly they can go, they should also dump their ineffective education system too, they should adopt the curriculum of the Irish schooling system and have our children take the leaving cert and inter cert.

    At least this way our children will not be influenced by the British Securalists.

    We even should insist that the schools start teaching solely through the Irish Medium if they try to get awkward

  • abucs

    Secular creed as far as religion goes –

    Religion doesn’t belong in schools.
    Religion doesn’t belong in policy matters.
    Religion doesn’t belong in public spaces like shopping centres.
    Religion doesn’t belong in language – Happy Holiday.
    Religion doesn’t belong on tv (save for stand up comics).
    Religion doesn’t belong in history save for criticizing of it.
    Religion belongs in the home and church (big concession).

    Basically religion doesn’t belong in life except for your own personal space as long as you keep it to yourself and not live it but only think it.

    No wonder people turn away from religion in secular countries and ask ‘what good is it ?’.
    It has been suffocated to death by secularism.

    I’m sure many will ask the same question here. But that is the crux of this, really. Social engineering by stealth.

    ok, let me be wildly melodramatic now. Look back in history and see what the early policies of Hitler and Stalin were concerning religion. I’m serious here. Study what changes were made to the status quo as far as religion is concerned. It might surprise you and give you pause to re-think. Probably more people were murdered in the external and internal wars under Hitler and Stalin in Europe than at all other times combined. If you go back and read their secular agendas in the early days it all sounds very fair, very even handed, very modern, very inspirational. But under both regimes, religion had to be supplanted first.

    I’m not saying that Blair or Brown are the next Hitler, but i fear of a similar secular thrust for who might come after them. Better for diversity and non state monopoly i say, and a religion that’s alive instead of slowly suffocated.

    Stalin we all know about, some links to Hitler’s activities :

    http://www.bede.org.uk/hitler.htm

    http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/hjhandbuch.htm

    http://www.davnet.org/kevin/essays/hitler.html

    http://users.binary.net/polycarp/piusxii.html

    http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/hitler_youth.htm

    Bottom line is i have a right to LIVE a christian life. Education is a big part of life, or it should be.

  • abucs

    I should say that the other part of the bottom line is that we need an alternative voice on community values and directions.

    We know in Ireland when the state goes bad there needs to be an alternative power structure.
    I’m thiking particularly about the 19th Century here, so lets not get into the obvious arguement.

    As Albert Einstein said above in one of the links, sometimes the state needs to be opposed and when need be, the Churches have a platform to do this. It should not be slowly suffocated.

  • Church Mouse

    “In fact, I’m pretty sure Protestant children would benefit from a Catholic education too, and would be happy to see it. In fact, I think they are pretty sought after by all sorts in England.

    How would Protestant children benefit from a “Catholic education”?”

    I recall a TV programme in which Muslim kids who where going to a Christian School (Think it was CofE, the Muslim kids had to leave the assembly hall when the schoolmaster at the front was saying a prayer, and they had time allocated in the day for praying to Mecca.
    Unfortunately these acts of religious solidarity by the kids singled them out for bullying.
    I dont know an awful lot about Presbyterianism, but I’d take a wild guess and say that the presbyters are against taking mass, especially if its conducted by a Catholic priest, be he a Roman Catholic or a Reformist Catholic.
    (Dec reffering to someone as Roman Catholic is’nt derrogatory as some protestants consider themselves catholic, its a way of differentiating between… ahh you work it out).

    Anyway, regarding sending prod kids to RC schools, the RC schools would have to adjust to encompass the new religion… making them, multi-denominational, I would be interested in finding out how RC’s taught the Reformation, Wurms, etc, Biased or unbiased.

    Dont knock Sunday School, While the parents where away listening to the Reverend drone on about JC, we had games n stuff, great, and The Bible explained in a way a 6 year old would understand.

  • willis

    Jaffa

    Well spotted. Bright kids going to the other island is part of the story, however the educational attainment of the adult population here has more to do with the way selection operated here in the past. The 11+ really was the cut off. If you were part of the 25% who passed you got qualifications. If you were part of the other 75% you didn’t.

    Massive generalisation I know, but the education system of the fifties was a long way from where we are now.

  • kensei

    “Er, no-one’s trying to force anyone (let alone everyone) to be the same. What we want, though, is for people to tolerate, understand and respect each other, and to end the destructive sectarian division in our society. It is very sad that obstinate, selfish views such as yours are so widespread: it offers little hope for a tolerant and peaceful society in the future.”

    Tolerance is not incompatible with Catholic schooling. What is sad is you think it is.

    “But you have nothing to compare it to. How do you know that the ethos in other schools is not similar or better?”

    True. Do you have a frame of reference with Catholic schooling?

    “You have grown up in a segregated society, you are comfortable with that, and you want to maintain it. Perhaps you lack the self-confidence in your own identity and fear that being exposed to others who are “different” might somehow weaken it? ”

    No, it is simply for the reasons I have listed.

  • Democratic

    This discussion really has brought out the worst in some people.
    I stand by what I said right at the start – the main point made by the pro-segregationalists is that their right of choice for their children is being constricted by those who advocate a secularist or integrated system – they do not seem to have much reasoning beyond this for maintaining division – save for “Children being more comfortable around their own sort” or being afraid that “state education produces good little Brits” or even “Exposure to the other side might harm our Catholic ethos” – These mindsets seem to be the real dark undercurrent running through this thread.
    Also like I said before – the people who shout loudest about the freedom to segregate are those who complain about the lack of unity of thinking, purpose and Identity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland society – how ironic!

  • Butterknife

    Went to a funeral yesterday in Loughbrickland and the (integrated) primary school choir sang at the funeral. Fantastic choir. No doubt this school will close …

  • abucs

    Simply put Democratic, secularism does not have a good track record. Britain and America are in Iraq right now trying to force secularism down peoples throats. They have no right to do that. It is not the default. Hundreds of thousands of Iraquis are dead today because of the arrogant belief it is best for people and there’s the possibility of tipping off a Sunni / Shite Arabian war.

    There are not many times i agree with a British military commander but one said a few weeks ago that Britain has no moral authority to dictate to Iraq on how to live. He then lamented the loss of Christianity in secular Britain saying that Britain didn’t really seem to stand for anything anymore.

    If the truth is bringing out the worst in people then obviously that is your way of not defending what has very recently happened in the name of secularism. I don’t mind people being secular, i don’t try and dictate your lives. You have no right to do it either. If that had gotten through perhaps we wouldn’t be seeing the very real effects in Iraq nightly on our tv screens leading to God knows what.

  • Democratic

    I really don’t see any parallel with the disgraceful sitution in Iraq and NI today Abucs no matter how you try and tenuously link it through secularism – however.
    Forget about secularism if that is what is bothering you – how about an agreed multi-denominational (note: NOT-non-denominationial)
    integrated schooling system for NI? – What are the problems with that without the whole “you’re taking away my right of choice!” spiel.

  • George

    Democratic,
    “I stand by what I said right at the start – the main point made by the pro-segregationalists is that their right of choice for their children is being constricted by those who advocate a secularist or integrated system – they do not seem to have much reasoning beyond this for maintaining division – save for “Children being more comfortable around their own sort” or being afraid that “state education produces good little Brits” or even “Exposure to the other side might harm our Catholic ethos” – These mindsets seem to be the real dark undercurrent running through this thread.”

    An equally dark undercurrent is the belief that the state knows better than the parent when it comes to a child’s education.

    This isn’t just about “pro-segregation” or “sectarian schooling” as seems to be argued by some here, it’s about a parent’s right to choose. It’s about a parent knowing what’s best for their children not the state.

    Down in the deep republican south, my nephews go to a Protestant primary school before moving on to a a Catholic secondary one. The eldest has just made the switch. They aren’t Catholic or Protestant but these are the best schools in the area and the parents want them to go there.

    They haven’t turned religious and they haven’t been ostracised but they do seem to be getting a good education.

    All schools down south opened last year were inter- or multi-denominational because that’s what parents want in 2006.

    However, a big issue in the Republic, as pointed out to me by Lorenzo a while back, seems to be that in certain areas where parents want an integrated school, they are being pointed in the direction of an existing empty and underperforming religious one.

    This is wrong because it removes the parental choice. The fight on this point continues I believe.

  • abucs

    I have no problem with parents and churches getting together to run a multi-denominational school where it is needed and agreed. Good luck to them.

    But i draw the line at it being run by state bureaucrats against peoples wills and banishing Catholic schools from recieving dollars from their parents taxes.

  • abucs

    That should be pounds of course. I’ve gone Australian. :o)

  • Democratic

    To Abucs –
    Thanks for your reply – I am glad we are finding some middle ground – however I noted the line “where it is needed and agreed” – surely the whole divided society in NI is exactly where it is needed.

    To George – I understand your view but perhaps I should have made more clear that my postings related to Northern Ireland’s deeply fractured society – not so much to the ROI where I understand that the problems affecting society here are not as manifest.

  • abucs

    That would be a matter for the local comunity in my view. I wouldn’t want it to be imposed as mandatory through legislation.

  • George

    Democratic,
    at risk of going around in circles, in a Northern Ireland context I believe people need more power taken away from the state and given to them.

    True it is a fractured society but the only way to move on from this is if all sides realise they are in this together.

    The best way to do this is, where possible in the current environment, to give them control over their own destiny.

    Let the parents make the choices but make them aware of the consequences of that choice.

    For example, let the parents of village x with two half-empty schools address the reality that they can either integrate the two in a manner that is amenable to them and if they can’t agree on that, let their children have a longer journey time to bigger religious schools in neighbouring villages.

    This could be done on a local authority, diocese or county level.

    Too many decisions are made above people’s heads in Northern Ireland as it is.

  • Democratic

    Hi Abucs,
    I can see where you are coming from – the suggestion about such decisions being made at a county level (or perhaps within the catchment areas of our upcoming super-councils?) sounds good to me – in fact if the article at the top of thread is anything to go by in terms of too many existing schools – I could quite feasibly see this happening – (if the whole Stormont debacle ever gets sorted!)
    I only wish I had the same confidence as you in the ability of parents in NI to think a little bigger than they seem to currently – I do hope that you are right and I wrong.
    I do agree about too many important decisions being made over our heads by the Government as well. – bloody water rates!!

  • abucs

    We got there in the end Democratic. I do agree with your main thrust that people come together in NI. There’s a lot of work done by local priests, pastors, rectors etc building bridges and this was always the case save some cases. Perhaps there could be more of a realisation that the churches are very similar. They share many things together and many of the issues are also shared by people outside the churches. I am confident that a shared identity will emerge given time and space and respect.

    Good to end on a positive note. Cheers.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I see a lot of comment on the site about the right of people to have the type of education they want … I don’t see a lot about the rights of the people that they expect to pay so they can have their rights.

    Rights apply to everyone not only those who want a particular type of education.

    If people want to make a particular choice they should pay for it.

  • kensei

    ““I stand by what I said right at the start – the main point made by the pro-segregationalists is that their right of choice for their children is being constricted by those who advocate a secularist or integrated system – they do not seem to have much reasoning beyond this for maintaining division – save for “Children being more comfortable around their own sort” or being afraid that “state education produces good little Brits” or even “Exposure to the other side might harm our Catholic ethos” – These mindsets seem to be the real dark undercurrent running through this thread.””

    Don’t twist the arguments, and no one said children would be more comfortable around “their own sort”.

    But I’d love explained why the worry that both their religion and culture will be mollified is legitimate.

  • Democratic

    To Abucs – Cheers.

    To Kensei – not twisting anything mate, those are the points being made by some people (not just you) on the thread – as I see them – albeit more concisely and without the flowery language.
    Feel free to expand on something in particular if you like.
    “But I’d love explained why the worry that both their religion and culture will be mollified is legitimate” – please excuse my ignorance – but I have no idea what this means.

  • George

    Frustrated Democrat,
    I think you have to break this down into two steps.

    Step 1:
    Decide between option of state providing education and state providing for education.

    Step 2:
    Cost and allocate available funds accordingly.

    Once step 1 has been agreed, then step 2 will follow.

    As I pointed out earlier, parental choice does not give you the right to a school of your choice on your doorstep.

    To repeat the post three above yours:

    “Let the parents make the choices but make them aware of the consequences of that choice.

    For example, let the parents of village x with two half-empty schools address the reality that they can either integrate the two in a manner that is amenable to them and if they can’t agree on that, let their children have a longer journey time to bigger religious schools in neighbouring villages.

    This could be done on a local authority, diocese or county level.”

    The necessary number of schools would be closed, the same amount of money would be spent but it would mean the parents having a say as to how it is spent.

    Your solution seems to be to take the parents out of the loop altogether.

  • kensei

    “To Kensei – not twisting anything mate, those are the points being made by some people (not just you) on the thread – as I see them – albeit more concisely and without the flowery language.
    Feel free to expand on something in particular if you like.”

    It may be how you see them but you are misrepresenting them. Point to me where anyone has stated that kids would be better off with “their own”, for a start.

    “please excuse my ignorance – but I have no idea what this means.”

    Explain why the concern that, as you as you put it “state schools turn out good little Brits”, i.e. both the religion and culture of the parents are suppressed or marginalised, is not a valid concern.

    Please note: I’m not asking whether it would happen or not.

  • Democratic

    Hi Kensei,
    I commented on the percieved undercurrents I was picking up from some of the postings (my opinions as I said)- to be honest I hope I did pick them up wrong – I would be delighted to believe so.
    The bit that seems to be concerning you (about kids being more comfortable around their own sort)
    did come from my postings with you if we must go through it. You wrote something about kids having to be comfortable with their own identity before being comfortable with others identities – then I think you went on to say that kids (i.e Catholics & Protestants) being “forced” together could only lead to resentment and bad feeling – a very negative view I thought – this was the root of my comment – if indeed I misrepresented then I apologise – but that was sure how it looked to me at the time – feel free to set me straight – but please no lawyer stuff telling me that you posted these exact words at 3 minutes past 10 etc, etc. -just let me know what you did mean if you feel an injustice has been done.
    “Explain why the concern that, as you as you put it “state schools turn out good little Brits”, i.e. both the religion and culture of the parents are suppressed or marginalised, is not a valid concern.” – I’m not sure if this is what you are asking but that one came from a pro-segregationalist poster telling a pro-integration poster that his dark underlying plan to do away with Catholic teaching for a state system churning out “British thinking Catholics” wasn’t going to happen – I then took it that this was an actual fear on the pro-segregationalist part – I.E. – that their kids would change into Unionists or Brits or whatever if exposed to the other sort within integrated education and was quite taken aback to be honest.

  • Church Mouse

    “There are not many times i agree with a British military commander but one said a few weeks ago that Britain has no moral authority to dictate to Iraq on how to live. He then lamented the loss of Christianity in secular Britain saying that Britain didn’t really seem to stand for anything anymore.”

    Militaries in most parts of the world believe a God/Allah/Jehovah etc fearing soldier, will have less a fear of death than one who does’nt, so religion in the military is taken very seriously and encouraged where possible.

    Nice to see multi-denominational schools is’nt abhorrent to some, It would’nt be that hard to implement, 2 or 3 different assemblies in the morning, then different sports and language classes etc.

  • jaffa

    An increasing number of families are multi-denominational also – or at least bi-curious in a cultural sense. Personally I’d like to see the local grammar Sullivan Upper (which has an Irish motto so there’s a start) offer Irish, some Irish medium social studies classes (science should always be taught in English), detailed and provocative history classes, and gaelic games (there are some very good GAA fields across the road) while remaining unapologetically multi-denominational or even unionist lite.

    It’s more than possible if you abandon the UK / ROI dialectic and take the Jaffa syntehsis of bilingual Canadian style province.

  • kensei

    “I commented on the percieved undercurrents I was picking up from some of the postings (my opinions as I said)- to be honest I hope I did pick them up wrong – I would be delighted to believe so.
    The bit that seems to be concerning you (about kids being more comfortable around their own sort)
    did come from my postings with you if we must go through it. You wrote something about kids having to be comfortable with their own identity before being comfortable with others identities – then I think you went on to say that kids (i.e Catholics & Protestants) being “forced” together could only lead to resentment and bad feeling – a very negative view I thought – this was the root of my comment – if indeed I misrepresented then I apologise – but that was sure how it looked to me at the time – feel free to set me straight – but please no lawyer stuff telling me that you posted these exact words at 3 minutes past 10 etc, etc. ”

    No, you are misrepresenting me. Being comfortable with your own identity is different from only being comfortable around “your own sort”. I also meant it as a more general comment and not referring to merely children – similar beefs with forced anything else. Can it be done in a mixed environment? Of course. But the default here seems to me to be some kind of bland neutrality and we dare not speak that we are different for fear of offending, which a complete failure for everyone. But the point about forcing people together still stands, and I believe in incentive and allowing people to come together in their own time, not coercion.

    “I’m not sure if this is what you are asking but that one came from a pro-segregationalist poster telling a pro-integration poster that his dark underlying plan to do away with Catholic teaching for a state system churning out “British thinking Catholics” wasn’t going to happen – I then took it that this was an actual fear on the pro-segregationalist part – I.E. – that their kids would change into Unionists or Brits or whatever if exposed to the other sort within integrated education and was quite taken aback to be honest.”

    No dark conspiracies. The fear would be that the kids wouldn’t get a chance to learn Irish or participate in Gaelic Games (easily done under a ban-anything-not-completely neutral policy.) or that their religion wouldn’t have the same impact in their day-to-day lives. I want to know why this concern is an illegitimate one.

    Oh, and there undoubtedly people who attack CCMS schooling because they want to get at the Catholic Church. [Let’s keep the reasonable conversation going – edited moderator]. By that’s just by the by.

  • jaffa

    Re neutral games I’ve read that Lagan College has a championship basketball team. Maybe if you blend Ulster Prod kids and Irish Catholic kids in a progressive neutral environment you get……..Americans!! AARRGGHH!!

  • Mick Fealty

    Sullivan was until fairly recently the only secondary school in Northern Ireland to have a school motto in Irish (the norm was Latin) – lámh foisteanach in uachtar (a graceful hand uppermost?) – as I recall.

  • willowfield

    DEC

    And there’s the bottom line with you, Willowfield: it’s not about integration and sharing, it’s all about Catholic (or Roman Catholic as you have it, the use of which term is a sure sign of a unpleasant I find). it doesn’t cross your mind that Catholic parents can make choices about the education of their children without deciding first how best to stick it up their protestant neighbours. Get over yourself.

    Wrong. The issue is integration and the damage to society done by sectarian segregation. Get over yourself.

    The thrust of your argument is the same deranged, garbage O’Neill came out with: educate Catholics like Protestants and they’ll start acting like little British people. Nice try.

    Wrong. I want all children to be educated together in an inclusive environment.

    Thankfully, the Catholic education system is here to stay, because believe it or not, they’ve decades of experience of decades and they’re actually really good at it.

    Non-Roman Catholic schools also have decades of experience and are also really good at it.

    What the current system is NOT really good at, though, is producing future generations of adults who are open-minded, tolerant and understanding of each other and who share and live together peacefully and with good will to one another.

    Presumably by the tone of your reply you support sectarian schooling. By doing so you reveal yourself content to continue with sectarian division. That is saddening.

    GEORGE

    I said there are plenty of other countries with parental choice who don’t have a problem with sectarianism.

    And I asked whether these countries were characterised by deep community division along politico-religious lines. I note you opted not to answer.

    It seems to me that in Northern Ireland there are lots of people who want to remove powers from people because they don’t trust them. Removing parental choice is just another one.

    For the nth time, no-one is advocating that “parental choice” be removed.

    You haven’t given me any evidence showing parental choice maintains sectarianism or perpetuates it.

    Um, when parents choose to segregate their children from the other community until they reach adulthood, quite obviously that maintains sectarian division.

    NEW YORKER

    The main issue seems to be pro or anti religious schools. I think there is no doubt that religious schools generally are superior to state schools.

    Where is your evidence for this assertion in respect of Northern Ireland?

  • kensei

    “For the nth time, no-one is advocating that “parental choice” be removed.”

    By taking away the money that is precisely what you are doing.

  • willowfield

    BEARDYBOY

    … they want to control our children by teaching them their secularist agenda.

    Maybe you should actually read what people have written? Most of those opposed to sectarian segregation would be happy for integrated schools to teach religion and are not advocating “a secularist agenda”.

    Stop creating bogeymen to justify that which you seemingly find hard to defend.

    They cannot force us into this. We are too many and too strong – I hope that the Church tells them where exactly they can go, they should also dump their ineffective education system too, they should adopt the curriculum of the Irish schooling system and have our children take the leaving cert and inter cert. At least this way our children will not be influenced by the British Securalists. We even should insist that the schools start teaching solely through the Irish Medium if they try to get awkward

    You really do like segregation, don’t you? I sincerely hope sectarian attitudes like yours are held by only a small number of people. Not much chance of a “united Ireland” otherwise.

    ABUCS

    Bottom line is i have a right to LIVE a christian life. Education is a big part of life, or it should be.

    No-one’s saying you can’t send your kids to a sectarian school if you wish. The issue is about state funding for sectarian schools.

    CHURCH MOUSE

    (Dec reffering to someone as Roman Catholic is’nt derrogatory as some protestants consider themselves catholic, its a way of differentiating between… ahh you work it out).

    I think Dec likes the feeling of thinking he is oppressed, hence is eagerness to take offence.

    KENSEI

    Tolerance is not incompatible with Catholic schooling. What is sad is you think it is.

    Segregated sectarian schooling leads to sectarian division characterised by mutual suspicion and intolerance. That is a fact. When children are segregated away from those of the other community until adulthood it is hardly surprising that intolerance and lack of understanding are hallmarks of our divided society.

    True. Do you have a frame of reference with Catholic schooling?

    I’m not making any judgements about Roman Catholic schooling, negative or positive. I have not said or implied that Roman Catholic schooling is poor. On the contrary, I have acknowledged that many RC schools are excellent, just as are many non-RC schools. (Many of course are failing, just as many non-RC schools are failing.) My point is about the harmful effects of segregation.

    No, it is simply for the reasons I have listed.

    But – as you admit – the reasons you have listed are based on a comparison you are unable to make. You are claiming that RC schools are better than non-RC schools, yet you acknowledge that you have no experience of the latter and are therefore in no position to make the claim.

    Therefore the conclusion must be that the real reason you support sectarian segregated schools is because you have grown up in a segregated society, you are comfortable with that, and you want to maintain it. And also, since you have expressed fears about integration, and have even commented about people “having to be comfortable in their own identity”, it may be that you lack the self-confidence in your own identity and fear that being exposed to others who are “different” might somehow weaken it.

    GEORGE

    An equally dark undercurrent is the belief that the state knows better than the parent when it comes to a child’s education.

    George, the reaction of you – and the others – is quite remarkable. When faced with a challenge to your support for sectarian segregation, you resort to creating bogeymen that no-one has raised:

    – removing “parental choice” (no-one is advocating the removal of parental choice
    – teaching “secularism” as an ideology (no-one is advocating this)
    – schools with no religious ethos (multi-denominational schools are being advocated)

    And now “the belief that the state knows better than the parent when it comes to a child’s education”.

    George, integrated schools have boards of governors, to which parents elect members, and which consult with parents. Parents can influence the ethos of the school. Schools are managed locally. And, in a democracy, the state is run BY the people (that includes parents).

    This isn’t just about “pro-segregation” or “sectarian schooling” as seems to be argued by some here, it’s about a parent’s right to choose. It’s about a parent knowing what’s best for their children not the state.

    But when parents choose sectarian segregation, that is a very damaging choice to society and therefore should not be financed by the state.

  • willowfield

    KENSEI

    No dark conspiracies. The fear would be that the kids wouldn’t get a chance to learn Irish or participate in Gaelic Games (easily done under a ban-anything-not-completely neutral policy.) or that their religion wouldn’t have the same impact in their day-to-day lives. I want to know why this concern is an illegitimate one.

    Bogeyman.

    No-one is suggesting that Gaelic language or Gaelic games wouldn’t be taught in integrated schools.

    On the contrary, I have EXPLICITLY said that they should and would be taught.

    You’re making up bogeymen to argue against because you find it hard to argue against inclusivity, mutual understanding and a society at peace with itself.

  • kensei

    “Therefore the conclusion must be that the real reason you support sectarian segregated schools is because you have grown up in a segregated society, you are comfortable with that, and you want to maintain it. And also, since you have expressed fears about integration, and have even commented about people “having to be comfortable in their own identity”, it may be that you lack the self-confidence in your own identity and fear that being exposed to others who are “different” might somehow weaken it.”

    Symmetrical argument.

    Also, I am perfectly confident in my own identity, which is why I have friends from all different backgrounds. Believe it or not, I don’t even try to find out one way or the other because I don’t actually give a shit. But then again, that’s what happens when you half read stuff and make conclusion based on no more evidence than the voices in your head.

    “No-one is suggesting that Gaelic language or Gaelic games wouldn’t be taught in integrated schools.

    On the contrary, I have EXPLICITLY said that they should and would be taught.”

    At every school? Who would decide? What if a pupil objected? How would it be taught? Would it be confined or would it permeate the school? Etc, etc, etc. And of course, I didn’t make up any bogeymen. I merely asked why this was apparently an invalid concern.

    “You’re making up bogeymen to argue against because you find it hard to argue against inclusivity, mutual understanding and a society at peace with itself.”

    Of course I would, but then again I’m not arguing against them. Just removal of parental choice from schooling.

  • kensei

    “The issue is about state funding for sectarian schools.”

    Are you giving me my tax rebate or not? If so, we have no problem.

  • willowfield

    KENSEI

    Symmetrical argument.

    ???

    Also, I am perfectly confident in my own identity

    Because you went to a sectarian school? Do you think you would you be less confident if you had been schooled with “the other sort”?

    Believe it or not, I don’t even try to find out one way or the other because I don’t actually give a shit. But then again, that’s what happens when you half read stuff and make conclusion based on no more evidence than the voices in your head.

    You expressed fears about integrated schools because you felt people needed to be comfortable in their own identity. It is reasonable to conclude from this that you feel segregated sectarian schools are more likely to promote comfort in one’s identity than integrated schools.

    At every school?

    I should hope so.

    Who would decide?

    A combination of the government, the curriculum authority and the board of governors I should imagine.

    What if a pupil objected?

    To what? If a pupil didn’t want to learn Gaelic he or she wouldn’t need to choose it.

    How would it be taught?

    Teachers would be employed to instruct classes of pupils.

    Would it be confined or would it permeate the school? Etc, etc, etc.

    I don’t see that it would be “confined” or “permeate the school” (whatever that means). Pupils would go to classrooms and learn the subject as they do for any other subject.

    Of course I would, but then again I’m not arguing against them. Just removal of parental choice from schooling.

    You’re trying to disguise the real issue in the consumerist language of “parental choice”. The issue is this divided society we live in, its harmful effects, and the contribution to sustaining division made by sectarian schools. Societies need to balance the greater good and individual choice. When your choice to segregate your child away from “the other sort” has such harmful effects on society as a whole, it becomes incompatible with the public good, and therefore is not something that the taxpayer should fund.

    Are you giving me my tax rebate or not? If so, we have no problem.

    I have no power to give you a tax rebate. However, as I’m sure you are aware, in a liberal democracy, everyone is taxed on the same basis. In return, they get to vote to change how their money is spent. Individuals do not get “rebates”

  • kensei

    “Because you went to a sectarian school? Do you think you would you be less confident if you had been schooled with “the other sort”?”

    For a variety of reasons. I think I would have suffered through the lack of Catholic education.

    “You expressed fears about integrated schools because you felt people needed to be comfortable in their own identity.”

    No I expressed fears about people being forced together. Keep up.

    “It is reasonable to conclude from this that you feel segregated sectarian schools are more likely to promote comfort in one’s identity than integrated schools.”

    Well I wasn’t actually arguing that, but surely that is tautology anyway?

    “A combination of the government, the curriculum authority and the board of governors I should imagine.”

    So parents would have no say? Or pupils? How strange.

    “To what? If a pupil didn’t want to learn Gaelic he or she wouldn’t need to choose it.”

    Pupil offended by Irish. Thinks the GAA is a political organisation. Kicks up a fuss. What happens?

    “Teachers would be employed to instruct classes of pupils.”

    Not who, how.

    “Would it be confined or would it permeate the school? Etc, etc, etc.”

    So the Irish department extended beyond the classroom – into the life of the school. There was an Irish mas son St Patrick’s Day. The Department helped organize trips to quizzes and the like outside the school. Similarly, Gaelic Games were important. There was normally time given to go to finals and the like. They are valued parts of the schools, and not just in the classroom. They go beyond it.

    “You’re trying to disguise the real issue in the consumerist language of “parental choice”.”

    No, I because I will equally take up the argument over any other type of school you wish to stop choice in.

    “The issue is this divided society we live in, its harmful effects, and the contribution to sustaining division made by sectarian schools.”

    Where is your proof? I was taught nothing but tolerance at school.

    “I have no power to give you a tax rebate. However, as I’m sure you are aware, in a liberal democracy, everyone is taxed on the same basis. In return, they get to vote to change how their money is spent. Individuals do not get “rebates” ”

    But groups individuals do. Don’t split hairs.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    “And I asked whether these countries were characterised by deep community division along politico-religious lines. I note you opted not to answer.”

    No, they are not. Are you saying that you aren’t against parental choice but just not for the people of Northern Ireland because the parents there are somehow incapable of dealing with it?

    “But when parents choose sectarian segregation, that is a very damaging choice to society and therefore should not be financed by the state.”

    This reminds me of Henry Ford: You can have any colour you want as long as it is black.

    Your understanding of the word “choice” is obviously different to mine.

  • BeardyBoy

    Willowfield

    Of course they are trying to control the minds of the children – that is what governments constantly do – they propagadise and if they get them young that amkes it easier as they control what the children are taught. I would not wnat my children brought up in the pro-abortion and contraceptive culture of the State, and I do not trust ANY state with my childs mind.

    As for wanting divisions to remain – the real division is the border – it gives us all something to fight for or against. It is better for all nationalist to be separate from the State and all its pomps, keep it unstable, that way it will never be portrayed as tholeable, otherwise we will be expected to put up with it and make do. I will not be part of that strategy. I will just make it as clear as possible that the border is totally unacceptable and will not participate in my own demise in any way.

  • Crataegus

    George the comparison is not Ford and car colours but perhaps more akin to a group of friends deciding to go to a restaurant, one prefers Pizza and another Indian, another Chinese and one even prefers traditional food. Is it better they all go their separate ways or choose a restaurant with a wide and varied menu or compromise and try Mongolian? What is more important, strict adherence to the demands of an over refined taste or the camaraderie and a good night out?

    To me this whole debate is driven by deep seated insecurity, a fear of dilution without placing comparable value on widening experience. I am not from a Christian background and going to state schools did me no harm whatsoever. I cannot relate the fears expressed with personal experience. The problems I had with school had nothing to do with religious ethos or being force fed Christianity. I totally fail to understand why it is allegedly beyond the wit of man to produce a system that is fair and reasonable for all. The system could be flexible and varied but with the specific criteria that it must not exclude or select on grounds of belief. A system that any child can feel comfortable in?

    Choice is a wonderful thing I have all the freedom of choice my wallet can support, but in this debate we expect others to subsidise our personal choice? Be in no doubt running parallel systems is wasteful, fragments populations and can result in a lesser range of subjects being taught.

    Are we so insecure that we need to withdraw to maintain identity? If so very sad indeed.

  • abucs

    It’s a matter of being very secure Crataegus. Secure and confident enough to stand up for who we are.

    In a truly plural society, that should be respected, surely ?

    I am suspicious that it always seems that the people who are most interested in getting rid of the Catholic system are the non Christians. With a straight face they tell us how a non denominational state school will be a compromise and so beneficial for everyone.

    When in reality a non religious system fits in extremely well with their own minority ethos and philosophy.

    We are not insecure, nor are we stupid.

  • abucs

    As far as the cost in having Catholic schools, apart from the “we pay tax too” arguement, and the fact that many Catholic grounds and buildings were paid for from non tax pounds there is the case that in other countries they have similar systems side by side without a fractured society.

    If people think that one system saves so much money, maybe they should all vote for the one political party that works for 1/2 pay ?

    Unthinkable ? Untenable ? Other factors ? Freedom of choice ? Disagree with their philosophy ?

    Good, now you can see our position.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    abucs

    I do not want to get rid of the Catholic system.

    I want to get rid of the current State, Integrated and Catholic systems where they are funded by the government and to replace them with a completely secular system.

    If parents want a system with a religious ethos I have no problem, if they pay for it. I am not refusing choice to parents I want to remove the choice to have an inefficient choice which does not provide the best use of pounds per pupil.

  • abucs

    Frustrated Democrat, i also have no problem with parents that want a secular ethos, as long as they pay for it.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Abucs

    The problem I have is that a secular system is the most efficient system with lower costs since it would remove all duplication of facilities and teachers and give the widest possible curriculum in all schools including Gaelic language and games…… therefore I am already paying more for what you want than a secular system would cost.

    Therefore your arguement has no validity whatsoever.

  • abucs

    Frustrated Democrat, i understand your position. I think the difference between us is that you see a secular system as a neutral default system whereas i see it as another philosophical system with an ethos of its own.

    I don’t think personally that is is such a big imposition on costs. In the areas where there are more places than students then they can amalgmate by local agreement as mentioned above or even use the same premises. They can play together, share classes together, sure they can even have the same basic uniform. I just don’t want it controlled by a secular state.

    With all the money that the school system will make in selling property of unneeded schools then the situation is more likely to be an excess of funds rather than a shortage.

    I just don’t want a secular state to have complete control. If there is enough people supporting this, and i believe there is, then by democratic standards it should continue to be respected IMHO.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    abucs

    I cannot understand what is wrong with a secular education system as a default instead of the competing systems we have today…. it would employ the same teachers and impart the same standards of behaviour to the pupils and give a much wider curriculum both academic and recreational.

    The only part missing would be religious education which can easily be taught in the church or home … do children need to be given religious education in school when other avenues are freely available to those who want to avail of them?

    What exactly does religion bring to education? Is it that children of parents who don’t sent their children to church or educate them at home can be taught in schools as a sort of catch all?

    I just seem to read into this arguement the implication that schools based on a religious ethos are somehow better at educating children in academic subjects. That arguement appears to me to be unsupportable.

  • abucs

    As a final note FD i go back to say religion is not an hour a day on a Thursday. It is a philosophy, it is an explanation, it is a community acknowledging a moral creed and responsibility towards eachother. It is not always successful or positive. But it is based on what its adherants would claim is firm moral beginnings. It is a way of life that has been much curtailed and is under challenge as other threads would testify.

    Personally i think unbridled secularism can very quickly turn into anti religion, again as the Halliday piece shows. There are many many people who would support this.

    If you look at the Hitler links i provided earlier, you can see that blind adherance to the state can be dangerous. As it was across the communist world or in other countries such as Portugal at the beginning of last century where religion was also banned in cities and big towns.

    I’m not saying secularists are bad or communists are bad or atheists are bad, i’m just saying be careful in your attemps to destroy religion, something that you may consider to be nonsense. You cannot control its outcomes and you may not like where it ends up.

    All i’m asking is for the respect to be who we are. Intellectually, culturally and morally we have chosen to be who we are in life. Not just for an hour on Thursday and Sunday each week.

    I ask you to be understanding and giving for democracy’s sake. The same way as my taxes go to pay for the war in Iraq, abortion in Britain and Australia and many other such cases.

    Best wishes.

  • willowfield

    KENSEI

    For a variety of reasons. I think I would have suffered through the lack of Catholic education.

    Yet you are unable to articulate those reasons. It seems that you really have no rational reason to support sectarian segregation: it is a gut instinct – something you are emotionally attached to and are scared of change. Even if it is change for the betterment of society.

    No I expressed fears about people being forced together. Keep up.

    And also about the need for people to be “comfortable in their own identity”, thus tying comfort with one’s identity to the sectarian segregation of children.

    So parents would have no say? Or pupils? How strange.

    How do parents and pupils have a say now? I don’t remember being asked as a pupil what subjects should be in the curriculum! As regards parents, they are usually consulted by the board of governers. Anyway, whatever the current arrangements, they would stay the same, so this is a non-issue.

    Pupil offended by Irish. Thinks the GAA is a political organisation. Kicks up a fuss. What happens?

    If a pupil was offended by Gaelic, I don’t imagine he or she would choose to study it!

    So the Irish department extended beyond the classroom – into the life of the school. There was an Irish mas son St Patrick’s Day. The Department helped organize trips to quizzes and the like outside the school. Similarly, Gaelic Games were important. There was normally time given to go to finals and the like. They are valued parts of the schools, and not just in the classroom. They go beyond it.

    I don’t see why any of that could not take place in a multi-denominational school.

    Where is your proof? I was taught nothing but tolerance at school.

    The proof is in all the evidence that demonstrates how children do not know or meet children from the other community – how their attitudes are formed in isolation from the other community. The proof is in the physical and social segregation of our society. The proof is in the sectarian attitudes that are reinforced by that segregation.

    But groups individuals do. Don’t split hairs.

    I’m not sure that makes grammatical sense, nor do I know what it means.

    Anyway, what is your objection to a multi-denominational school which provides Gaelic language classes; Gaelic games; pastoral support from Roman Catholic clergy; Roman Catholic clergy on the board of governers; a high degree of parental involvement in school management; R.E classes provided by R.C. clergy; etc., etc.?

  • willowfield

    GEORGE

    No, they are not. Are you saying that you aren’t against parental choice but just not for the people of Northern Ireland because the parents there are somehow incapable of dealing with it?

    I’m saying in a society divided along politico-religious lines with a history of sectarian hatred and violence, it is not a good idea to have physically segregated sectarian schools which reinforce said divisions.

    Rant on about “choice” all you want like a good Thatcherite, but – like most things – there is a balance to be struck between the desires of individuals and the greater good of society.

    BEARDYBOY

    Of course they are trying to control the minds of the children – that is what governments constantly do – they propagadise and if they get them young that amkes it easier as they control what the children are taught.

    Do you live in a bunker and have a fascination with guns and home-made explosives?

  • George

    Willowfield,
    Firstly, just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I am ranting (I hope). Equally, just because you disagree with me doesn’t mean you are ranting (you hope).

    “I’m saying in a society divided along politico-religious lines with a history of sectarian hatred and violence, it is not a good idea to have physically segregated sectarian schools which reinforce said divisions.”

    I keep saying this and you keep ignoring it. Parental choice does not equal segregated or sectarian schooling, it can equally mean integrated schooling.

    But, for the sake of argument, let’s look at your view, which deals specifically with Northern Ireland.

    The problem isn’t that Catholic and Protestant children are educated in different schools and therefore “segregated” from each other, it’s that they are brought up to believe that they are from (or have) different and totally incompatible cultures and ideologies.

    If they were Protestant Irish and Catholic Irish or Protestant British and Catholic British you wouldn’t have this problem and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Accordingly, if you put them all in the same building, you won’t change the reality that they are from (or have) different and totally incompatible cultures and ideologies.

    The Irish aren’t going to become any more British/unionist and the British aren’t going to become any more Irish/nationalist because they have been herded into the same school.

    “there is a balance to be struck between the desires of individuals and the greater good of society.”

    You seem to have decided that you know the balance. This is an attitude I abhor. I am not a big fan of religion or religious people.

    I have been physically threatened, had holy water thrown in my face and had people pray for my damned soul in front of me. I have been called a dirty heathen for standing up in the streets against the conservative religious over issues such as abortion and divorce in Ireland.

    But I accept they have rights and that I can’t trample on them using the guise of the “greater good”.

    I also believe a parent knows what’s best for their child and their involvement is essential.

    Sections of Northern Irish society are seriously dysfunctional, some would say NI society as a whole is dysfunctional.

    Removing parental choice will make it even more dysfunctional in my view.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Can someone here who supports religious education tell me what it is about an education with a religious ethos that make its superior to a secular education.

    Does it turn out ‘better’ people?

    Does it provide a better academic education?

    Is it that it segregates different backgrounds?

    Is it about preserving specific religious/ethnic cultures?

    Is it taking over from parents in teaching religion if they do no provide it in the home?

  • Henry94

    Frustrated Democrat

    By a secular education you mean a state monopoly. Correct? Because the issue is not determined by somebody explaining to you why they make a particular choice. The issue is why you would deny them the right to make a choice at all.

    In every other sphere of activity the superiority of competition over monopoly has been accepted. Nobody is arguing that we have too many hardware shops or restaurants. We understand that the good ones will survive and the bad ones won’t.

    With schools we appear to have a consensus that the state should be involved in funding. I think that is in itself debatable but I accept it is the consensus view.

    If that is the reality the state can either fund all students equally and let competition bring us the best schools or it can try to run the lot.

    Nobody can seriously argue that a state monopoly will give us better education.

    So choice it has to be. If you think we need to justify our choices to you then I can understand why you are frustrated but not why you claim to be a democrat.

    The people have voted consistently for choice supporting parties. Choice works. Only the adherents of the bizarre ideology of extremist secularism thinks they should have their state-monopolist views imposed on everybody else.

  • willis

    On the basis that the whole secularism / faith debate has been done to death on this thread, is it possible to have some discussion on the merits and implications of the report?

    Tom Elliot UUP MLA believes that the Bain Report could lead to Rural Apartheid.

    Aside from the fact that the current situation is a better approximation to apartheid, he does make good points about the rural/urban split. Has Bain set the rural viability level for primary schools too high?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Henry

    No I do not want a state monopoly.

    I want the state to provide the funding for a standard secular system and if parents want something exclusive then they can pay the additonal costs of it being provided.

    I do not care if the state or private companies
    manage the system.

    For example if it is calculated that to provide a standard secular education for all the pupils in NI would be £10,000,000 and there are 1,000 pupils then the cost per pupil would be £1,000

    If say 100 opt out of the standard system then the cost per opt in pupil would rise to say £1050 or £945,000 in total leaving a grant of £550 per pupil to go to the opt outs. They would then make up the difference to meet their choice.

    If everyone chose to opt out then there would be a grant of £1,000 per pupil and no standard provision.

    In that way there is a diversity of choice and efficiency for the tax payer.

    I still however do not understand the attraction of a religious education over a secular one.