Schools: Locked down, separately…

On 12th March, from the steps of the President’s Guest House in Washington, Leo Varadkar announced that schools across the Republic of Ireland would be closed to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. His statement echoed concerns that had been raised by teaching unions and parents in Northern Ireland and increased pressure on the Assembly to follow suit. On 18th March, First Minister Arlene Foster declared that NI would by closing all schools with effect from Monday, 23rd March, …

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Online Teaching – A guide for teachers and parents…

I spent the past few days helping my local school get ready for teaching online. As of yesterday, schools have gotten no official guidance at all on how to do this, they have been left to sort it out themselves. In this post, I will outline how it all works. For schools, you will likely be using Google Classroom . This is free to schools and you will access this via your C2k email address. Login and create a class. …

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A challenge to the separation of schools…

A closed and boarded-up primary school must be one of the commonest, and saddest, local sights.  Crumbling façades. Peeling paintwork. Broken windows. The silent playground that once resounded to excited chatter.  Weeds breaking through the tarmac where generations of children played football, rounders and ‘chasies’.  Schools aren’t just places of education, they are centres of community and repositories of communal memories, but there is little place for such sentimentality in educational planning.  Empty school desks and restrictive budgets mean that …

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Peter Weir – broaden the scope of your underachievement report…

The announcement by Peter Weir of a new report into the underachievement of working-class protestant boys will (as noted by Brian) stack up on a dusty old shelf in the Department of Education, the eighth since 2011 and these official reports are not isolated in the wider discussion on the issue. It got me thinking when Deirdre Heenan this week said about having a ‘philosophical debate’ about what we actually want from education in NI, as noted by many Slugger …

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No Peter Weir, there is nothing to be said for saying another Mass…

You might remember the Fr Ted episode Speed 3. Here is a handy episode summary from IMDB: Ted is shocked to find that Pat Mustard, the island milkman, has been having affairs with his lady customers – possibly including Mrs. Doyle – and reports him to the dairy manager. As a result Pat gets sacked and Dougal takes on the delivery route, as the manager trusts a man of God. A vengeful Mustard has attached a bomb to the milk …

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A reflection on the education system in Northern Ireland…

In his 1942 Report, Sir William Beveridge described five Giant Evils, obstacles on the road to post-war reconstruction. These were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.[1] They were to be tackled by action and legislation on Social Security, Health, Education, Housing and a policy of full employment. At that time, men were seen as the ‘breadwinner’ and women did the housework; this assumption is inherent in Beveridge’s thinking. RA Butler, the President of the Board of Education set up a …

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Northern Ireland’s fiscal deficit is shrinking, but not in a sustainable way

Given recent polling showing that support for Irish unity is at all-time highs in Northern Ireland, there has again been a significant amount of scrutiny on the Northern Ireland fiscal deficit (also known as the subvention or block grant), the gap between taxation and government spending in Northern Ireland that it is assumed would have to be absorbed by the Irish government in the event of Irish unification. The charts at the top of the post show Northern Ireland tax …

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Shared housing and integrated education: Building good community relations

Shared housing and integrated education: Building good community relations by Allan LEONARD 7 August 2019 A panel discussion on how shared housing projects and the integrated education movement are contributing towards good community relations was held at St Mary’s College, Belfast, as part of the Feile Festival. The panellists were Deborah Howe (Equality Commission), Christine Davis (Housing Executive), Grainne Mullin (Radius Housing), and Jill Caskey (Integrated Education Fund). The event was chaired by Gerry McConville. After a welcome by Jessica …

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So do we have too many school places or too few?

The front page of today’s Daily Mirror has the headline ‘Soaring student numbers means Northern Ireland needs almost 300 new classrooms, study shows‘. From the story: Research from public sector procurement specialist Scape shows a sharp rise in the number of school-age children, with an extra 7,332 pupils expected to start secondary school in 2020/21. According to the report, the 9.4% rise means Northern Ireland urgently needs to build the equivalent of eight new schools to accommodate its pupils. But …

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Education: We all have a role to play

Education: We all have a role to play by Allan LEONARD 7 February 2019 The Integrated Education Fund hosted a day conference on some aspects of education in Northern Ireland, with a discussion on what role individuals, local communities, and organisations can play in realising a better vision. Contributors included: Baroness May Blood (Integrated Education Fund (IEF)), Dirk Schubotz (Queen’s University Belfast), Mairead McCafferty (Northern Ireland Commission for Children and Youth (NICCY)), Eileen Chan-Hu (CRAIC NI), Maire Thompson (Hazlewood Integrated …

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The Transfer Test: It’s time for an education rethink

On the 25th January my Twitter and Facebook timeline was full of worried, stressed parents. All of them were anxiously waiting for AQE/PPTC results, due on the 26th. The emotions on display ranged from hope to dread. I sat the 11+ when I was in school. P.7s these days have to sit three, sometimes four, one-hour exams over the course of multiple weekends if they want to get into a grammar school.  Thankfully there are plans for pupils to sit …

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Is Your Child Green or Orange?

Children in Northern Ireland are continuing to be shoe-horned into Orange and Green identities, by the very programme set up to break down divisions. This article draws on a recent FOI request to the NI Executive, to show how children participating in ‘Together: Building a United Community’ (TBUC) Camps, ended up being designated as one community background or the other. A factor which surely makes it more difficult to break out of the cycle of polarisation in Northern Ireland, and which …

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Future Ireland: Uniting people is the starting point

I was in a cafe recently when the owner, who I know from being a regular, came over and asked me, “David, clear something up between me and the Missus – was that you on the TV we saw the other night … [puzzled look] … you were part of a panel … Mike Nesbitt was there too.” To which I answered – ‘Yes, guilty! Was me!’ After a little discussion about how he didn’t realise I was interested in …

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Begging for bog rolls just beggars belief…

‘Pathetic games… a disgrace…it feels Victorian’ These were the words of the Principal of Maghaberry Primary School in describing the education funding system here to the NI Affairs Committee earlier this week. An impassioned Graham Gault sat alongside three other local School principals as he described how his budget had been squeezed so much he now has to ask parents for funding for sundry items such as toilet roll and pritt-stick. The group articulated a range of issues arising from …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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