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WS560077 MAG Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012.doc
17 April 2013
Pages (including cover sheet)
Interviewers: Professor Paul Connolly
Ms Dawn Purvis
Mr PJ O’Grady
Interviewees: Mr Jim Clarke
Mr Malachy Crudden
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Interviewer: Tight on time so if we get started now and straight into it. I’ll explain to you a little bit about
where we’re at and the format for this session and then, it’s really quite an informal thing
where we’re going to be asking just a range of random questions about your submission. But
just to explain, and if you’ve read the terms of reference for the group, we generally haven’t
got a position at the moment, we haven’t talked between ourselves about what our starting
points are. We’re very clear we want to be led by the evidence, led by experience as well, key
stakeholders on the ground and just evidence of good practice, and you’ve mention some
good practice here. One of the things we’re going to do is after these sessions identify
schools or areas we’d like to visit in January, so there may well be some from here. So we
haven’t got a position between the three of us at the moment, we will be influenced a lot by
what happens through these meetings now and what we read in the detail of written
submissions. And just to say then, I think our approach is really that we’ve all got questions
individually we want to ask, we haven’t conferred, so this is just simply an open session now
where this particular thing we’d like to explore with you or ask you to, sort of, elaborate upon.
What we’ll do from time to time is to play devil’s advocate as well, because at some point
whatever we do recommend to the minister there will be people who will come back on us. So
in the same way that we’re going to get people come back on us we just want to be as open
with yourselves as –
Speaker: That’s all right, we’re used that.
Interviewer: (Laughs) test out some views. So bear that in mind, it doesn’t necessarily reflect our emerging
ideas or anything like that. We have read the submission in detail so there’s no need for a
summary of it. So we will just go straight into questions. And maybe if I just start with a very
bold question, at the moment in the submission there’s quite an emphasis on sustainability, so
the idea is shared education is useful when schools are not sustainable. If I read it right, am I
reading it that if all the schools were sustainable we wouldn’t need shared education, is that
Speaker: No, but I can understand how you can take that perspective on it. One of the difficulties is that
people defend what they know, and we know that very well having seen some of the 47,000
submissions in relation to area planning, 11,000 of them being from one person and people
ticking a box at the end of it, but we know how consultation works in Northern Ireland.
Because we have so many layers in our society and, I mean, I think when we talk about
shared education everyone thinks of religious difference, we think class is very important in
this. You cannot ignore that and I have to say I think, going back to the political side of this,
when Peter Robinson made his first statement just before purdah last year it came from
nowhere, it didn’t give an explanation as to what he understood by shared education and then
he compounded the problem by saying he still wanted to retain selection. So, you know, are
we talking about partial sharing here? Talking about sharing for those who can’t get what they
want and the rest take sharing, is that the, sort of, political perspective in this? And to be
absolutely honest, in my understanding that hasn’t ever been clarified, your definition doesn’t
deal with all of those issues either. So, we need to know what it is we’re talking about. The
second point is that, and I can understand this from the grammar school perspective for
instance, or a strong school of any type, they say, “Why would you change? We’re a
successful school, we’re doing a good job. What’s the problem?” And then you have the
issue that those who have the capacity to engage in shared education by and large have other
capacities as well. They’ve social capacities and they’ve financial capacities so they can make
those choices and those are made not necessarily about going to an integrated school but by
going to the school of choice, which for many kids is a grammar school wherever it’s situated.
Not everyone in society has the capacity to do that and if there are changes in the transport
policy, for instance, that’s going to be a further difficulty.
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 2 of 17
So we then look at the social, the socially deprived, if you like, who tend to be in areas which
are predominantly one religion or the other. And we then look at what might be called normal
patterns of schooling, which is that people go to the local school. Now, if we do that in
Northern Ireland are we trapping people in, not just a religious ghetto, but a social ghetto?
And, on the other hand, if they’re sitting beside a very good school and because someone else
gets in ahead of them, because of a selective system, they’re told you can’t go there, what’s
fair about that? So they then end up being sent to the ghetto area. But actually, if you look at
the pattern of schools, and the selection is a Belfast issue, we would resolve selection
relatively straight forwardly in most parts of Northern Ireland bar Belfast. The Belfast problem
is that you have many traditional voluntary grammar schools that no longer have a population
to keep them open so they take populations from everywhere. If you take the performance of
Belfast schools they outperform at GCSE all others, they’re well above the average. If you
look at the performance of children who live in Belfast they are significantly under the average
which means that we’re dislocating people to accommodate others. Look at the ring of
schools in the South-Eastern Board, from Dundonald through to Lisburn, how many of them
are in intervention? Some of these are in socially viable areas, socially mixed areas, but
they’re failing the schools. So we’ve got to have an honest understanding of what kind of
sharing we’re talking about here.
Now, in terms of viability I commented on the Oxford Economics Report on radio with the guy
who wrote it, his name escapes me at the moment, and he actually admitted that the real issue
here is what is viability? And you can get viability in any way you want, so your question is if
you can’t get it by the straight forward buying in to the school that’s there with its ethos, then
can you get survival by combining? And the harsh reality of Northern Ireland is that we will get
sharing because of the pressures to retain schools in a location more than we’d get the
positive engagement. And what’s the evidence of that, 30 years of integrated education which
didn’t make it after 30 years and in part has made it by defensive mechanisms by schools
declaring themselves to be controlled integrated. And if you applied the rules that the
Department of Education applied to the balance of population in many of those schools, they
don’t make it, so they’re not integrated in the true sense of what the criteria set for integrated
education was. Now, those are what I would call facts of this.
Back in 2001 the Catholic, northern Catholic bishops launched Building Peace in the Future
and it started to put out the notion that the Catholic school would no longer, should be afraid of
sharing, that they’re welcoming schools that people can come into them and are welcome in
them. But it also implicitly said, “If you don’t want to go to a Catholic school that’s fine.” The
notion is still implicit in our society that the bishops are saying, “You must go to a Catholic
school and we will not support you going to another school.” And to some extent some of the
practices are almost contradictory of what would have been the former position and indeed
what is the current position. I mean, if you say, for instance, that teachers teaching in primary
school must have an RE certificate to prepare children for the sacraments, that’s fine, but
many children, Catholic children, don’t go to Catholic schools but they’re still receiving first
communion and confirmation with the people they live with in their own parish churches. So
the schools and the churches are compromised an awful lot on that. People say priests don’t
go into integrated schools, priests don’t go to Catholic schools either, there aren’t enough of
them. So, I mean, the concept of making people feel welcome I think has been a growing
phenomenon within Catholic education. I think things like the SEP, the Shared Education
Project of which I’m a board member, I think that has been a very strong initiative because it
has given a reason for people to be together. The Area Learning Communities I think started
off in a very defensive mode but it became, in some areas, quite constructive but in other
areas very destructive because the grammar schools won’t play ball with a secondary, they’ll
play ball with another grammar. We see these long lists of subjects that children notionally
have access to, when you actually get down to it they don’t have access to them, they’re on a
list of here are the schools in this area community or learning community, where’s the
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 3 of 17
timetable connection? How do kids get from one place to another? None of this is thought
through at all. So in effect we still have division even within Area Learning Communities that
on paper look pretty good.
So, your question is are we playing with sharing as a second option? The truth of the matter is
its best chance, initially, is as a second option. And there was a meeting on Monday of the
Area Planning Co-ordinating Committee which is the department with the board chief
executives and ourselves. And I think the reality there is that coming through from this
consultation we’re not seeing much coming up from the ground but we had a discussion about
should we promote shared outcomes in certain places? And I think the consensus was if we
in the Catholic sector promote that people will say, “Hmm, what are they up to?” And if the
controlled sector do it they’ll say, “Well, what are they up to?” What we actually need to do is
put on paper, “The school in this area is no longer viable.” Sorry, “The maintained school is no
longer viable, the controlled school is no longer viable,” now, that’s the situation. Sectorally
you say, “Your nearest school of type is X.” And you hope that someone on the ground will
say, “Hang on guys, is there not another way we could look at this?” We feel that that
conversation has to be, as I suggested in the document, from the ground up. If it’s top down,
this is Northern Ireland, there’s suspicion. And I think an opportunity for an agent, if you like,
has been lost because I think the Integrated Education Fund should have changed their name
some time ago to the Shared Education Fund, we’ve told them this. They appear to be
promoting a sector, whereas they should be promoting a movement, if you like. And in
evidence to the Assembly Committee a couple of weeks ago, I made the comment which the
press reported that the potential for shared education is greater amongst maintained and the
controlled sector working together than what it is within the integrated sector. And I believe
that to be the case, but it requires willingness and I would have to say to you that the position
of the Catholic trustees is now much, much more focused on sharing than what it ever was
before. And part of that, I would have to say, is borne out of the confidence that the Catholic
sector offers good value for people to come to it. On the selection side of it, because this is
part of the debate as well, the view may have been in the past if we do certain things we lose
some Catholics, some middle class Catholics. The view now is if you want to go it’s your
So, you know, that’s a really long way of answering your question but I think it’s touching on a
number of the points that I think you’re getting at.
Interviewer: And just answer me one more, sort of, general question following on from what you’ve said
and then just open it up, but why do we need Catholic schools?
Speaker: I’m surprised you asked that, Paul.
Speaker: I think we just need to comment there. I anticipated that maybe this question would be asked
and I would put the question back to you and say why shouldn’t we have Catholic schools?
Interviewer: Well, because reading your submission you explain that Catholic schools are open, you
encourage children of other faiths coming to the school and you respect and encourage
different traditions and so on. So the logical next step of that… Oh, one, my subsidiary
question was how do you that within a Catholic school and maintain a Catholic ethos?
Speaker: Well, there’s a difference between the ethos of the school and what might be called religious
instruction. And, I mean, in many respects and it’s remarkable how many politicians will make
this point, in fact just a couple of weeks ago John O’Dowd came to our council meeting and he
quoted Nelson McCausland as saying that Nelson had been invited to some schools in his
constituency and he made the point that he always felt that those schools were much more
inclusive than controlled schools, that he was surprised how welcome he was in the school
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 4 of 17
and how warm the feeling was. But he said they appeared to be more community focused
than controlled schools, that’s a part of the ethos. (Laughing) And he said he doesn’t get too
many invitations to controlled schools either, he doesn’t feel terribly welcome either. But I
have spoken to Nelson McCausland as well in this matter, Nelson feels that the sense of
community within the Catholic community reflects into its schools, even if they’re not practising
Catholics, there was just that sense of unity which I actually feel he’s a bit resentful over,
jealous of, not resentful. He’s jealous of it, he’d love to have it because in the Protestant
community, by his definition, there are many people here committed to religion but they are in
so many different groupings within the community that that collegiality isn’t apparent. But, it is
also a mark of a mature society, that it can tolerate a range of different religious groups within
education. So why would we make Northern Ireland a less mature society than anywhere
else? I mean, the point that Malachy makes is a good one, why should we be asked defensive
questions? Why isn’t there, I accept it, I’ll take your devil’s advocate role here, and I’m using
the devil’s advocate dimension as well, it is a question that is continually focused on Northern
Ireland, why should you have…? Sometimes you have to say why not?
Interviewer: Well, I suppose, and back to your question, Malachy, if we’re looking at shared education and
the definition is children from different backgrounds learning together, the most obvious
starting point for somebody from the outside would be, “Well, they’ll all be under the same roof
then, surely that would be the best way, the most economical way and the most efficient,
effective way people develop in relationships rather than being on different sides and coming
together at different points.” Well –
Speaker: Can I stop you there? Two points. First of all, I grew up in north Belfast, the first time I heard
the term Roman Catholic was when I was about seven, I think, and that was a girl who turned
out later to be a BBC interviewer, Lena Ferguson, but she wasn’t called Ferguson in that year.
And I wasn’t asked in a sectarian way, it was asked the way children ask questions. Now, I
grew up in a mixed area, I spent time in the Salvation Army because my friend, Paul Bond, up
the street his family are connected to the Salvation Army but the 11th night was a big day. The
street I lived in put their flags out on the 1st July and I got jealous because my brother was
born on 1st July and the flags in our house were put out for his birthday and I didn’t have them
out for mine. So, you know, I grew up in a mixed community, I think that was a massive
advantage to me, but we went to separate schools, it wasn’t a problem. Now, and it’s not a
problem in parts of England or other parts of the world. So, it would be naïve to say we don’t
have history here, but we’ve got to get to the point where it’s not a problem. So, you know, I
think that’s part of it. The other issue, and it comes back to the viability of schools, as long as
you’ve got a viable school that can be sustained, that can offer the curriculum, you know,
that’s the first question you have to ask because education is not about social engineering,
there are social dimensions to it, but it cannot be the driver for social change alone. And very
often in Northern Ireland, particularly around this debate, the fingers point at schools, “That’s
your job.” It’s not. We play that role alongside civic society, we play it alongside employment.
And the one failling, you may say education’s still failing, but the other failing then is housing
policy. We need to encourage people to feel part of their communities. And I remember I was
principal at St Gabriel’s during the Holy Cross riots, a good time, I always choose good times
to be in places, great time. It was a great time in many respects because the attendance for
the boys in St Gabriel’s as well as the girls in Holy Cross was tremendous. Staff attendance, I
think, at Holy Cross I don’t think anybody missed a day during that entire riot, and in my case
at St Gabriel’s it was in the upper 90s. But during that we were in a sense laid bare, in terms
of our community difference, but there were still conversations going on. In St Gabriel’s we
had a joint football team with Cairnmartin and Mount Gilbert which played –
Speaker: You don’t understand football.
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 5 of 17
Speaker: Sorry, sorry, association football, I meant.
Speaker: Oh, you do understand it then?
Speaker: Course I do.
Speaker: We continued that team right through the period of those riots, even when the coach was
arrested because it turned out he was a UDA activist. And the reason for that team didn’t
continue was because other schools objected to two schools working together, failing to
recognise the point that they were two small schools and by themselves probably couldn’t
muster a team, and also the fact that they never won a match, (laughs) but that’s neither here
nor there. So, you know, we have these peculiarities and those kids knew each other across
the divide. Largely they knew each other through the girls and most of the rows were more
about girls than about the religion. So we can stereotype situations…
Interviewer: But if I just push this point, if you start with a blank sheet of paper, and we’ve been asked to
look at shared education, children learning together, so you think, well, under one roof. That
would make sense with different, children of different faiths having their needs fully met within
that overall, sort of, shared site provision. And the question I’m asking really goes right back
to the bluntness of my first question was is there a particular reason why you need a Catholic
school or can not the needs of Catholic children and parents be met within a multi-faith school
environment? What is it, why you hold on to the idea of having to have Catholic schools?
Speaker: Well, I suppose to an extent, and this goes back to, what Father Emerson, in fact he was
saying yesterday that Catholic education, in a sense, is a way of life as much as any of
(inaudible 00:21:15) in an education system and the responsibility of, that contributing to that
way of life in the school context rests with every single person within the school. And it’s
important that it’s recognised why Catholic schools are not found to be there to indoctrinate or
to inculcate people into the Catholic faith, they still are there to live out a particular way of life.
And as Father Emerson said yesterday it’s that way of life which is lived out in the image of
Christ. So there’s a fundamental principle in this, in it cannot be delivered in an environment
where children are actually under the same roof and in the context that they’re actually in
classrooms. And I think this brings it back as well to a key issue here as to what are you
actually talking about in terms of shared education? Because for a lot of people as soon as
they see shared education they automatically assume integrated education. I initiated a
conversation with a local trustee during the summer around the possibility of exploring a
shared education option, and his immediate reaction was that we were trying to close his
school down and put an integrated school in. So, it goes full circle in terms of clearly defining
what you mean as shared education, understanding that Catholic education delivers education
in a particular way and that parents who choose to send their child to a school where
education is delivered in a particular way are entitled to do so. And if we want to, if you want
to get to a point where Northern Ireland is a mature society we need to reach a point where
difference is not simply tolerated but it’s accepted and respected by everyone. And that goes
for those who promote a Catholic education system, those who promote an integrated system
or whatever system.
Interviewer: So if you have Muslim children going to a Catholic school, and you said that that would be
Speaker: Yes, it would.
Interviewer: How are their needs met within that ethos (overspeaking 00:23:36)?
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 6 of 17
Speaker: There’s a variety of ways. In some instances for religious instruction the children are
withdrawn if their parents so wish. But actually, what very often happens is it’s the other way
around, they want, they feel part of the class and they stay with it. And so the arrangement is
there to meet the needs of the parents and we’re very flexible about making those
arrangements. I’m pretty sure, PJ, you would have had a number of different religious groups
in your school and they were accommodated.
Speaker: And we’re aware of one school where in terms of throughout the daily rituals it wasn’t good
practice for a facility to be set aside for them to be able to fulfil their duties. So, the practice
does show that where it’s possible to meet the needs of children who are coming from other
religious backgrounds then that is facilitated. Now, it does come down in many cases to the
resources and the ability of the school to actually meet those needs, but there’s an openness
there to facilitate the needs of other children.
Interviewer: But you tend to think that a Catholic child going to a non-Catholic school where that non-
Catholic school would try and meet their needs as a Catholic child.
Speaker: There are some.
Interviewer: They’re still missing out, you feel that they’re missing something.
Speaker: Yes, yes, sorry Jim for interrupting, but I think they would be missing out on something
because there is that essential principle, that core principle that everything you do in a Catholic
school, and in this is in the ideal world obviously, but everything that you do in Catholic school,
if you were being a good Catholic school, reflects back to the life of Christ. And in simple
terms, what would Christ have done in this situation? And that fits in very much (overspeaking
Speaker: Which isn’t just, which isn’t just Catholic. You know, I’m sure there are some controlled
schools where that would be the same view, but there are other controlled schools which are
purely secular. And, you know, there is much more cohesion between the churches in terms
of, this is the education issue, than what there might be between the churches and secular
society. And, but parents in Northern Ireland are by and large religiously focused, they might
not be practising, and they would in many cases want to see that religious focus reflected in
their school whether it’s a controlled or a maintained school. And, I mean, within the Catholic
sector there are non-practising Catholics who still may hold the faith but they would want the
school to invest in ensuring that that faith is passed on because they see the benefits of it in
terms of a moral code, values base, and also in terms of quality. Because, I mean, we would
feel that what parents want first of all is quality education, then convenience, and third possibly
an ethos. But there’s a recognition that ethos impacts on the first and the quality, and I think
that there’s ample evidence over the last 20 years in Northern Ireland to show that. But can I
just take another perspective on your question? Because in a sense you asked a theoretical
question and you got a theoretical answer, I’m going to give you a practical answer. Northern
Ireland is segregated in terms of its housin particularly in areas where there is social
deprivation which tend to be the areas where the greatest need is. Now, if we said a build
school, what kind of an integrated school are we going to get in the middle of west Belfast,
Catholic west Belfast? There’s no population to create a shared school, and actually, our big
problem in west Belfast, in terms of post primary review, is that we don’t know how we’re going
to get the balanced social intake into that area because it’s not there. And all the international
evidence says if you want success in education a social mix is a significant contributory factor,
it benefits both the least and the most able. So, you’ve that practical issue of Northern Ireland.
However, we have a spectrum of sharing and SEP, EU, things of that nature are at a particular
level. To my mind there should be much, much more done in terms of professional
development of teachers because the CASS service as we know it is not going to be there,
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 7 of 17
and maybe that’s not such a bad thing, schools are going to have to recognise the strengths
within their own schools and then start to acknowledge that they have weaknesses that may
be strengths elsewhere and get into collaborative working through that. Now, that’s a very,
those are very simple things. Then we move on towards federation before we get to what you
might describe as the holy grail of a shared institution. Now, the shared institution notion is on
the agenda in a number of the area plans but just looking at some responses, and this is only
very cursory stuff, there is a defensiveness from, no matter what the sector, of retaining some
separation, some ethos difference even though the schools may well be federated and
situated… I mean, you could almost argue that Ballycastle, which I assume you will go to, we
had some officers working with those two schools last Friday, while they will do an awful lot
more in terms of (inaudible 00:29:04) they’re dependent on each other. And in most cases,
and in most of the sharing issues the larger institution is the Catholic school and we have
made it very clear that where that is the case we want those schools to be as co-operative as
possible in providing the curriculum. But it’s this spectrum of sharing and it may well be that
we have to start at the bottom and work to gain confidence and to let that confidence grow, not
just within that community but beyond so that the exemplars develop, not the exemplars of
Scotland, but the exemplars of Northern Ireland, or England or anywhere else, the exemplars
of Northern Ireland. And just on Scotland, Gerry Lundy and I went to Scotland a couple of
years ago and there was this school which was held up as a paragon of collaboration.
Bunkum. We have more collaboration between staunchly Loyalist situated schools and
staunchly Republican than I saw in that school. What they shared was a gym, they had no
curricular collaboration at all, there were at two sides of the building and they may have met
each other coming in and out of school. But no curricular collaboration at all, no meeting of
senior management teams at all, the only meetings were to organise the facilities and who
would get them. I mean, that’s not what we would call sharing.
Interviewer: I’m going to stop at this point, I’ve got enough with PJ and (inaudible 00:30:32).
Speaker: I want to get in, but do you want to get in first, Dawn, or?
Dawn: Yes. Well, I’ll ask one because I was interested in what Malachy said about Catholic
education’s delivered in a particular way and I’m trying to understand what that particular way
is. And you talked about a Christian way I think was what you meant when you talked about
that particular way, is that right
Speaker: Yes, yes.
Dawn: So, if your school, if Catholic schools are open to that diverse group of children, how do
children who are non-Christian and children who do not fit within Catholic teaching, for
example, children who may be a different sexual orientation than the rest of us or who may
have different beliefs than the rest of us, how do they, how would they be taught within that
Catholic school if they have no beliefs around Catholic education?
Speaker: I suppose because some of the basic tenants of the Catholic belief and a Catholic school are
around those basic principles of respect. I don’t like using the word tolerance because
tolerance implies having to put up with it. Tolerance in the sense that you’re accepting that
others are different, the whole aspect of love, not in a romantic type meaning of love, but that
love for the human person, for the individual. And the challenge to try to see each person
irrespective of their religious culture or ethnic background as a valued human being in their
own right, and I think a Catholic school can deliver that. And the Catholic school is doing its
job well, the Catholic school can deliver that irrespective of whether the child is from the
Catholic faith, some other faith or from no faith at all, or falls into one of the categories that
you’ve mentioned in terms of sexual orientation and so on. So I think the Catholic school that
is practising the philosophy of Catholic education in its truest extent can actually meet the
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 8 of 17
needs of each individual based on that belief that each individual is entitled to respect as an
individual. And then, so in some ways it’s an extremely difficult position to articulate and you
can only really experience the difference when you actually go into a school. And I worked for
a lot of years in the Belfast Education and Library Board and my colleagues who weren’t from
the Catholic maintained sector but who were working in Catholic maintained schools would
have quite clearly pointed out that as soon as you walked through the door you were able to
ascertain that there was a difference in the environment in the Catholic school and the
controlled school. But it something, it’s extremely difficult to put into words what it is and it’s
something that you really only experience, I think, being there.
Dawn: I’ve been in a number of Catholic schools but I’m intrigued with this, with this notion of Catholic
schools being open to all religions and none and how children are accommodated within that.
For example, if children are being taught in religious instruction in the Catholic school that
homosexuality is a sin, that abortion is a sin, and then they are in the playground with other
children, some of whom may be homosexual or lesbian, how does that child who’s
homosexual or a lesbian feel if another child says to them, “You’re a sinner.”
Speaker: You’re assuming there that that’s what’s actually taught in a Catholic school.
Dawn: Well, that’s (overspeaking 00:34:49), is it not?
Speaker: But you’re –
Speaker: But those views are not strictly Catholic alone.
Dawn: No, no, but we’re talking about Catholic schools.
Speaker: But you’re assuming that that’s the way in which those things are taught in a Catholic school.
Dawn: In religious instruction.
Dawn: And it’s not? (Inaudible 00:35:04)
Speaker: I would argue that they’re not taught that way. In other words, in a good Catholic school no
one would be turned round to and said, if he’s homosexual, and saying to them that, “You’re a
Dawn: A teacher wouldn’t be saying that, no, but if a child in religious instruction has been taught that
homosexuality is a sin –
Speaker: But they wouldn’t be.
Dawn: They wouldn’t be?
Dawn: Okay. So there’s not a particular, there’s not a particular Catholic religious instruction that is
taught in Catholic schools, is that what you’re saying? Because I thought that was part of the
Speaker: In the best practice, and this is something that would apply more to post primary school than to
a primary school because issues like that wouldn’t be addressed at primary school because of
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 9 of 17
age appropriateness and so on. But in post primary school the approach to teaching it would
be that this is the position of the Catholic church, however there would be discussion around
that position, and at no point in time would anyone, and I’m sure PJ will explain that, at no
point in time would children be castigated in any way.
Dawn: No, I’m not saying the children would.
Speaker: (Overspeaking 00:36:16)
Dawn: But I’m saying that the teachings of the church is that homosexuality is a sin. Now, if the
teachings of the church are that homosexuality is a sin and there’s a discussion in class about
that sin and about homosexuality being a sin, there are children who are leaving that class
with that teaching that homosexuality is a sin and it’s this notion of –
Speaker: (Inaudible 00:36:42) controlled school as well.
Dawn: Yes. No, I know what we’re talking about a Catholic school.
Speaker: Well, I don’t think you can do that, you have to take the broader perspective. And let’s say
how does education handle, how does education in a Christian school handle these issues?
Dawn: Well, we (overspeaking 00:36:55).
Speaker: I think –
Dawn: (Inaudible 00:36:57)
Speaker: And I would think, from my point of view it depends on the same argument. To me it’s a very
minor issue, however it’s not for the people concerned. But, I mean, I’m not sure that in my
experience I would have a knowledge of people teaching these things as sins, particularly
when you look at the context of respect. I mean, part of what maybe has happened in the last
20 years is that things are much more open. The fact that we have people from different
backgrounds coming into our education system and it has opened minds. I think, I’ll use the
word that Malachy doesn’t like, the tolerance levels by and large have come up and in some
respects that’s evidenced by the fact that when there’s a racial issue it becomes big news.
But, you know, things have moved on an awful lot since I was a teacher, in terms of how we
understand the children and how we understand their problems. I mean, I suppose when I
started teaching the word autism was never used, and the autistic spectrum, we had other
words which were not very complementary for children who didn’t learn well, but we had other
words for people from different backgrounds. So, you know, there’s a much more open
agenda within schools generally to discuss these issues and a much greater recognition that
homosexuality is part of our society, that there are people who are homosexuals and that’s
now an accepted fact. I think really where you might get the church taking a stronger view is
on things like marriage and the use of the word marriage. But, I mean, I have to say, to me
this is a very narrow area and would not be at the top of the agenda.
Dawn: Well, I’m playing devil’s advocate because they are questions that will be put to us and they
are questions that I think that we need to address –
Speaker: Well, I think, I think Malachy’s addressed them by saying that there’s a sensitivity, not just to
those issues but to many others. I mean, you have Section 75 referred to here and, of
course, I made the point in the response that Section 75 doesn’t include the poor, there are
lots of things said about the poor –
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 10 of 17
Dawn: (Inaudible 00:39:09)
Dawn: Our terms of reference do.
Speaker: Yes, absolutely.
Speaker: Yes, but Section 75 I think is a particular issue in Northern Ireland, and I’m not saying it’s
wrong but I’m saying it doesn’t go far enough in terms of the minorities.
Speaker: I know, time’s pressing and I’ve had to try to bite my lip or houl me whist as we’d say in the
Interviewer: I’d just, to say, I mean, this first meeting we started a bit late, it’s going on to 10.15, if you’ve
got the time to 10.30 but we’ll have to start very…
Speaker: Okay, all right.
Interviewer: We’re only at that point (inaudible 00:39:39).
Speaker: Okay, okay. But, I mean, having been, I think Jim, in at the coalface there, in the school in
north Belfast. I mean, we’re all aware, I was trying to bite my lip there, to get back to basically
your question, Dawn, and the fact that what is Catholic education, I’m glad you asked that,
these are big issues that we’re not talking through to 10.30 or 11.00 or anything else. And, I
could go on there but the homosexuality thing, the disposition of that is not, is not a sin or
anything like the sin, it’s the outworkings of that may or may not have different views about
people but these are all issues that we take up. Can I go back to something you’ve just
touched on, Jim, and that is Section 75 and socio-economic, that was always tagged on to it
and, in fact, there would be some people who would maybe not have put themselves on this
advisory group if that had not been tagged on to Section 75. Because immediately it brings up
a point that you made, you talked about people automatically think shared education is that
integrated education lobby, but some people might think that and other people don’t think that.
You’ve touched on class, and on that very point Malachy referred to what would Christ do?
What would Christ have done in a situation? Now, in any part of Northern Ireland, Jim, I want
to take up the very comprehensive response that you made, but you did say at one point, “A
Catholic education therefore is not a barrier to shared education.” Now, I will ask you to help
me to understand that because it would appear to me that Catholic education in some
schools, if I could use the word Catholic education and grammar school education in the same
sentence, if I may? I would be aware of some Catholic schools in name where in fact they are
a barrier to shared education because children even, let me finish, Jim, children of the
Catholic faith are actually shut out as part of the great unwashed. Now, what I want to ask
you in that we don’t have the Commission responding, to the best of my knowledge they didn’t
respond, sometimes people when they equate CCMS with the Catholic sector, which I think is
most unfair, not least to you guys working darned hard in the arena and there’s a group set
apart (inaudible 00:41:56) set apart. I want to know, I want to ask you to what extent are we
living through a situation which sees some Catholic schools as actually putting up the shutters,
not necessarily to Protestant children or Quaker children or, indeed, Islamic children, but to
children of the Catholic faith because they didn’t pass the –
Speaker: I don’t think that the –
Speaker: Sorry, Jim, because they didn’t pass the you know what. And it worries me that throughout
this document it talks about a particular provincial, and this will be in the quest for knowledge
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 11 of 17
here and advising the Minister, a particular provincial town where there is talk of school X
working with school Y. Wonderful in many ways, I hope we’ve been involved in that in
curricular and sporting or everything else. But no mention of the particular Catholic school in
that provincial town working with the fairly well shod Catholic grammar school in that area. So
I’m worried about the mind set and I’m wondering when Jim says and, in conclusion, CCMS
will work collaboratively, do you folks see the CCMS still actually existing in a number of
years? Or are we getting signals from the bishops that are saying, “Hold on a minute, things
are going to be different.” I’m confused as a member of this group, and I would appreciate
some guidance, if you feel you could comment on that. And how do we wait until the
Commission maybe does decide (overspeaking 00:43:26).
Speaker: Let, let me come in to this. That town you refer to this year in the Catholic community we had
one child to do the transfer test, so it’s a community school and that’s the way we’re headed.
If you’re asking how the bishops come into (overspeaking 00:43:42).
Speaker: Well, I’ve referred to three schools altogether in the provincial town.
Speaker: Three schools?
Speaker: You referred to them, but I referred to three schools, you referred to two.
Speaker: Right, what’s the third one?
Speaker: The third was –
Dawn: You’re talking in code because we don’t know what the provincial town is.
Speaker: I think, was it Ballynahinch you talked about?
Speaker: It was probably Ballycastle.
Speaker: No, hold on, hold on. Hold on.
Speaker: (Inaudible 00:44:04)
Speaker: St Colman’s College, Ballynahinch, in the third last paragraph of question seven, “Post 16
partnerships of Colman’s College, Ballynahinch and Ballynahinch High Schools.” Two schools
I have the highest regard for but there’s at least a third school in Ballynahinch. And then, I’m
trying to tease out, as a member of this group, where are we going on it and if I try to
extrapolate it many years down the line are we still going to be in the same scenario?
Speaker: Well, every, Ballynahinch –
Speaker: (Inaudible 00:44:32)
Speaker: Ballynahinch trustees are, they own one school in Northern Ireland. They have given us some
difficulties but I think we’re over them. What was described there was relationships that are
currently on the ground to reflect the sharing. Our view for the longer term is that all aspects
of education within an area should be part of that sharing. Now, there are several things that
need to happen, and because we are not getting cohesion on the selection issue across the
political divide, the Catholic sector is pursuing this as a solo agenda. It will be –
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 12 of 17
Speaker: Say it again for me, just (overspeaking 00:45:13).
Speaker: We’re not getting political cohesion on this –
Speaker: Do you see that as a predicate to the Catholic church having to move in the way that I think
you’re suggesting it’s going to move?
Speaker: Well –
Speaker: I think that’s important, that’s an important point to establish.
Speaker: I think I pointed you in the direction of a bishop a few years back, and I said to him, I said to
you, I think, that if we pursue the end of selection only within the Catholic sector are we saying
to the Protestant children that you don’t matter? So, on that basis we tried to get a cross-
community approach to ending selection which didn’t work. The bishops –
Speaker: Let me finish, please. The position now is the Catholic sector unilaterally is moving to end
selection. A barrier is the legal impediment of what largely the 1986 Order and Articles 14 and
16 says, which gives boards of governors the right to set admissions criteria. Now, we have
had a number of engagements, not just amongst the bishops and the trustees, the trustees
are, with one or two waivers, absolutely committed to ending academic selection. They are
facing significant resistance, not just from the boards of governors, but from well-heeled
middle class Catholics working with political interest to block that process. And some of that,
not for the minute, is reflected in (inaudible 00:46:51). The negotiations around the Bill are
being impacted by this. Now, the issue of ending selection actually will, in our view, promote
shared education but there are a number of other levers that have to play. First of all, there’s
a review of the funding formula by Bob Salisbury and we’ve got a sustainable schools policy.
Now, there is a chicken and egg here and the Department have to make up their minds about
this, which comes first, Salisbury saying, “This is the level that I am funding a school to be
sustainable,” or, “Here’s the level that I’m funding schools at,” what’s going to be sustainable?
So those decisions have to be taken. My sense is that the advice or the tasks set for Bob
Salisbury was to put more money into determining social need because Northern Ireland
doesn’t do it well enough, to put more money into early years to prevent failure, and to
implicitly put less money into small schools. All of that is going to have an impact on shifting
the same pot of money into different places. And my sense is that it is going to take money
away from middle class post primary, mainly grammar schools. Now, and it’s going to put
money into working class schools of both communities.
The fact is that in Northern Ireland, despite all the changes, the social differential between
Catholic communities and Protestant is still greater, there are more Catholics in areas of social
deprivation than Protestants, it may well be that some Protestants should be in that register
and aren’t, I don’t know. But the fact is those lines are getting closer. However, what we are
looking at here is levers to create change. Now, the sustainable schools figure of 500 is
illogical. Everybody in the Department and everybody around the table in area planning
knows that as things stand the average number that’s going to be required to deliver the
entitlement framework is 950 pupils. 40 of the 68 grammar schools are either on or below that
number in terms of their intake, they will suffer under this review if they don’t start to play ball.
We need a whole lot of levers to create change, to affect real effective area planning. So, I
think you will see a change in some of the boards of governors of Catholic grammar schools in
the next round, I hope that’s the case because there are nominees from the trustees and while
they are free on the boards of governors to do certain things, they are still there to represent
the interest of trustees. And the interests of trustees are now very clear, much clearer than
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 13 of 17
what they might have been in the past. The second thing is, that in terms of sharing, to get
that 950 figure there is going to be significant change. Now, one of the risks is that the weak
school in any community might actually be the best building –
Speaker: So they’ll have the grammar school?
Speaker: What’s that?
Speaker: It may be the grammar school.
Speaker: It may be the grammar school.
Speaker: It may be, yes, the better building.
Speaker: Maybe. But –
Speaker: Is that, that’s a question (overspeaking 00:50:06).
Speaker: No, I’m saying the best building may well be the secondary school that is undersubscribed.
What do you want us to do; close decent buildings just to satisfy a name? Now, I don’t care
about the name and the view that we’ve taken of area planning is we’re not there to protect
any school; we’re there to ask the question, are the needs of the children living in this area
being met? And if so, how? And if not, how might they be by the provision of schools? But
we have to start with footprints that are there and we have significant reductions in the capital
expenditure which are likely to be retained in the next comprehensive spending round, I don’t
know what George Osborne’s going to do. But, we’re not going to get a whole raft of new
builds so we’re going to have do things differently. But from our point of view we’re looking at
a non-selective system precisely to achieve sustainability, and to get sustainability in some
communities schools are going to have to work collaboratively together. Now, do you get
sharing out of some ideological perspective or do you get sharing out of need and necessity?
And the reality is that some elements of the Sharing Education Programme have created in
some areas, aligned to the Area Learning Communities, a need and necessity. And do you
know what we see in those schools, kids can walk up the middle of the corridors wearing
whatever uniform they want and nobody bats an eyelid.
Speaker: Can I have a wee clarifier for one second?
Dawn: Can I just have one clarification on the ’86 Order and the power given to boards of governors?
Is there anything in the Education Bill that the minister is bringing forward to try and change
Speaker: Well, there is. Look, there are two paragraphs in the bill, Paragraph 3.4 and 34.4, which are
totally irrelevant, there are two statements where the scheme of employment, the scheme of
management are referred to, and there’s a statement added that none of this can be used to
affect admissions criteria, which is total tautology in legislative terms because a scheme of
management and a scheme of employment cannot say anything about academic… These
are set in legislation, the 2006 Order had put a date in to end academic selection, it was lost at
the last hour by the victory of the Good Friday Agreement. And if you recall, there was no big
political clamour in the days leading up to that, people had accepted that it was going. This is
a social self-interest and the interest of schools, individual schools, not just grammar schools,
not just grammar schools, saying, “We’re all right, Jack.” We’re not buying that from any of
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 14 of 17
Interviewer: We’ve got three minutes left so can (overspeaking 00:52:53).
Speaker: Can I just come back in there, Jim, just a way back I said I wanted a clarifier which was that,
and I’m here as a member of this group and not outlining my philosophy of education which I
will give you in another arena if I get the opportunity. But, to clarify, that I would know one
principal who used to work in north Belfast, let’s put it that way, who would have a certain view
of what education should be like in the Catholic sector and Protestant colleagues, very fine
people, great educators, would say, you know, the best thing that could be done, Mr X
principal, is that the Catholic sector moves towards an 11 to 18 egalitarian structure. At then
that would mean the rest would probably follow, there was no suggestion whatever that this
person didn’t care about the working class Protestant children. In fact, I think if we do, if we
pursue that, that would be clear. Now, at some stage actually we said non-selective to
achieve sustainability but, you know, I’m really asking the question that goes back to 1947, as
a member of this group I want to know to what extent, if any, can we anticipate or extrapolate
that the Catholic arena will be one of sharing within itself which would be an absolute starting
point? And I have seen a number of, if you like, false dawns here, where are we in that or can
we speak in that or do we bring in the, do we wait until the commission decides to say it’s to
come in and speak to us?
Speaker: I don’t know if they’d respond to you or not.
Speaker: Well, might do that, hard to say yes or no, but at the minute you would be the nearest thing to
somebody that could speak in that (inaudible 00:54:30).
Speaker: Well, let me put it this way –
Speaker: It’s a big issue.
Speaker: Do you think that I could say some of the things that I’ve said about it if I was working against
the Catholic church? Do you think I’m a solo operator here?
Speaker: No, no, no.
Speaker: I’m just trying to ascertain in stark terms where we are.
Speaker: I think the views that the views that Malachy and I are expressing here today are the views the
views that would be supported by the bishops and other trustees. Would you agree with that?
They are moving further and we recognise some of the implications of what we’re doing here.
Speaker: Can you understand people being confused as to why there hasn’t been movement with
getting there? You used the term what decisions would Christ have done in a situation?
Speaker: But I think there needs to be some acceptance that these things will move slowly. I think Jim
made a point earlier on whereas in the past we might have had a fear that in effecting change,
a fear in the Catholic sector that in effecting change you may lose people to other sectors.
And Jim says that that approach has now gone, that the approach now is that we’re moving
towards a particular position and if moving towards that position causes people to leave the
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 15 of 17
Catholic sector and go and access education elsewhere then so be it. But we’re moving
towards a position where Catholic education will be provided on the basis of equality –
Speaker: Could I ask you whether you could put a figure on that? How many months, weeks, years,
Speaker: There is, there was a plan to do something in the autumn which simply didn’t happen due to
the fact that we didn’t have the resources. We are now putting in a case for resource to do
some things in the early part of the New Year. There’s a reconstitution of boards of governors
in June. And those are the things that will move this thing on. But just let me just sum up
here. Some of the things that we are doing are going to say to some people if you don’t want
to come to Catholic then that’s fine, you can go elsewhere. The figures already suggest that
Catholics are more likely to access other sectors, and in a sense that’s maybe a reflection of a
liberal education with people saying, “I can do this.” There are fewer people coming into the
Catholic sector and I think that’s a question that needs to be addressed, why is that? How
much of it is to do with perceptions which are from the past? And how much of it is to do with
the views of that particular, other communities? But the implication of some of the things that
we’ve said here today and the direction of travel of the Catholic sector and in selection is the
middle class Catholics will leave and if those tests continue, on the basis of the Catholic sector
is out performing at the primary level, more Catholics are likely to get in to Protestant grammar
schools if they apply. And those grammar schools are going to have to make decisions; do
they try and keep them out? In which case they’re going to end up in court, or do they take
them in? In which case they’re going to exclude Protestants who have traditionally been in
those schools. And then the politicians are going to have to ask, or answer the question
posed by the Protestant community, you saved selection but you saved it for the Catholics.
Because, I mean, that’s the way it’s headed and when that starts to happen, then you get the
real debate. But the real debate here about sharing, whether it’s religious or class or whatever
way you will describe it, is our education system is failing the economy and by implication the
society in Northern Ireland. If we can’t get young people into employment, if we can’t give
them a stake in society, we will potentially tip back into violence and criminality. And I have to
say I don’t think that’s particularly the case in the Protestant side because we’ve tried to sell
the ticket, education works, and we’ve some evidence of that being the case in the Catholic
sector. We haven’t sold that ticket as well in the Protestant community but if I were trying to
sell that ticket now I would have real concerns that we will not deliver and you actually could
do more damage than good. So you cannot look at education in isolation, we’ve got to stop
failure in very early years, we’ve got to ensure the curriculum is matched to creating an
economy here that is sustainable, that is not public sector dependent, that is not focused on
the professions because our grammar schools have influenced our secondary schools and it’s
an academic focus to curriculum aimed at the professions, public sector funded, it’s isn’t going
to be there. We need to get, we need to really smell the coffee, if the politicians are serious
about an economic strategy they need to recognise that there’s a foundation stage missing,
they need to talk to schools and we need to change the curriculum. And in terms of delivering
the entitlement framework that’s a lever for change and all of these levers, when they put
numbers into the equation in a rural community like Northern Ireland, a largey rural
community, we actually push the bar towards sharing from necessity. And once we share
from necessity people will stop the fear.
Interviewer: Great. At that point we need to stop. I just want to thank you so much for coming in at short
notice and having this time for discussion. And the next stage now is that we after, we’ve got
a number of days of these meetings and then we’re going to be looking at, well, starting to pull
together some of our thoughts. So a whole review of research and evidence going on at the
same time to inform it. But the other stage of our work now will be doing some visits as well to
areas of good practice, so we may well be coming back to you with some requests in relation
to that as well.
Transcript of Oral Session with CCMS 5 December 2012Page 16 of 17
Interviewer: Okay. Thank you so much for your time.
Speaker: Thanks very much.
[End of Transcript]
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