As the BBC reports, the Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly Education Committee, the DUP’s Mervyn Storey, wants the NI Education Minister, Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd, to publish the findings of a “joint attitudinal survey to inform cross-border pupil movement and school planning”, which was conducted a year ago for the North South Ministerial Council. From the BBC report
The Stormont minister for education has been challenged to publish the findings of a survey of attitudes to schooling in the border counties.
The research was carried out more than a year ago.
The results were expected to be released at a North-South Ministerial Council meeting in February 2013, but that did not happen.
Education Minister John O’Dowd said the council must first consider the survey and authorise publication.
The subject first appeared in the NSMC Education joint communiqué 1 Feb 2012 – under the heading “Education Survey in Border Regions”.
3. To take forward greater parental preference in schools in the border region, the Council discussed developing plans and next steps for the conduct of a joint survey to inform cross-border pupil movement and school planning. An interim report of work on the survey will be presented to the next NSMC Education meeting with the results from the survey and proposals on the way forward to be considered no later than the first NSMC Education meeting of 2013.
2. The Council noted progress made towards the development of a questionnaire and mechanisms for a joint attitudinal survey to inform cross-border pupil movement and school planning. They agreed the planned next steps for the conduct of the survey and also agreed that a final report on the results and proposals on the way forward will be available for consideration no later than the first NSMC Education meeting of 2013. [added emphasis]
And from the next NSMC Education joint communiqué 17 October 2012,
13. The Council noted the progress made towards the development of a questionnaire and mechanisms for a joint attitudinal survey to inform cross-border pupil movement and school planning. The survey will be issued in the last week of October by the Department of Education and in late November by the Department of Education and Skills.14. Ministers re-affirmed that a final report on the results from the survey and proposals on the way forward will be available for consideration no later than their first NSMC Education meeting of 2013. [added emphasis]
“Earlier this year, through the medium of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC), Minister Ruairí Quinn and I agreed to proceed with a joint survey to examine how education is provided along the border corridor and whether there is scope to engage in joint planning of the respective schools estates in this area.
“Over the coming weeks a questionnaire will be issued to families in the border area. I would encourage parents to take the opportunity to respond so that we can gain a better understanding of their views, concerns, or perceptions about crossing the border to access education.
“The intention is that the results of the survey and proposals on the way forward will be considered at the first NSMC education meeting in 2013.” [added emphasis]
The corridor is defined as being six miles wide radius on each side of the border for primary schools and twelve miles radius for post-primary schools. In the north, this involves families with children in Years 1 & 7 attending primary schools within 6 miles of the border and Year 8 children attending post-primary schools within 12 miles of the border. An equivalent survey is being conducted in the south.
The questionnaire will start to issue in the north in the final week of October with questionnaires in the south to follow in November.
The Irish Education Minister, Labour’s Ruairí Quinn, announced his, somewhat delayed, part of the joint survey, on 11 December – with a slightly different methodology, but a firmer commitment to the re-affirmed timetable.
Letters have been sent to schools in the border counties and the schools will notify all eligible parents about the survey and how to access it.
Launching the survey today, Minister Quinn said: “This survey is an excellent example of cross-border co-operation and I am delighted to be working closely with my Northern counterpart, Minister O’Dowd, in this regard.
“The aim of this survey is to find out how much interest there is from parents in cross-border primary and second-level schooling.
“The results of the surveys will be examined and discussed at the next NSMC in February.” [added emphasis]
But the NSMC Education joint communiqué following the 27 February 2013 meeting contains no mention of any discussion of the results of the joint attitudinal “Education Survey in Border Regions”, nor of any “proposals on the way forward”.
There is, however, a new reference to “Part 2 of Joint Study of North South Cooperation in Education”.
11. Ministers affirmed the intention of the Education Departments to work to broaden and deepen their co-operation in education matters, and that the stated intentions of part 2 of the joint study on North/South co-operation in education can be achieved as a result of the proposed high-level engagement at official level.
12. Progress towards identification of potential further co-operation will be reported to a future NSMC meeting.
The joint communiqué from the latest NSMC Education meeting on 8 November 2013 mentions neither the joint attitudinal “Education Survey in Border Regions” nor the “Joint Study of North South Cooperation in Education”.
According to the initially linked BBC report
Mr Storey said he believed the survey was being suppressed because it did not show the results that Mr O’Dowd was expecting.
“I think he was probably expecting there was a migration of pupils from Northern Ireland to the Republic, the reverse is clearly the case,” he said.
The reasons parents gave for travelling to Northern Ireland ranged from geographical convenience to their view that the system in Northern Ireland was better and that children with learning difficulties got more support.