NI curriculum now includes lessons from ex-terrorists…

THE Education Minister snuck this press release out in the news graveyard of a Friday afternoon, but I think it’s worth highlighting, as it will probably provoke strong reactions one way or the other. A new resource for local schools entitled, ‘From Prison to Peace: Building on Experience’, has been launched. The resource, “which has been developed by a partnership of community and former prisoner groups from all sides of the community, provides a range of interesting, challenging and informative learning materials for pupils at Key Stage 4”.

According to the Minister’s blurb:

As we move forward into a more progressive and equal society, it is important that we do not forget the lessons of the past. The re-integration of politically motivated ex-prisoners into society provides an opportunity for them to contribute positively to this progress and help ensure that history does not repeat itself.

This innovative learning resource seeks to build on the strong relationships that have been established between a range of diverse groups. The materials have a strong emphasis on anti-sectarianism and anti-racism, which aligns well with the focus on Citizenship in the Revised Curriculum.

So it’s either a Daily Mail reader’s worst nightmare (‘Terrorists to teach our schoolkids’, perhaps?), or a Guardian luvvie’s wet dream (‘Kids learn how to avoid hatred of past’, or something.)

It’s not entirely clear from the statement what exactly our kids could learn from former paramilitaries, ex-combatants, politically motivated ex-prisoners or just plain old terrorists, but most things Caitriona does gets unionists’ goats up, so this could be another humdinger.

Unlike some of the contributors to the new educational resource, I’m holding fire until I see what it’s actually about. What exactly are the lessons of the past in this package, and how are they presented?

It might well be challenging and positive, but some will feel uneasy about such materials in the classroom. The Education Minister probably needs to do some educating if she is to convince parents of the worth of this new resource.

  • johno

    lol all Catriona needs to do is spend about 5 minutes ‘translating’ all the material into ulster scots (you know, stick a few ‘ayes’ and ‘ochs’ here and there) [text removed – behave yourself! – mods].

  • Chris Donnelly

    Poorly chosen headline, Gonzo.

    This is a teaching ‘resource’ and not a part of the ‘curriculum,’ a rather key distinction. Unionists seeking offence will be disappointed when/if they understand the not too subtle difference between the two.

    Anybody can devise a teaching resource. Schools are forever receiving such resources which have been developed by sporting and cultural organisations, not to mention groups like Women’s Aid, Trocaire etc.

    It is open to schools/ teachers to determine which -if any- of the resources to use as they strive to teach the curriculum.

    A couple of years ago my own Maintained school received a teaching resource from the Orange Order. It was followed by an invitation to enter the school children into a poster contest, asking children to draw a picture of their best memory of that summer’s marching season. The year in it was the one when local bonfires mocked the suicide of catholic teenagers from the district.

    Needless to say, no entries were made to the poster competition…..

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: A couple of years ago my own Maintained school received a teaching resource from the Orange Order.
    Did the education minister endorse that teaching resource in the same way she is endorsing this one?

  • I think, in principle, its a good idea.

    Of course its open to abuse and the outline shown is vague, but if it is done properly and is completely inclusive and unbiased why not.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Don’t know, would doubt it. Am quite sure unionist politicians would’ve approved though.

    Not really the point though,is it? This is an optional resource, one amongst many, which is not connected to the curriculum.

    Ultimately schools will determine whether or not to avail of the resource based on the quality and validity of the material (in that regard, I can’t comment, not having seen it yet.)

  • Some things are so predictable. Here is an extract from a play wot i wrote in 2003 which was set in the future. Don’t know how the formatting will come out on wordpress.

    Reporter 1 – Belfast Journal.Mr Shields. Is it true that ex- terrorists are helping set questions for the transfer test Mr Shields?

    Iain -[Obviously ignoring question] Gentlemen. As you know the Transfer Test Agency draws members from a variety of interests mostly our partners in education. One such partner is the Department of Education and they have seen fit to recommend the appointment of Mrs Cottee.

    Reporter 2 [In the background ringing his paper] “Yeah confirmed bomber in charge of 11+”

    Iain The Department frequently makes use of people with records of public service. Such people are drawn from what I believe is called the list of the great and the good.

    Reporter 1 -The great and the good?

    Iain -That I believe is the colloquial name for the list.

    Reporter 2 -[In the background ringing his paper] Scrap that. Now to read, “Ex-Bomber joins the list of the great and the good”

    Iain Now, I can confirm that Mrs Cottee has been appointed to the Agency. This was to be made known by the Department in a press release tomorrow. That being the case I thought it proper to let my own staff learn of this appointment beforehand and I invited Mrs. Cottee along today to speak on the theme of personal development and change as part of our review of our corporate plan. I anticipated some strong reactions and thought it best to get it over and done with-

    Reporter 1 -Were you consulted on this appointment?

    Iain -Yes I and the Chair of the agency and vice chair were fully consulted.

    Reporter 1 -And you agreed?

    Iain -[Stops and pauses] We were satisfied that the Department were satisfied of her suitability and hence we had no reason to disagree. [Walks on]

    Reporter 1 -Will staff face disciplinary action for walking out?

    Iain -No.

    Reporter 1 -And if they refuse to have anything to do with her in the future?

    Iain -It’s important to put this into context. Mrs Cottee will be on site once every two months. Her voice as a journalist and commentator on education is one voice among many. As I said earlier the Agency is representative of the educational community, of the wider community and is inclusive rather than exclusive. I think that is all I can usefully say. Now if you’ll excuse me.

    Reporter 1 -Will there be baggage checks at the entrance Sir?

    Iain -Have a look on your way out gentlemen.

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: Don’t know, would doubt it. Am quite sure unionist politicians would’ve approved though.
    Though you haven’t noticed any Departmental News Releases for other resources offered to your school, have you?
    Chris Donnelly: Ultimately schools will determine whether or not to avail of the resource based on the quality and validity of the material
    Though the fact that there have been several politically motivated murders by paramilitaries in the last year will presumably count at least as much in your school’s evaluation of the new resource as a placard on a bonfire did, won’t it?

  • Granni Trixie

    I can quite see that ex criminals or drug addicts going into schools to deflect young people from getting into a life of crime could be useful but what is more likely is that these materials offer an opportunity for propaganda justifying violence (always down to somebody elses fault).

    Given that it seems to be against ‘ra rules to articulate remorse this is like turkeys voting for Christmas.
    If ‘every teacher a teacher,a teacher of morals’ (which I believe) I would be surprised if schools take up the offer even if a Minister recommends them.

  • Cynic

    How much were they paid for it and by whom. This didn’t happen by accident.

    Who got the money and who approved it?

  • Danny

    “most things Caitriona does gets unionists’ goats up”

    Anything Caitriona does get everyone’s goats up. The woman has no place doing anything that requires even a modicum of thought, let alone being in charge of the building blocks for an entire generation. Faigh Ruana amach anois!

  • jtwo

    Was that play a therapeutic thing?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Will parents get the choice of whether their kids are taught?

    It would be interesting for number one child who is 16, but don’t know whether I would be so content with my kids at primary school being introduced to this.
    Then again, I attended Catholic primary and secondary schools…

  • Driftwood

    Key Stage 4 is GCSE Level. Science is no longer compulsory at GCSE so Chemistry and bomb making skills are entirely a matter of choice.

    Maybe Catriona could arrange for FARC members to tour schools here on the economic merits of narco-terrorism, and the sharing of local experience and information globally.
    Her forte I believe.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think the key is that they are “ex” terrorists.
    But as there are “ex” terrorists in government I see no reason why they cant be in schools.
    My belief has always been that “in loco parentis” is the key.
    I presume indeed I know that my own children would have been taught at stages by members of various political parties.
    Now clearly I had no problem with any of them. But if a teacher has a public profile as a member of a Party that was in contravention of my most basic beliefs, then of course I would object.
    No doubt parents are able to say that they dont want their kids to meet an ex terrorist, ex-car thief, ex-druggie whatever.
    The problem is that parents do not use “in loco parentis” enough.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Utterly dumbfounded by school report today by form teacher ‘s only comment for 1st year secondary pupil “… is always smartly dressed in school uniform”

    And I needed to know THAT because?It

    Whereas the utter bullshit that is taught as “Citizenship” is both alarming and beyond the remit of educators.

    Yet the same “educators” believe it is entirely appropriate and ask a child to remove their prosthesis and participate in P.E barefoot in the interests of the “health and safety” of other children “If she stood on another child we could be sued”

    (And without informing the 6 year old child’s parents)

  • hardly need to go seeking offence if it’s being delivered into your child’s classroom.

    SF’s Madrassa minister really is a decrepit old witch.

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse1745: I think the key is that they are “ex” terrorists.
    As others have pointed out, it’s the content that is more important. But if the ex-cons are supplying a personal perspective or going into schools, it may be more important to note whether they are reformed, or just retired.
    And the other issue is where did the money come from? After all, DSD is the government department in charge of Danegeld, not DEL.

  • PACE Parent

    In a devolved Stormont uncontrolled education world anything goes just so long as the system (taxpayer) pays for it and parents are kept in the dark.