A ‘single system of education’: the beginning of the end for segregated schools?

Many years ago anyone with half-a-titter-of-wit realised that the configuration of education in Northern Ireland was restricting the possibility of restoring fractured community relations. With the exception of the wilfully ignorant, no one has seriously argued that those children who attend separated schools in a segregated system are being adequately prepared for future engagement in an inclusive, egalitarian, peaceful society. Finally, these simple truths seem also to be dawning on our politicians. The New Decade New Approach agreement that brought …

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Education is the key to progress

Education is the key to moving our society forward, says Tony Gallagher in the latest Forward Together podcast interview. But that has to mean much more than encouraging as many students as possible to go to university and obtain a degree. Our society has become fixated with university education, at the expense of school pupils who do not aspire to higher education. More has to be done to support children from deprived families, to encourage them through careers guidance and …

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What was the sense of closing the schools only to put all the kids into every shopping centre?

I imagine most parents had that sinking feeling when they learned that they were closing the schools – here we go again. Still, it was only one week extra so we had to suck it up and take one for the team. It could have been worse, it seems Sinn Fein were pushing for a ludicrous 6 weeks off. There has been lots of debate around the importance of school to children. There are obvious things like the value of …

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The schools are back, but for how long?

At last, the moment parents have been waiting for – the kids are back at school. There may be lots of new rules, visors and more alcohol than a party conference but the main thing is they are back. It has been a hard aul slog these past few months trying to keep the kids entertained at home. Homeschooling was a complete head wreck for both children and parents. Whatever teachers get paid it is not enough – give them …

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RIP Sir Ken Robinson: may your creative spirit inspire us to change…

This week I was challenged by a comment on this platform which claimed that studies over the last 35 years have shown that intelligence is largely ‘innate.’ In simpler terms it is implied that intelligence is the sum of genetic characteristics which give some individuals natural advantage (or “talent”) over others no matter what environmental factors are applied – i.e. education, health or nutrition. I struggled greatly with this, as in our age of fake news and ‘feeling’ politics I …

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How best to manage school transfers?

The coronavirus crisis upends society, changes the way we live and presents huge challenges to every sector, including the education sector. The crisis has both led to immediate and dramatic changes and prompted a deeper analysis of how we structure our system in the future. The initial response of closing schools led to the challenge of how examinations would be managed. In the unprecedented circumstances of school closures, DE rightly decided that GCSE and A level exams would not take …

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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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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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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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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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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 …

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Why are NI schools sitting on £50 million of unspent money?

Great story from Simon Doyle over at the Irish News. To quote: It shows that of the north’s 814 primary schools, 617 ended 2014/15 with a budget surplus. Christ the Redeemer in Lagmore, which received an annual budget of £1.8 million, ended the year more than £375,000 in the black. St Patrick’s PS in Armagh, which had a budget of £1.2m, ended with a surplus of about £342,000. Grange Park PS in Bangor’s surplus was £310,000 while Holy Trinity PS …

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niedcamp: Teachers Taking the Initiative

It is now widely accepted that reform of public services must continue over the coming years as both central and local government try to offer the same level of service with less money to spend. As a result we can expect further decentralisation, eradication or contracting out of some back-office functions and ever-closer relationships with partners in the private and voluntary sector. The education sector here in Northern Ireland has not been spared. The Education Authority, established to provide a …

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Education – Exam culture put to the Test

I taught English and Drama in local schools from 1979 to 2005. I have great memories of the classroom and enjoy seeing some of my former students go on to flourish in the wider world. In some ways education got rather better during my years as a teacher. There was more accountability, and I guess that that probably helped raise standards amongst some teachers who lacked drive and competence. And new subjects such as A level Theatre Studies, which I …

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Meanwhile over at what really matters…

Well below the big headline on the latest torrid twist with Gerry Adams’ grim mugshot  at the top, lurks the unassuming headline “NI trailing in English and Maths”. This is the local version of the big OECD report on educational performance in England and NI which concludes that today’s kids are less well educated in the basics than their grandparents (people like me). And yes there’s a paradox here.” Northern Ireland is ‘best in Europe’ at primary maths. But that …

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Schools Common Funding Scheme Review: “with close monitoring and intervention when outcomes are not satisfactory…”

The BBC’s Martina Purdy has a short report on the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Common Funding Scheme, as appointed by the NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd, on 12 June 2012.  The ministerial welcome for the publication of the review is here.  From the BBC report The panel examined the Common Funding Schemes and found that it was outdated, too complicated and failing pupils. The gap between the best and worst performing schools was wider than other …

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#AssetTransfer: Investing in schools in order to help meet community demands…

One of the issues in Belfast is the crumbling leisure infrastructure. The (relatively speaking) cvast number of centres were built in thick of the troubles in the late seventies and early eighties as a large scale capital investment programme. They were located in specific areas in order to take account of the physical separation of working class urban communities. At the time it was not reasonable to expect individuals from the lower Shankill to visit the Falls. Some are already …

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“all schools in the Catholic sector should move to an alternative form of transfer as soon as possible and by no later than 2012…”

Six years in the writing, the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) has published its Post-Primary Review Strategic Regional Report. It’s a mixture of proposals of limited school closures, amalgamations… and wishful thinking. As the BBC reports, Catholic Church representatives have been focusing on one issue in particular. Cardinal Brady was speaking at St Mary’s College in Belfast when he criticised continuing academic selection by schools. “It is totally unacceptable that some Catholic schools are, in effect, becoming all ability …

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“We believe this is a crude attempt to circumvent the proper and long-established channels of financial accountability within education”

The BBC notes the declared intention of the board of governors of  Catholic grammar school Loreto College to end academic selection from 2012 or 2013 – you can check the most recent figures on Loreto’s academically selected intake here.  By the way, how is that review going?  And the BBC report quotes the Catholic Principals’ Association chair Seamus Quinn CPA chair Seamus Quinn said: “Loreto has followed the moral and spiritual guidance provided by the Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE). “Their decision is an important step …

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Religion in schools. More than just Catholics

Peter Robinson’s comments on education have opened up a discussion that is solely focusing on the role of the Catholic Maintained Sector. While the discussion is worthwhile, having it without addressing other elements of religious involvement across education is dealing with less than half of the issue. As noted in Tony Macaulay’s report on Churches and Christian Ethos in Integrated Schools: The assumption that integrated schools would solve the sectarianism problem in Northern Ireland was a false one, a speaker …

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