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“It is not before time that the voice of students is at the heart of all decisions that are being made in the education sector and beyond in the world of politics as well.”

31/5/21: Minister for Education Norma Foley TD told students that their engagement will be crucial in ‘re-imaging’ the senior school cycle. Responding to questions from students on the review of the current school system in the wake of Covid-19, Minister Foley said: “There is much that is positive and much that is right about the senior cycle as we know it but there is also much that can be improved upon or added to so it is suitable for [all] students in the 21st century.”

The forum between Minister Foley and over 60 senior students from Ballyclare High School and Dominican College, Co. Antrim, Loreto Community School, Co. Donegal and Dublin’s Luttrellstown Community College was part of the Glencree/Politics in Action North South Post Primary School Civic Action Programme. In this final meeting between ministers north and south of the border in this phase of the programme, Minister Foley listened to the students’ feedback on the benefits of the programme and key areas of concern for them.

The students re-iterated the areas of common concern to them including Covid, Brexit, mental health and identity. They also welcomed the opportunity to address their concerns on other key areas such as climate change and LGBTI+ with a wide range of senior politicians from north and south of the border including Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, MLA Mike Nesbitt, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood and Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman.

Encouraging the students to continue in their engagement, Minster Foley said: “It is not before time that the voice of students is at the heart of all decisions that are being made in the education sector and beyond in the world of politics as well.”  She concluded, “The more we engage with each other … the more the barriers we perceive to be there can be broken down.”

The Glencree/Politics in Action Programme promotes dialogue and exchanges between senior students from different backgrounds north and south of the border on issues of mutual concern as they learn about each other’s traditions, identities, commonalities and differences. It also provides opportunities for engagement with politicians and leaders in civil society to foster awareness and participation in politics and leadership for the future.

The event with Minister Foley was facilitated by Therese Cullen, Politics in Action and developed in collaboration with the students, teachers and Principals from the participating schools. It is the fifth student-politician meeting in the Glencree/Politics in Action Programme series.

To view other student-politician meetings in the series, click on these links:

About the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme

An initiative of Glencree and Politics in Action, the North South Post Primary Schools Civic Action Programme promotes dialogue and exchanges between senior students from different backgrounds north and south of the border on issues of mutual concern and so they can learn about each other’s traditions, identities, commonalities and differences. It also provides opportunities for engagement with politicians and leaders in civil society to foster awareness and participation in politics and leadership for the future.

Funded by the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs and supported by the Department of Education, the programme, which is now in it’s second phase, relates to part of the Irish Government’s commitment set out in the policy document ‘New Decade, New Approach’ , the agreement to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland (Jan 2020) to: “Build(ing) on the success of the recent pilot programme of bringing pupils together – from schools North and South of the Border, from Nationalist and Unionist communities, and from the Integrated Schools sector – to meet, discuss issues of mutual concern and visit sites of significant shared historic relevance, we will expand the scheme over the lifetime of the next Government with a target of achieving 100 such cross border engagements per annum within a 5 year programme.”

The objectives of the programme are to:

  • establish broader cultural understanding and good relations across different traditions and identities on this island
  • appreciate the commonalities that may exist among young people, whilst also respecting the differences
  • gain an understanding and experience of the practical side of politics and leadership, especially the importance of demonstrating respect to those who hold opposing views and to develop the skills necessary to create mutually beneficial solutions to issues/concerns
  • gain an understanding and experience of engaging with conviction with political institutions
  • develop lasting respect and friendship with those from different backgrounds and with different values.

Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation works with people who have been impacted by conflict including victims/survivors, combatants and marginalised minorities regardless of generation and gender, and with the stakeholders who share our vision of sustainable peace, from community leaders to politicians, diplomats to faith groups. Our Peace Education and Young Adult work connects and engages students and young adults on a cross border, north-south basis. For further information www.glencree.ie; Twitter & Facebook @Glencree Centre, #Glencree4peace.

Politics in Action (PIA) aims to prepare young people for the challenges of leadership in whichever career or profession they chose to follow. We will help them learn how to listen to debates as well as contribute to discussions, to demonstrate respect for those who hold opposing views and to develop the key skills necessary to reach a mutually beneficial solution. This year we have a “New Normal” theme, which asks pupils to look at issues that can be improved, and help Northern Ireland recover after the pandemic. For further information www.politicsinaction.org.

 

#glencree4peace

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