While it is frequently claimed that Northern Ireland has an excellent schools system, it is clear that it is also a divided system. That division is not based only on religion, but also according to whether a pupil attends a grammar or a non-selective school, which is in turn related to the wealth of the parents. The system clearly separates children, despite the need of our society to come together to heal division.
This week’s Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast hears from Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, on how we repair the damage of that division. The conversation considers pre-school childcare, the age at which children should start school and the relationship between parental wealth and the system of selection. Koulla wants school reforms to make sufficient progress that all parents have the confidence to send their children to their local school.
We also discuss the need for strong, positive role models that engage children, especially working class boys. Koulla is clear that rather than talking about the influence of paramilitaries in some communities, we need to call them what they are – organised criminal gangs.
The interview can be heard here.
The Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts are funded by the Community Relations Council’s Media Grant Scheme.
Disclaimer: This project has received support from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council which aims to promote a pluralist society characterised by equity, respect for diversity, and recognition of interdependence. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Community Relations Council.
Paul Gosling is editor of ‘Lessons from the Troubles and an Unsettled Peace’, author of ‘A New Ireland’ and ‘The Fall of the Ethical Bank’ and co-author of ‘Abuse of Trust’, the story of a child abuse scandal in Leicestershire. He is engaged by the Holywell Trust charity on peace and reconciliation projects.