North/South Co-operation

Part of Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 2nd November 2009.

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Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 2nd November 2009

Tá dul chun cinn suntasach déanta ag an gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh/Theas ar réimse ceisteanna oideachais ar fud an oileáin.

The North/South Ministerial Council has made significant progress on a range of educational issues across the island of Ireland. The joint working group on educational underachievement is addressing issues such as numeracy in the primary and post-primary sectors, good practice in literacy and numeracy in disadvantaged areas, good practice in Traveller and newcomer education, and improving pupil attendance at schools.

There has also been significant improvement in the provision of education services to children and young people with special educational needs. For example, the centre of excellence for autism in Middletown carries out an important research and information role and offers a menu of training courses relating to autistic spectrum disorders. An autism conference will take place in Armagh later this month to showcase good practice in providing support to children with autism, parents and professionals. We have introduced practical measures to assist teachers in the North of Ireland to obtain the Irish-language qualifications that they need to teach in schools in the South. We have tackled school leadership development issues, and a joint research project on how to attract teachers to the position of headship will be completed in the near future.

Information on teachers’ pensions will soon be available to assist teachers who wish to transfer between the North and the South to work. It is important that we remove all obstacles to mobility. A framework for a joint programme of North/South educational exchanges is being developed, and the North/South exchange consortium will continue its good work in the meantime. The Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (Scotens) gives educators the chance to engage in open, critical and constructive analysis of current issues in education. I was delighted to address its seventh annual conference last month in Malahide, i mBaile Átha Cliath, to hear at first hand about the range of activities supported by Scotens.