Platform for Change asking if NI can have a coherent education system (Mon 24 June)

Back in February, Platform for Change came out of hiding and packed nine politicians onto a stage in the Belfast Holiday Inn to answer the question Can we now have a sensible conversation about flags? The Q&A format of the evening worked well, the DUP and Sinn Fein contributed (unusual for a Platform for Change event) and flag protesters along with 120 less worked up members of the public packed the room.

Platform for Change poster educationOn Monday 24 June, Platform for Change are back with new old topic – Education: Can we now have a coherent system?

With young people (and their teachers) currently segregated by religion and the ‘11+’ dividing them roughly along lines of social class, the system is under intense pressure in an era of austerity. Can it be shared without being integrated? And can it perform better than recent comparative (second-level) data indicate that it does?

Last week Cameron/Obama pointedly visited an the integrated school on the outskirts of Enniskillen, furthering underscoring with paint the recent joint Downing Street/NIO and Whitehouse messaging about local politicians needing to show serious intent and progress towards shared future. (Though from Mick’s post earlier this morning, looks like Obama’s messaging in the Belfast Waterfront didn’t translate well to his homeland.)

Yesterday morning, my commute to work was dominated by competing analyses of the success or otherwise of the Dickson Plan in Craigavon. Ideas about education, expressions of educational ideologies and hunches about what kind of learning Northern Ireland needs are never far from from public square or media reports.

Rather than having a political panel, Platform for Change have lined up contributions from a team of young people, teaching and educational experts:

  • Bronagh Heatley & anthony ??? Shannon Dand and Karl Spence from WIMPS
  • Liam McCusker, formerly of the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust
  • Ciarnan Helferty, former president of QUB Students Union
  • Nuala McAdams, current QUB SU VP for education
  • Mark Langhammer of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers
  • Mary Dorman Gerry Murphy of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation
  • Alan Smith of the UNESCO Institute at the University of Ulster

Cynics may at times dismiss Platform for Change as a bunch of “progressive liberals”. As a four year old organisation they’ve certainly under-delivered on their initial promise of challenge and policy development that would influence the less-extreme parties. The flags event was an encouraging development that broke out of the group’s normal middle class comfort zone.

Pop along to the Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue by 7.30pm on Monday 24 June if you want to see what they do with education. You don’t need to agree with the aims of Platform for Change to attend!

Update – post covering the event and including the audio so folk can listen back now online.

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