My Passion for Shared Education
I have always considered myself to be very fortunate in my 35 year career as both a teacher and a school principal – I don’t remember a single day when I really dreaded going to work. That’s not to say of course that I wasn’t at times frustrated, under pressure, anxious or indeed downright frightened. Oh, and there was something else that I never felt, and that was bored.
I really do appreciate the fact that not everyone can say this. I put it down to three main things – the wonderful colleagues and young people I had the pleasure of working with, as well as the fact that I had such a passion for the work I was doing.
So where did Shared Education fit into this? Well, it was when I was appointed as Principal of Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle in September 1999 that two new challenges took on a really special meaning in my career. The first was the opportunity, and indeed the challenge, of leading an all ability school formed from a merger of a Grammar and a non-Grammar back in the 1970s. The second was the opportunity to build on a long-standing partnership with Ballycastle High School, the Controlled School who were our neighbours on the Moyle Road in Ballycastle.
I was a ‘child’, well I suppose if I’m truthful, a teenager of the troubles. Born and raised in West Belfast, I had limited opportunities to meet or get to know anyone from the Protestant/Unionist community. During the late 1960’s I came to know what real fear and anxiety was. I was one of the many young people who were at the front line of the ‘troubles’ and like so many, I had the emotional scars to prove it. So, like so many others, I truly believe that our education system, whilst definitely not the cause of our problems, has a part to play in building better relationships based on mutual respect and trust between the communities in Northern Ireland.
Our Shared Education partnership began in the 1960s on a very small scale, focused primarily on expanding the number of subjects on offer at A Level. From early 2000s it has grown rapidly with the focus again being on expansion of the curriculum offer. However, as the partnership grew, the leaders and governors of our schools began to see the potential of how the partnership could contribute to healing and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
I’m passionate about Shared Education because I have seen it in action and I have seen the impact that it can and indeed does have.
- It’s great for young people – for their friendships, outcomes, their ability to accept difference and appreciate cultural diversity, their ability to step out of their comfort zone and to be able to listen and share.
- It inspires and challenges teachers and school leaders to be outward looking, innovative, and courageous in working for the common good of the young people in their community
- It connects schools to parents and the local community who in so many instances have a deep pride in the partnership and, on the value it can add to their children’s education and to community life.
I’ve shared my thoughts on Shared Education – share yours with me firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us in celebrating school Shared Education Partnerships during Shared Education Week