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Title: An analysis of education policy discourse change since the Good Friday Agreement (1998) in relation to integrated and shared education
Author: Hodgett, Sarah Llewellyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 106X
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2016
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Northern Ireland’s society is characterised by polarised communities with oppositional identities. Between the years of 1969-1998, Northern Ireland was in a period of conflict known as “The Troubles”. The conflict is commonly understood to have evolved from the complexities of the region’s social diversity. The differentiation of these polarised communities is still apparent in a range of contexts within the region, not least, within schools. School level education in the region remains predominantly segregated with 94% of school children attending either controlled or maintained schools (Department of Education, 2015). The Good Friday or Belfast Agreement (1998) had explicit references towards a duty to ‘facilitate and encourage’ integrated education in Northern Ireland; yet eighteen years since this historic document was signed, segregated schooling still prevails. Since the Agreement, policy discourse on the subject of education has shifted away from government Departmental responsibility to facilitate and encourage integrated schools. Instead, policy now focuses on and advocates for, a different approach, shared education, whilst maintaining segregated schools. In March 2016, the Shared Education Bill passed its final stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly meaning that shared education is now an integral part of education policy in Northern Ireland under law. The Bill places a duty on the Department of Education to ‘encourage, facilitate and promote’ shared education. This duty has strong resonances with the duty in relation to integrated education eighteen years previously, but places an emphasis on ‘promotion’. An assessment of this significant change in policy discourse from integrated to shared education is vital. Consequently, an analysis of key policy documents is carried out in this research to assess education policy change over time. The research then develops to empirically assess (through semi-structured interviews) opinion of this policy shift at a macro-level by interviewing key educational stakeholders. Finally, this policy shift is assessed through a theoretical lens, with the application of multicultural and intercultural theories. This research identifies that a policy discourse shift towards the promotion of shared education occurred around the mid 2000s due to a plurality of reasons, including: evolving political structures, political party support, funding patterns, lobbying and demographic decline. Furthermore, an association has been identified between the levers driving shared education forward and the reasons behind the lack of development in integrated education in recent years. This thesis argues that both shared and integrated education have an important role to play in advancing the construction of a more socially cohesive Northern Ireland. In the short term, shared education offers a less threatening approach to dealing with difficult and entrenched community relations issues in school level education. Nonetheless, integrated education offers the most robust form of intercultural contact across communities and should be promoted and proactively planned for in current and future education policy in tandem with shared education.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available