Let's Talk Education

6.5.2022 | Public Affairs,

Let’s Talk Education

On Saturday 29 January 2022 around 120 delegates and guests braved the weather and the opening up of Covid restrictions to attend PCI Talks Education: a vision for the future in Northern Ireland.

The conference was attended by Presbyterians with an interest and experience in education, ranging from those beginning their teaching career to those who have retired, from teachers to principals to governors to those working in strategic, administrative and policy roles within education. Also present were PCI ministers, along with partners and stakeholders from the teaching colleges, unions, sectoral support bodies and the world of politics.

The conference was opened by the Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen MLA. Commending the role of PCI and the impact our work in education has on the world of education, she reminded attendees that, “The education of our children and young people goes far beyond the Department of Education, or even schools and colleges. It requires the dedication of teachers, governors, parents and many more. The support of local churches, such as yours, is also key in placing schools at the heart of their communities.”

The keynote address was delivered via a pre-recorded video by Dr Irvin Scott, Director of the Leadership Institute for Faith in Education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Dr Scott spoke of how, in a context very different from ours, the potential for tapping into the skills, resources and willingness of faith communities was having a tremendous effect on the lives of schools and communities in the United States. Reminding delegates that, in every community, there are the two constants of the local school and the local church, he cited how real partnership makes a real difference. Outlining his research, those attending were very much taken by his three-tiered model of engagement, in which churches target individual schools’ specific and immediate needs; form lasting, practical and supportive partnerships with schools; and work at the macro level to reduce systemic inequities. He told delegates that the key to success in reducing inequity, supporting need and raising standards is the formation of partnerships and the idea of giving freely, expecting nothing in return.

This theme became an important focus and outcome of the day, and in a panel discussion with Dr Barbara McDade (Stranmillis University College), Rev Robert Herron (Education Authority Board member), Mark Beattie (primary school principal) and Leanne Dunlop (Scripture Union NI), there was a clear consensus that what schools need is tangible and unconditional support from churches, beginning with real relationships through which specific needs are ascertained and responded to in appropriate ways.

You can watch the morning’s proceedings below.

You can download the attendee booklet and some statistical information on education in Northern Ireland in the download section (above right).

Let’s Talk Education informed PCI’s submission to the Independent Review of Education which you can also download above.