Integrated Education, the answer to a peaceful future?
The Nerve Centre released a short film, In Peace Apart, in early December depicting two school girls from different traditions in Northern Ireland swapping school uniforms, one from the Catholic tradition and the other from the Protestant tradition.
The film, which is part of the Teaching Divided Histories project in Northern Ireland, calls to end segregation in our school system, where schools are locally considered either Catholic or Protestant.
In Northern Ireland most schools have a school uniform. According to the Department of Education, “the wearing of a school uniform in the north of Ireland is not governed by legislation but falls to schools to determine.”
In the Guidance on School Uniform Policy produced by the DENI, it states that “School uniform can play a valuable role by: instilling pride; supporting positive behaviour and discipline; encouraging identity with, and support for, the school ethos; ensuring pupils of all races and backgrounds feel welcome; protecting children from social pressures to dress in a particular way; and, nurturing cohesion and promoting good relations between different groups of pupils.”
In the short film, the girls speak out on how these school uniforms define and separate them. “We have been shaped by the legacy of the violence and problems of the past.”
“We are almost 17 years old; we have had little contact with people from the other side of the community.”
While not using school uniforms may not be the way forward, as many schools also believe that school uniform supports effective teaching and learning, the video calls on the importance of integrated education in our school system. A topic which has been at the forefront of the news recently with the Department of Education draft budget proposing to reduce NICIE’s budget of £665,000 by £100,000 to £565,000. The proposed cut will severely impact upon the work of NICIE, which challenges the segregated system of education we have in Northern Ireland, and Supports the development of the integrated model of education.
“Can we make sure the next generation does not grow up segregated as we have?” “What if all the children starting school today…sat beside someone from a different religion on their first day of school? If we are to move forward together surely that should be the first step.”