Cross border education: lay out all the facts please

Is this form of cross border cooperation actually divisive? Contrast two stories about the SF led Education department’s plan for a survey of 50,000 “border families “ (i.e. families on both sides of the border) on the takeup of school places by children from the other side. Liam Clarke’s story records the objections of DUP’s Mervyn Storey, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, to SF minister John O’Dowd’s plan on the grounds that the minister “ has lost all sense of spending priorities  in a time of cuts” He suspects it might be a scheme for encouraging all-Ireland education, perish the thought!.  Unsurprisingly the Derry Journal reports welcomes for the plan in Donegal.

Mr Liam Galbraith, Principal, Crana College in Buncrana, said: “For people living in the Border area, the Border is an imaginary line on a map. Access to the best type of education should be available to families, irrespective of where they live. I just hope that issues such as transport are properly sorted out in advance.”

The numbers are hardly staggering – out of 302,000 pupils in Northern Ireland, 402 or 0.1% come from across the border, and maybe 119 went the other way in 2009/10.

But what has happened to the “grannying” problem? That’s the trend objected to by already oversubscribed  Catholic schools in Derry and elsewhere of pupils from Donegal given false addresses in order to gain admission  in breach of the admission rules. Has grannying simply gone away or are kids from the Republic now occupying surplus places in the North? And how does the funding transfer work?  To win the support it needs, cross border cooperation should be transparent. Btw, on the subject of transparency, I’d love to know the northern take up of those “free” university places in the Republic.

The latest simple statement I can find is more than a decade old from the UU

The study also found that over 700 students from the Republic entered higher education institutions in Northern Ireland in 1997, while 250 students from Northern Ireland were admitted to institutions in the Republic.

Does anybody know the up to date figures?    These are subjects that should be meat and drink to MLAs before old school conspiracy charges are levelled.



Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London