Education in Northern Ireland

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Sir, – I am referring to the Irish Times editorial “The Irish Times view of schools in Northern Ireland: Separate classrooms” (February 19). President Michael D Higgins’ comments on the provision of education in Northern Ireland have been of no use to all sectors of the community.

Throughout the conflict in Northern Ireland, Catholic schools and schools across all sectors provided not just education, but sanctuary and care for their pupils and often a calm counter-narrative to the unrest raging elsewhere. beyond their doors.

After the unrest, a lot of work was done through the shared education program to ensure great collaboration across sectors. Staff from Catholic, Controlled, Integrated and Irish Language schools work closely together to share good practice and develop school improvement strategies. They work together to develop a better understanding of each other and to explore difficult and sensitive topics.

This work is further strengthened by working with students and families, breaking down mythologies and false narratives and developing relationships that extend beyond the school gates onto the sports field, among other places.

Northern Ireland schools across all sectors, by the nature of their admissions criteria, are inclusive and welcoming to all (with the exception of schools which select their students on the basis of academic screening) .

The criteria for admission to schools in Northern Ireland do not specify religious or ethnic origin. Indeed, they favor siblings and proximity to school. Catholic schools in particular have an inclusive and welcoming ethos that is rooted in Gospel values. The community dimension is at the heart of the Catholic school.

All children, young people and their families, whatever their origin, culture or belief, will find a welcome and a strong bond of community and fraternity within the Catholic school.

In fact, 52% of newcomer children choose to go to Catholic schools, where they are welcomed and pampered. The Catholic Schools family represents the largest provider of education in Northern Ireland.

Catholic education is provided in Catholic private sector schools, Catholic Voluntary High Schools and St Mary’s University College.

In Northern Ireland, the education system faces many challenges, including underfunding, poor performance in some areas, and social and economic division, which impact the educational experiences and outcomes of young people.

It will be important that these issues are addressed in a collaborative and respectful way that ensures that the needs of children and young people are met and that their educational experience is invigorating and fulfilling, enabling them to become active participants in building peace. in the north. Ireland.

Integrated education plays an important role in building peace, like all other sectors of the system. It will be important in the future that, for example, through effective and efficient area planning processes, duplication of supply is avoided and that creative solutions such as the shared campus model are developed to meet the needs local communities.

It is also important to preserve, as far as possible, the right of parents to choose the type of school that best suits their children.

This choice is available in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, where no sectarian label is applied.

Perhaps President Higgins misunderstands the education system in Northern Ireland when he seeks to criticize the Catholic and other schools that have served the people so well. Language that can be interpreted as disrespectful and baseless does nothing to build a peaceful future. – Yours, etc.,

GILLIAN McGRATH,

Catholic education

Partnership,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

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