|Stormont, N.I Parliament Building.|
Traditionally there have always been 2 main communities in N.Ireland - Protestants & Catholics - and so these each have their own education sectors; The Controlled and Maintained sectors. All schools up until the early 1980's fell into one of these 2 categories & it was quite usual (and still is today) for someone to be educated just within their 'own' community. The teacher training colleges were also separate so many teachers have not only attended religiously segregated schools but also university before going back to teach in one of the 2 sectors upon graduation.
However at the height of the conflict in N.I. groups of parents came together to establish schools that were neither controlled or maintained and therefore neither Protestant or Catholic. The ethos of these integrated schools was to be Christian. These new schools came under the wing of an organisation called Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education or NICIE.
Originally all these schools were self-funding however since 1989 DENI funds all established integrated schools the same as the other 2 sectors.
In recent years Irish Language schools have also been established.
|Windmill was established in 1988|
The preschool system is also not straightforward - there are 3 different types of settings and a child is entitled to a free preschool place for one year before starting formal learning at the age of 4. This free place is for 5 days a week and can range from 12.5 hours to 25 a week. As I said there are 3 types; statutory, voluntary & private. (Even within the former there are 2 types - a stand alone nursery school with a teaching principal and a unit within a primary school.) There are only teachers in the statutory sector working with an assistant in classes of 26 children. Many leaders and assistants in the voluntary sector are educated to degree standard but do not have a teaching qualification. the staff/child ratio is lower in the voluntary sector. The private sector is usually daycare or creches run as a business.
As a nursery teacher I am also qualified to teach other age groups - I do sometimes have to remind primary colleagues that 'yes I am a qualified teacher, and no I don't just play all day'. I am also paid the same as my colleagues who teach in the primary & secondary settings. This is not the case in other countries as I have come to realise and for this I am grateful. However, sometimes I do wonder if it would be better to be paid a little less and have an another assistant?
Children attend preschool the year they turn 4 on or after the 2nd of July. This means you can have a child who is 3 and 2 months in the same class as a child who is 4 and 2 months. They do not have to attend but most parents choose to take up their free place and in recent years there has been a shortage of places for those who want to attend.
Traditionally controlled schools would reflect a British identity and the maintained an Irish one. As an integrated school we can reflect both. We teach our children to respect both communities and their flags and sports teams. We can celebrate the Queen's Jubilee and a win for the local GAA football team.
|Tyrone winning an All-Ireland|