Slugger podcast: What is behind the University Strike Action? With Professor Dominic Bryan…

This week University staff are on strike across the UK. I talked to  Professor Dominic Bryan from Queen’s University Belfast about the reasons for the University Strike Action. We also talk about the increasing commercialisation of education. The two main issues are: Pensions: this is the usual story of being asked to contribute more to their pension scheme but getting less out of it when they retire. Pay: they are looking a 12% pay rise. When you consider that inflation …

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Review of ‘Beauty through Broken Windows’ on the World Day of the Poor

Today is the ‘World Day of the Poor’, observed in the Catholic Church since 2017 when it was established by Pope Francis. It’s a day to remind Christians of their obligations to follow Christ’s example to pursue justice for the poor. A new book, Beauty through Broken Windows: Empowering Edmund Rice’s Vision Today, edited by Aidan Donaldson and Denis Gleeson, is an excellent resource for learning more about how Christians around the world are living out such a vision. The …

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So much more to small rural schools than pupil numbers…

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By Dr Montserrat Fargas-Malet and Professor Carl Bagley QUB Small rural primary schools have been repeatedly in the news as they are being earmarked for closure, with the Education Authority (EA) draft area plan for the next five years stating that there are too many small schools that are not economically sustainable. However, what do we really know about these schools? The last policy report on small rural schools in Northern Ireland was published 20 years ago. We are hosting …

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Queen’s and Ulster University come together once again for the annual Festival of Social Science.

This year, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science in Northern Ireland will run from 31 October to 13 November and will feature 22 free events organised by social science academics from both universities. The UK-wide Festival aims to open up social science research to new audiences by showing how such research influences our everyday lives. Now in its landmark 20th year, the Festival has returned to mainly in-person talks, workshops, walking tours and even a bit of …

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The trouble with teaching ‘the Troubles’…

teacher, learning, school

The final episode of Derry Girls (spoiler alert) covered the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (GFA) with wit and plenty of pathos. After its broadcast, social media was full of older viewers reporting that they had quite forgotten the challenges that many people across the island of Ireland faced when deciding to support unpalatable aspects of the agreement, such as the release of prisoners. The younger adults were open about being entirely unaware of the context of this peace settlement which ended …

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A game changer for religion and education?

Young women with eyes focused on the soccer ball while controlling it during a girl football match.

There’s a world of difference between the jumpers-for-goalposts kickabout in the school playground and the type of free-flowing, high-quality football being played currently at the Euros in England. Most notable is the way in which skilful players read the game and move to occupy empty space rather than engage in a chaotic free-for-all where everyone runs to cluster around the ball. Sadly, the media often bear a greater resemblance to a primary school soccer scrummage than the beautiful game being …

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Votes At 16 – Shaping The Future

Northern Ireland has just had its seventh Assembly election since 1998, and come May next year, voters will be casting their ballots in another council election. But only if they are registered and over 18. With every election, the issue of voting age rears its head, and rightly so. At 16, you pay tax and national insurance when you start work, you can leave your parental home, leave full time education, get married, and apply for social security. You become …

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Futureproofing our schools…

person holding red and white pen

While the constitutional question appears to have been consigned to the back burner for now, it’s an issue that cannot be avoided indefinitely. A recent Slugger article reflected on the question of pension provision following some future unification of north and south. The integration of State benefits and of services such as housing and health would undoubtedly be challenging, however, unifying the island’s education systems may prove the most difficult task of all. It is worth noting the religious composition …

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Citizenship – have we failed to prepare young people to exercise their vote on May 5th, and does this suit politicians just fine?

Polling Station sign in the UK

As we approach an election in Northern Ireland, the signs are that more young people than ever are registered on the electoral roll. The Chief Electoral Officer further encouraged participation in the election by writing to schools asking for their help in encouraging those aged 18 and over to exercise their right to vote. In the UK, the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1970 but, back in 2015, the BBC ran a story entitled “Much of …

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Branagh’s Belfast and our divided education system…

Belfast, the film, has just landed Kenneth Branagh an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It is a cracking film, if you have not yet seen it, and it is recommended. But, not to dissuade anyone from going to view it, the film does take a few historical liberties. Those of us who lived in Belfast at the time when the film is set might raise an eyebrow or two at the sight of vigilantes with burning torches held aloft as …

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High Schools: Casualty of a new Northern Ireland?

school, study, education

My son attends the local high school. This seemed like a logical choice when he was in P.7. The school is on our street. Petrol is a finite resource. If you’ve been out of the education loop for a number of years, rest assured that we have a good education system here in Northern Ireland. The number of choices, however, is mind-boggling for parents, stress-inducing for children and not great for the planet. I grew up in a ‘mixed’ working …

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DUP to use petition of concern to block the integrated education bill…

chalk, colorful, dust

From the BBC: The DUP currently has 25 MLAs who hold the party whip, while Jim Wells, independent Alex Easton and TUV leader Jim Allister are also in favour of the petition. That means at least two UUP MLAs would need to sign it. Ms Armstrong’s bill would increase the number of integrated school places and set targets for the number of children being educated in such schools. About 7% of pupils in Northern Ireland are educated currently in just …

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Who’s afraid of the Integrated Education Bill… and why?

teacher, learning, school

Polls consistently show that around 70% of parents want to send their children to a mixed school. There are many familiar celebrity advocates for cross-community schooling – Liam Neeson, Paddy Kielty, Adrian Dunbar and Carl Frampton have all been vociferous in their support for Integrated education. This throng has recently been swollen by controversial contributions from President Michael D Higgins and the NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. In the face of considerable hullabaloo in the media, the established, segregated …

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Why we need to invest in insulation and renewable energy projects…

solar panels, placement, green energy

I was chatting with the principal of my son’s primary school this morning. He was telling me that the school’s gas bill has gone from £3000 to £10,000 a month. This is in line with the Department of Education forecasting an increase of 13 million for school energy costs in Northern Ireland. As we were chatting I was looking up at the huge roof of the school and thinking you could get a whole pile of solar panels up there. …

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Want to change hearts and minds? Debate is the answer

public speaking, speaker, man

I spent (wasted?) a minute watching GB News the other day. The topic was, of course, the cause célèbre of the right-wing media: freedom of speech. While I think a lot of the right-wing rhetoric about “cancel culture” is hyperbolic, there does seem to be a tendency among certain groups to avoid open debate and stifle dissenting voices. However, it doesn’t do anything to help their cause. Three examples are illuminating. I proudly support transgender rights and I reject the …

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Two education systems divided by a common century…

notebook, hand, pen

The unification of Ireland, or is it the reunification, seems to be all over the media at the moment. While seemingly irreconcilable differences on what to call the day after Christmas Day seem to be intractable, in some quarters a United Ireland seems to be viewed as inevitable and impending. However, a recent poll in the south suggested that, while the people there wanted it, they were not happy about changing anything to accommodate their northern neighbours, even relatively simple …

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Time for Queen’s to enable a fuller journey for its dedicated Irish speaking students…

door, toilet door, peace and quiet

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine literally means we live in each other’s shadow. In our shared Gaelic psyche this is how it is meant to be – offering each other fellowship, shelter and protection. We must ensure though that enough light is allowed through for the other to thrive for ar scáth a chéile, in each other’s shadow, to make sense.  Queen’s University Belfast has an excellent reputation as a centre of learning for the Irish language …

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The fourth ‘R’ – the role of religion in the segregation of schools…

teacher, learning, school

Standing shoulder to shoulder at a recent ecumenical event to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland, men of the cloth from the Catholic Church and three Protestant denominations declared that: “the churches could have done more to deepen our understanding of each other and to bring healing and peace to our divided and wounded communities.” Few of those who live on this troubled and contested island would argue with that brave and bold confession, but, in this age of the …

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Local solution to a global problem: community wealth building and climate action – Free live event at Queen’s…

team spirit, teamwork, community

What are the opportunities for local government and communities to address the climate crisis, deliver effective climate action in ways that secure jobs, reduce inequality and shift our economies beyond ‘business as usual’? One answer is community wealth building, a new model for local economic development that creates a more democratic and just economy, and also delivers substantive returns on achieving decarbonisation targets and climate adaptation. Evidence from Preston and North Ayrshire in the UK shows that community wealth building …

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Dublin looking for partners as #SharedIsland Fund doubles and all island investment rises to €3.5billion…

shaking hands, handshake, teamwork

“The past holds us captive. Even when we succeed in giving up slights, grudges, feuds and pride, we cannot easily give up knowledge, memories and experience.” – David Amerland At the weekend, Colm Tóibín wrote scathingly of some southern politicians that “their talk of a united Ireland ‘in my lifetime’ is mystical blather; another example of politicians saying something they don’t mean”. Ouch. Yet, there are some political leaders in the ‘anglosphere’ who seem to be trying to reconnect to …

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