With the publication of the Ulster University / UNESCO Education Centre’s latest Briefing Report, ‘School ethos in Northern Ireland’, the following statement was issued by the Transferor Representatives’ Council.
Dr Andy Brown, Chair of the Transferor Representatives’ Council (TRC), said, “When it comes to the vision for the future of education in Northern Ireland there is an ongoing and important debate and this report is just one of a number of contributions to that. As transferor churches we also welcome the opportunity to be a part of that significant discussion. We agree that a changing society requires a system of education which promotes social justice and is inclusive and respectful of difference. This is not incompatible with the values of a Christian ethos, which underpin the majority of schools in Northern Ireland.
“There are aspects of the report which TRC would welcome, such as the desire for a root and branch review of the curriculum, especially the high-stakes nature of testing, and indeed TRC has been advocating for such a review in the RE curriculum. However in dismissing the Christian ethos of schools, which is guaranteed in legislation, elements of the report do not seem to recognise the history of our education system, nor reflect the realities as they pertain across local communities.
“The report’s vision for a community-based education system resonates with what already exists in so many of our villages and towns across Northern Ireland, where local schools are at the centre of and reflect the local community. Controlled schools, which are open to all faiths and none, provide high quality education for children and young people to enable them to learn, develop and grow together, within the ethos of non-denominational Christian values and principles.”
Referring to the recent national response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Dr Brown concluded by saying, “This week has reminded us of the Christian foundations on which our society is built and demonstrated to us all the strength which so many take from this. Like the vast majority of our schools, we celebrate the values of a non-denominational ethos, which underpin the education system in Northern Ireland.”