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North-South cooperation between education sectors a priority – Crowe

3 June, 2011 - by Seán Crowe TD

Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson in the 26 counties, Seán Crowe TD, met today with the North’s recently appointed Minister for Education John O’Dowd, MLA, where they discussed ways to progress cross border cooperation between both jurisdictions.

Describing the meeting as ‘useful and productive’, Deputy Crowe said:

“At a time of economic crisis and with limited financial resources available it makes even more sense that our education systems on both sides of the border are cooperating and working together on a wide range of issues.

“Since 2001, 537 schools and 53 youth organisations benefitted from North/ South cooperative activity in education with millions in financial supports making a real difference to young people's lives.

“However we both agree that more must be done to tackle social disadvantage and inequality.

“Out of the 537 schools involved in North South cooperation over half were grammar or fee paying schools compared to just over a quarter that were second-level schools.

“One programme 'The Civic-Link' have attempted to bring schools and youth groups together on a cross border basis and it is one of a few Initiatives that has specifically targeted disadvantaged schools.

“Just as importantly, North-South exchange work needs to be firmly rooted in the curriculum and should be at the heart of the citizen curriculum in schools as a way of promoting interculturalism, breaking down distrust, and creating greater conditions for peace building, conflict resolution and the recognition and importance of human rights based approach to entitlements.

“In the past ten years, some good work has also been done, with progressive changes that if implemented could lead to reform of mathematics teaching and maths in the curriculum in both jurisdictions. This we feel is another area for joint working in the immediate future.

“The decision by both governments in 2001 to establish the Middletown Centre of Excellence for Autism, and which opened in 2007, is an example of what can be achieved by good cross border cooperation. The centre has a full training schedule for over 5,000 people, teachers, health professionals, voluntary sector workers and parents. The next logical step would be for this to be accompanied by the provision of accommodation so that the Middletown facilities are accessible to visitors from across the island.

“Greater efforts need to be made to bring more Primary and Special Needs schools into contact with their counterparts across the border. Innovations such as the establishment of the North South Education and Standards Committee (NSETS) must be built on and over the coming years.

"Today was was the first formal meeting between myself and my colleague, the new Northern Education Minister John O' Dowd.
"We are fully committed to prioritising these issues in both the Dáil and Assembly and have agreed to work towards greater coordination and cooperation that will hopefully lead to the enhancement of Education services both North and South.”

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