Only structural change will deliver better education

Maddy Bridgman who is the Public Affairs Officer for the Integrated Education Fund writes for Slugger about the Alternative Manifesto published today by the IEF The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has published its Alternative Manifesto for education based on the premise that we need to change our education system. Recent research (commissioned by the IEF from independent polling company LucidTalk) found parents reporting that some schools cannot afford to employ enough staff, and many buildings are decrepit. We have many … Read more

I voted for peace, and all I got was this lousy culture war

I found this week’s 20 year commemoration of the Agreement quite surreal. Maybe it was because I was sick at home in my pyjamas and missed out on the bling of the big events. No basking in the glow of disgraced elderly politicians for me… Instead, I was more struck by how sad and stuck everything feels right now. It feels like we voted for peace, but all we got was this lousy culture war. By culture war, in this … Read more

1989: Should an Irish Medium education report be published bilingually? #20YearRule

A civil service file released under the 20 Year Rule shows how the potential bilingual publication of a report about Irish Medium eduction provoked one civil servant to comment that “given the small and gossipy world of serious Irish language enthusiasts in Northern Ireland, I think we could assume that a refusal to publish this report in Irish would leak sooner or later”

First part of the DUP deal funds goes to Health & Education

The Secretary of State has announced the first part of the DUP deal will go to Health & Education, the amount will come to £50 million. From the BBC The announcement was made as Mr Brokenshire brought a Northern Ireland budget before the House of Commons. The secretary of state told MPs that civil servants can decide how to spend the extra £50m earmarked for health and education. Here is the DUP Deputy Leader; Roll out of the first part … Read more

The secret of surviving the cuts is easy – just don’t be poor…

It is fair to say that things are going to get worse. A friend in the civil service says they have been told to implement 4% cuts this year, 8% next year and 4% the year after. Education has a 105 million black hole. Health is getting 70 million chopped off its budget. And all this is before Brexit even happens which depending on your view shall either be calamitous or the making of us. My background is working class but … Read more

The £105m education shortfall – behind the headlines…

The head honcho of the Department of Education says there is a rather big hole in the education budget, from the BBC: Derek Baker, the department’s permanent secretary and the man in charge of the department in the absence of a minister. Mr Baker said that the department had £24m less in cash than last year, but rising costs meant pressures of £105m. He said the funding pressure was mainly due to rising pay, special educational needs and maintenance costs. Mr … Read more

CSSC research shows complexity and diversity of controlled education

The Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) launched its baseline assessment of the controlled schools sector in Northern Ireland on Monday 18 September. Controlled schools are non-denominational and firmly set within an ethos embedded in Christian values. They are open to pupils of all faiths or none, and account for 558 or 48% of all schools in Northern Ireland. As CSSC’s research demonstrates, the controlled education sector is complex and diverse. It is also the only education sector to comprise a … Read more

As our MLAs refuse to compromise (and head for their holidays) our children are suffering

Parents from disadvantaged families depending on school uniform grants this year have been struck a major blow this week as the Education Authority (EA) are intending to slash the money available by over 61%. In 2016/17 £4.9m was given out to 98,000 pupils across the country.  This year that budget has been reduced by £3m to just a meagre £1.9m. The EA claim they were instructed by the Department of Education to implement the cuts, but with no Stormont Assembly … Read more

Explaining politics to a (nearly) five year old

It will be a good 12 years before my eldest child can vote, but already she, along with her younger sister, has come with me to the polling booth on two occasions. The third is looming large on the horizon. Quite possibly, it is only the children who get a day off due to their school transforming into a polling station who will benefit the most from this election. I certainly don’t see any benefit to it and am getting … Read more

The unsung Assembly achievement of shared education is not the enemy of integration.

As we contemplate the political wreck that is currently the Assembly, we might look around for crumbs of comfort.  Although this has not been officially confirmed, I’m assured that the alarm sounded here and in the Irish News that the spend of only £3 million of a £500 million ten year fund pledged by Westminster under Fresh Start doesn’t mean lack of commitment. It is due to “normal” delay in capital start –ups and will be carried over to next … Read more

Who signed off the 0% and 1% rises for Northern Irish teachers?

Just spotted this protest against a pay offer of 0% for 2015/16 and 1% for 2016/17 for teachers. Sinn Fein are doing the needful and out on the protests, this time in Crossmaglen: .@mfearonsf MLA supporting colleague @barraomuiri & his fellow striking teachers in Crossmaglen today @into_ni #fairness pic.twitter.com/xW4VaDjiAs — NewryArmagh SinnFéin (@newryarmaghsf) January 18, 2017 Two questions arise. Which Education Minister signed up to these cuts? And which Finance Minister signed them off? Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of … Read more

Without fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images

Without fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
28 November 2016

The latest incarnation of the Troubled Images project — the launch of a free downloadable iBook  — was cause for a reunion of sorts at the Linen Hall Library for the original team that compiled and published its original CD-ROM 15 years ago.

Read moreWithout fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images

Peace Journalist • Editor • Writer • Photographer • Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • allan@mrulster.com • www.mrulster.com

A Lagan College birthday: The story of integrated education in Northern Ireland

A Lagan College birthday: The story of integrated education in Northern Ireland
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
11 November 2016

Just past the reception desk is a small, black-and-white photography of the simple and utilitarian building that housed the first enrolment of students at Lagan College in 1981; today, celebrating its 35th birthday, the impressive expanse is testimony to the successful development of not only this school, but of integrated education in Northern Ireland.

Read moreA Lagan College birthday: The story of integrated education in Northern Ireland

Peace Journalist • Editor • Writer • Photographer • Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • allan@mrulster.com • www.mrulster.com

OPINION: Promote critical thinking skills for better democracy @WFDemocracy Strasbourg 2016

OPINION: Promote critical thinking skills for better democracy: World Forum for Democracy: Strasbourg 2016
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
7 November 2016

The 600 seats of the hemicycle of the Council of Europe soon filled with young activists and seasoned practitioners at the 2016 gathering of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg. I attended as part of a delegation from Northern Ireland, all beneficiaries of the Civic Activism Programme administered by Building Change Trust. Our objective was to learn and share experiences to improve democracy and equality through education.

Read moreOPINION: Promote critical thinking skills for better democracy @WFDemocracy Strasbourg 2016

Peace Journalist • Editor • Writer • Photographer • Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • allan@mrulster.com • www.mrulster.com

EDUCATING ULSTER : Northern Ireland has a chronic shortage of students, whilst Belfast has too many and the west of the province has too few. The solution is obvious.

September marked the annual return of students to their term-time accommodation. And within two days residents of the Holylands had lodged over 150 complaints of anti-social behaviour with Belfast City Council. That university neighbourhood’s term-time population comprises over 90% of students/young people, amounting to an estimated 7,000 in just one square kilometre. It will probably provide little comfort to residents of the Holylands to learn that Northern Ireland (NI) has the lowest provision of university places in the UK. And … Read more

Will Theresa May’s support for grammar schools help or hinder schools sharing in Northern Ireland?

Now we know why Theresa May has been so vague about Brexit. All along she has been preoccupied with – grammar schools and lifting restrictions of faith schools especially Catholic schools! Schools will be allowed to select children on the basis of ability at 14 and 16 as well as 11, Theresa May said today, as she outlined the biggest reform of the education system in 50 years. The prime minister presented her plans to allow new and expanded grammar … Read more

“rather than trying to pretend that essentially, testing does not exist”

As the BBC notes, the Northern Ireland Education Minister, the DUP’s Peter Weir, has reversed the department’s previous position prohibiting the use of academic selection to decide what post-primary school pupils transfer to.  That position was set out in 2008 by then NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, and upheld by the subsequent Minister, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd.  From the BBC report A circular sent to school principals on Wednesday removes any prohibition on using academic selection to decide what post-primary school pupils … Read more

Message for the divided politicians. Read the long list. This is what really matters over Brexit.

Divisions in the Executive and the Assembly contributed to the lack of  scenario planning for the referendum outcome and are inhibiting the development of a clear Brexit strategy. These are among the conclusions in  a comprehensive briefing paper prepared for the Centre for Peace Building and Democracy ( chair Lord Alderdice) by  Queen’s academics  Professor David Phinnemore and Dr. Lee McGowan, entitled Establishing the Best Outcome for Northern Ireland. ‘Notoriously, similar strictures  apply  to  Whitehall and Westminster, But party divisions … Read more

“New leader Colum Eastwood has taken pains to say he wants Northern Ireland to work….”

Newton Emerson, with a great comment on an issue raised rather pointed by President Obama [a man now liberated from the burdens of power, and uncommonly free with his views on many thing] which appears to have eluded several other commenters. [Though not our Pete! – Ed] : Integrated education was the example he praised of progress towards a Northern Ireland identity, though many nationalists see that as precisely integration’s problem. Some of this fear is misplaced ignorance. A common … Read more