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"A community relations programme, designed to promote tolerance as a core value of our society, is not an optional extra in education. Its basis is the shared citizenship of a community, based on justice and equality for all."

"Every teacher, every school manager, Board member and trustee, and every educational administrator within the system, has a responsibility for helping children to understand and respect each other, and their differing cultures and traditions…"

"In a divided society there are many fears which can affect any relationship, almost at any time. Fears for teachers can increase if their schools do not have a clear, agreed, school policy on mutual understanding work, if they have little support from superiors and experience being alone"
Alan Smith

Education and Community Relations Practice

"The Belfast Aggreement represents an attempt to establish new democratic structures in Northern Ireland to replace the ‘culture of violence’ that existed over the past 30 years. The success of new democratic structures will be dependent on the extent to which they contribute to the development of a fair and just society, based on human rights and a respect for diversity. While it is self-evident that education alone cannot guarantee these outcomes - this is a task shared by the whole community - nevertheless education has a seminal role in laying the foundations."

Department for Education Northern Ireland (DENI)
Towards a Culture of Tolerance
Education for Diversity, 1999

This section will deal with Education and Community Relations (CR) and the main issues raised throughout the questionnaire, semi-structured interview and workshop phases of the CRPR project. A comprehensive reading list, accredited courses, contact details and relevant Internet links section is also included.

Participants highlighted the benefits to be gained from following up CR policy statements by institutions/organisations with positive actions. The University of Ulster and the NUS/USI have formulated statements concerning their approach towards community relations issues that can be found at:

Participants pointed out that these statements could only be of benefit if suggestions are available to the public and are followed up by positive actions. In addition many of the participants stated that all too often in the past the benefits to be gained by the employment of good research have been lost between the recommendation and implementation phases.

Much of the discussion in the CR workshops focused around the question of teachers and core competencies. Many newly qualified teachers in Northern Ireland receive inadequate training in issues such as Education for Mutual Understanding (EMU) see Smith and Robinson (1996), EMU, The Initial Statutory Years published by the Centre for the Study of Conflict ( Some of the workshop participants stated that in comparison they would not feel comfortable if their children were being educated in English by someone without the relevant training. This view on inadequate training highlights the fact that many participants felt that there should be no prioritising between other subjects and CR initiatives. The general feeling was that in order for initiatives such as EMU to work the whole school ethos should have a genuine commitment to the core principles of CR issues within the educational system.

While respecting the pressures that teachers are already under it was recommended that CR issues should be built into the curriculum as a core competency and assessed through the school inspection system. It was also suggested that there be some provision set within the interviewing process for teaching staff to identify those who demonstrate qualities that may be suited to the delivery of CR within the educational system. Participants also suggested that mainstreaming CR within the educational system should not only be done by targeting new teachers, but also by training up experienced teachers already working within this system.

Some participants suggested that responsibility for this process should not lie solely with the schools/colleges and further examination of existing policy, by Department of Education Northern Ireland (, was needed. Similarly even if teachers embrace the objectives of CR within schools they have to have some form of support system that prevents them from feeling isolated. It was pointed out that many teachers might be afraid to open a ‘can of worms’ and therefor find themselves out of their depth when dealing with CR. It is for this reason that teachers need mechanisms that will address their fears and apprehensions in this area.

"In a divided society there are many fears which can affect any relationship, almost at any time. Fears for teachers can increase if their schools do not have a clear, agreed, school policy on mutual understanding work, if they have little support from superiors and experience being alone".

Alan Smith
'The EMU Promoting School'
Centre for the Study of Conflict, 1994

The vehicles that are currently being employed for the delivery of CR within schools may need further examination. Some participants stated that there may be more benefit to be gained if issues such as EMU were dealt with in school assembly or through internal poster campaigns as well as on a class by class basis. However the value of a two hour session on EMU per week delivered over eight weeks was questioned and many felt that this was an accurate representation of how the educational system approaches CR within schools, colleges and universities.

One of the over riding themes that surfaced throughout this research was the use of language currently employed within the CR sphere. Many did not understand why the language currently in use was more suited to academics rather than practitioners and/or participants. The general consensus was that language should be simplified and the use of ‘jargon’ should be kept to a minimum. Again it was pointed out that recommendations arising from research such as the Community Relations Practice Project have to be backed up by positive actions. This would not only benefit CR in general but also creates the atmosphere for information sharing and the progression of all elements of CR in parallel.

It was also stated that there may be real benefit in securing stronger links between the formal and youth and community sectors. There are currently plans to ask members of the voluntary sector to teach modules in schools dealing with the social sciences. It was thought that this idea should be developed further and may merit in-depth research.

When discussing success and how it can be maximised particular reference was made towards observing non-integrated schools and their approach towards CR and education. It was thought that if those schools moving towards transformation to an integrated environment introduced support mechanisms for children and staff this would be perceived as a positive step in the right direction. It was thought that this is the area that merited priority attention. It was also stated that it was not enough to have a few teachers who were interested in EMU and CR in a non-integrated environment but that there must be top down as well as bottom up commitment working in tandem if real value is to be gained. Workshop participants stated that evidence of progress in this area would demonstrate a growing respect for CR within schools, colleges and universities which in turn would be an indicator that every stakeholder, from management committee to parent, showed a willingness to back up aspirations with actions. It was also suggested that networks between establishments undertaking similar initiatives should be strengthened, personal biographies must be shared.

"A community relations programme, designed to promote tolerance as a core value of our society, is not an optional extra in education. Its basis is the shared citizenship of a community, based on justice and equality for all. It therefor promotes a seminal value of human social development and is entitled to expect public commitment and persuasive support from the Minister and the Department of Education, together with all levels and sectors of the education system."

Towards a Culture of Tolerance
Education for Diversity, 1999


It was also stated that further contact between children from different backgrounds was a good indicator of success it was highlighted that this was dependant on factors like if the initiative was sustainable, had an element of independent follow-up work and the friendships had a real chance of lasting. Some members of the workshop groups stated that they felt EMU and cross-community contact didn’t amount to anything more than ‘glorified school trips’.

It was also pointed out that the community in which the participating schools where situated could also notice if the initiatives where working. Transport is one of the areas that children from different schools can come into contact with each other without supervision, whether this interaction can happen on a day to day basis without incident, particularly if there have been difficulties in the past, this could act as an indicator of success. Police crime statistics of the area in question could be monitored in order to gauge project impact.

Summary of Main Points on CR and Education:

  • Recommendations dealing with CR within educational structures can do more harm than good if they lose momentum before implementation, and are not implemented at all.
  • Teacher training issues and community relations merit further attention and stricter implementation mechanisms. The time being allocated to issues such as EMU was thought to be inadequate.
  • Community relations and EMU issues should be monitored as a core competency within schools, colleges and universities. This could be undertaken within the current inspection system.
  • CR within schools should not only be aimed at pupils but could also be aimed at teaching staff within and between establishments. The sharing of information dealing with issues such as resources could lead to a better understanding of the ‘other’ school.
  • Ability and potential to address community relations issues should be included in interview criteria for new teachers. A working knowledge of issues such as EMU would be advantageous.
  • EMU/CR will not work within existing educational structures if the whole institutional ethos is not committed to it. There has to be top-down as well as bottom-up support.
  • The depth of involvement expected from teachers when undertaking CR within schools has to be realistically set. Support mechanisms to address teachers concerns have to be implemented and all recommendations acted upon.
  • CR issues need to be mainstreamed within the educational curriculum, present provision for these issues was thought to be inadequate.
  • Language has to be simplified in all areas of CR practice. Packaging CR in a more user-friendly way will enhance its standing within the target audiences they are aimed at.
  • Evidence that more non-integrated educational institutions are embracing CR activities can act as an indicator of success/realisation of goals. Changes within the curriculum that specifically addressed CR issues would also be an indicator of success.
  • The communities surrounding participating schools would notice any shifts in behaviour. Less incidents of conflict on elements like the transport system, in the absence of supervision, would indicate changes in attitude. Policing statistics may highlight drop in level of incidents/complaints.
  • The Churches in Northern Ireland have a part to play in CR issues and education. They have a responsibility to be more vocal in their enthusiasm for such initiatives.
  • The present political climate provides the opportunity for real movement in this area. Progress in issues dealing with CR and education is slow but it is happening, the good work done to date has to be recognised.
  • Academics were thought to be the most hostile to change in this area. Specifically targeted initiatives may counter this impediment and closer lines of communication need to be opened between academic, practitioner, participant and policy makers.
  • Parents that are suspicious of CR activity in this area may be brought together through other mediums for example drug, alcohol or economic regeneration issues. It may be possible to achieve follow-up progress in CR issues as a secondary stage, participants must be made aware that there may be a CR element in follow-up exercises. There must be no hidden agendas.
  • CR could be mainstreamed within the educational environment through internal exercises like poster campaigns. The normalisation of CR issues within the existing school environment would be seen as a significant step forward.
  • Personal biographies offer the opportunity to share experiences, this could be incorporated as a form of training or peer education.
  • Measurement in this area is extremely difficult. Methods have to be re-examined and clearly stated by a centralised source. DENI, CRC, CCRU, EMU etc.

Useful Publications

Aspects of Education Series, Education for Northern Ireland: Christian Perspectives, Number 52, 1995.

Darby. J, Murray. D, Batts. D, Dunn. S, Farren. S, and Harris. J, (1989), Education and Community In Northern Ireland: Schools Apart? University of Ulster.

Dunn. S and Smith. A, (1989), Inter School Links, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-871206-60-X) 71 pages £4.00

Dunn. S, (ed.), (1996), Pluralism in Education: Conference Proceedings 1996, Pluralism in Education Standing Conference. (ISBN 1 87232 712 5) 295 pages £10.00 pbk

Dunn. S, Darby. J and Mullan. K, (1989, reprinted double issue), Schools Together?, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-871206-91-X) 120 pages £5.00

Fraser. G and Morgan. V, (1999), In the Frame - Integrated Education in Northern Ireland: the implications of expansion, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1 85923 133 0) 118 pages £6.00

cover Gallagher. A, (1989), Majority Minority Review 1: Education and Religion in Northern Ireland, first edition, second edition available), Coleraine: Centre for the Study of Conflict.

Gallagher. A, (1995, second edition), Majority Minority Review 1: Education in a Divided Society, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-85923-003-2) 81 pages £4.00

Moffat. C, (ed), (1994), Education Together for Change: Integrated Education and Community Relations in Northern Ireland Belfast.

Morgan. V, Dunn. S, Cairns. E and Fraser. G, (1992), Breaking The Mould: The Roles of Parents and Teachers in the Integrated Schools in Northern Ireland, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-871206-43-X) 97 pages £3.00

Morrow, D and Wilson, D, (1996), The Importance of Informal Adult Education and Reconciliation, in Ways Out Of Conflict: Resources for Community Relations Work, Corrymeela Press.

Murray, D. Smith, A. and Birthistle, U., (1997), Education in Ireland: A Comparison of the Education Systems in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Irish Peace Institute Research Centre, Limerick.

Smith. A and Robinson. A, (1992), Education For Mutual Understanding- Perceptions and Policy, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-871206-38-3) 95 pages £3.00

Smith. A and Robinson. A, (1996), Education for Mutual Understanding: The Initial Statutory Years, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-85923-0474) 107 pages £5.00

cover Smith. A and Dunn. S, (1990), Extending Inter School Links, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-871206-86-3) 90 pages £3.50

Smith. A, (1994), The EMU Promoting School - A Report on a Conference on Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-85923-095-4) 31 pages £??

Tyrrell. J, (1995), The Quaker Peace Education Project 1988-1994: Developing Untried Strategies, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-85923-007-5) 122 pages £5.00 COVERSCAN

Tyrrell. J and Farrell. S, (1995), Peer Mediation in Primary Schools, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-85923-004-0) 99 pages £5.00

Wilson. D and Dunn. S, (1989), Integrated Schools: Information For Parents, Coleraine: University of Ulster. (ISBN 1-87-1206-367) 32 pages £1.95

Accredited University Courses


Training the Trainers in Student Community Relations Work


Jordanstown (


Mrs J.I. Young




Participants will be expected to have successfully completed the introduction to community relations work module, or equivalent training course.


Community Relations Practice




Mr. M.J. Morrissey




No special requirements


Introduction to community relations




Mrs J.I. Young




No special requirements


Peace and Conflict Studies




Mr Felix Agnew


Full-time course


Typical A level requirements, CCC.

Information on courses will be updated regularly

Useful Numbers:

Department of Education Northern Ireland (01247) 279279

Belfast Education & Library Board (01232) 564000

Southern Education & Library Board (01861) 523811

North Eastern Education & Library Board (01266) 653333

Western Education & Library Board (01662) 240240

South Eastern Education & Library Board (01232) 381188

Youth Council for Northern Ireland (01232) 643882

Youth Link Northern Ireland (01232) 323247

University of Ulster School of Education (01265) 44141

Churches Peace Education Programme (01232) 662992

Funding Organisations

Community Relations Council, 6 Murray Street, Belfast (01232) 439953
Grants available for projects, general age group 16+

District Councils, Names and addresses available in CORPUS
Community Relations Officers section
Small grants available for projects. Guidance and support.

Department of Education Northern Ireland, (01247) 279279
Rathgael House, Bangor. Financial support available for some projects.

Education and Library Boards, Youth Departments (listed above)
Modest grants available for youth orientated contact schemes

Youth Council for Northern Ireland, Purdy’s Lane, Belfast (01232) 643882
Modest Grants and assistance available

This section is currently under construction and will be updated regularly

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