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Programme of Work

Core Values

 The work of the Ministerial Advisory Group has been informed by three core values: 

  • Being outcomes-focused and concerned with what works best for improving the education of all learners;
  • Being evidence-based and committed to ensuring that any advice given is based upon the best available evidence;
  • Being children’s rights-based and committed to ensuring that the work of the Group and the advice it made to the Minister were all fully compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant human rights standards.

Click here for further details on what a children’s rights-based approach entails. A short video (20 minutes) of a presentation made recently by Professor Connolly on this is also available to view online by clicking here

Written and Oral Submissions

The Group’s engagement with individuals, key stakeholders and interested groups began on Monday 15 October with a call for written submissions. The deadline for the submission of responses was Friday 9 November 2012. The Ministerial Advisory Group selected a range of groups and individuals to meet to discuss issues in more detail. These meetings took place in various locations across Northern Ireland on five days from the end of November to mid-December 2012.

The Group also visited a number of projects and examples of good practice locally during the first few weeks of January 2013, before finalising its report to the Minister in early February 2013.

All of the evidence gained through the above process (including all of the written submissions received and transcripts of all of the oral submission sessions) is now available on this website in the Final Report section.

Consultation with children and parents

Running alongside the process for receiving written and oral submissions, consultations were also carried out with children, young people and parents to ensure they were able to express their views on how best to advance shared education, and to have these views taken into account by the Group. Further details of the methods used to seek the views of children, young people and parents are outlined below.

 Consultations with children and young people

The Group was supported by the Office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) which carried out a series of research surveys and consultations with children and young people. In the first of these, NICCY commissioned a module on sharing education as part of the 2012 Kids’ Life and Times (KLT) which is an annual online survey of Primary 7 children in Northern Ireland carried out by ARK. In addition, NICCY commissioned a module of questions on sharing education as part of the 2012 Young Life and Times (YLT) which is an annual postal survey of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland also carried out by ARK. The results from these two large-scale surveys provided the Group with a useful overview of the attitudes of children and young people towards sharing education in Northern Ireland.

The findings from the surveys were supplemented by 35 consultation workshops with children and young people from a representative sample of 20 primary and post-primary schools across Northern Ireland. In total, approximately 750 pupils from Years 5 and 6 in primary schools and Years 11 and 13 in post-primary schools participated in the workshops. The workshops enabled the children and young people to discuss and articulate their views on sharing education in their own words and in more depth than was possible in the quantitative surveys.

NICCY has subsequently prepared a full report outlining the findings and making recommendations from all three elements of its consultation exercise, along with a version for young people, and these are available on the NICCY website.

Consultation with parents

The Group commissioned Parenting Northern Ireland (Parenting NI) to seek the views of parents on how best to advance shared education so that these could also be taken into account. A series of focus groups was carried out with approximately 55 parents associated with schools from across Northern Ireland. The focus groups took place in October and November 2012.

The schools were chosen by Parenting NI to ensure a wide geographic range providing experiences from parents living in both rural and urban locations. The focus groups included the parents of children from nursery, primary, post-primary and special schools as well as those with children who were attending alternative educational provision.

The parents came from a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and socio-economic status. A copy of the full report from Parenting NI can be viewed/downloaded by clicking here.

Consideration of Existing Evidence

Finally, the Ministerial Advisory Group undertook its own review of the available evidence on the preferences of learners and parents in relation to shared education and also on the effectiveness and value for money of existing approaches and of best practice, locally and internationally.

This review was undertaken by a small group of researchers at the School of Education at Queen’s under the direction of the Ministerial Advisory Group. Individuals and organisations were also invited to submit evidence they felt the Group should consider through the written submission procedure.

Ministerial Advisory Group