Belfast Telegraph

Tina Merron: Northern Ireland schools system is archaic and segregated... that must change

By Tina Merron

Only structural change will deliver better education. The IEF has published our Alternative Manifesto for education, based on the premise that we need fundamental changes to our education system.

Our recent research (carried out by independent pollsters LucidTalk) heard from parents that the financial crisis has started to bite: schools are laying off staff and asking for contributions to buy basic supplies, and many buildings are desperately in need of repair.

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Alongside this there is continuing concern that educational outcomes are not good enough for a significant number of pupils.

All this in a system which divides our children from the age of four, according to their cultural, religious or traditional background.

So we are presenting a vision of a reformed education system delivering the best for everyone.

We are not the only ones to raise this issue.

The recent budget briefing, issued by the Department of Finance, said: "Doing more of the same will get the same results as now at increasing cost [...] Transformation could result in better outcomes for pupils and for our economy."

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So public servants acknowledge that radical, structural change is needed on economic and on educational grounds.

The draft Programme for Government aspires to a flourishing, diverse but united community.

The role that our education system can play in realising this must not be dismissed.

The Good Friday Agreement, 20 years ago, underlined the importance of integrated education in helping to build on the peace deal.

"We are confident that many people share our vision of an education system which meets the 21st century needs of every young person. To achieve this common vision, we need meaningful reform of the way education is planned, managed and delivered.

We currently operate an archaic, segregated system of schools. We need collaborative, strategic thinking to tackle this.

In our Alternative Manifesto, the IEF sets out how positive change is attainable.

We highlight the areas of policy and legislation which are holding us back.

All Northern Ireland needs is the will from political leaders to address these areas and take the first steps on the journey to realising this shared vision.

Tina Merron is Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund

Belfast Telegraph


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