SIRIUS National Meeting: “Education in Ireland – Challenges and Opportunities for Migrants” took place on 23rd October 2014 in the Mansion House in Dublin. The conference ran from 11.00 am until 3.00 pm and was structured in two parts. The first half of the conference consisted of presentations and in the second half those who attended where put into three groups for discussions led by facilitators.
In the last decade Ireland has experienced an unprecedented increase in migrant families from a number of different countries moving to Ireland with school-age children. This recent rapid immigration has resulted in diverse groups of migrant children integrating into what was almost an exclusively white Irish school population. In Ireland “inclusive, high quality education for all students” is the objective of the educational system. Understanding the needs of migrant children in the education system is essential as they form a sizable proportion of the student body and also because schools have an important role to play in supporting these students and their parents.
The aim of the conference “Education in Ireland – Challenges and Opportunities for Migrants” was to bring together policy makers, educators, migrant grassroots organisations and parents to engage in conversations on the challenges and opportunities for migrants being educated in Ireland. The outcome of the conference was to improve structures to allow migrant grassroots organisations and parents to influence policy decisions in the education sector and to improve educational outcomes for children from migrant backgrounds.
There were 50 people at the conference from different organisations and backgrounds such as National Council for Curriculum Assessment, Muslim Primary Education Board, Children’s Rights Alliance, Child and Family Agency, Immigrant Council of Ireland, The Economic and Social Research Institute, English Language Support Teachers’ Association, including people from different communities, school principals, teachers and migrant parents. The conference was officially opened by The Lord Mayor of Dublin Councillor Christy Burke.
The first half of the conference consisted of presentations by: Caitriona O’Brien who is a representative from the Department of Education’s Office and Ebun Akpoveta who is an author, motivational speaker and migrant parent. O’Brien outlined the education system in Ireland and policies surrounding migrants in this system. Akpoveta then spoke of her own personal experiences as a migrant parent and gave her opinions on the integration of migrants into Irish society.
In the second half of the conference those who attended were put into three groups for discussions on three topics. These topics were issues facing migrants which were chosen as they were the most relevant to the Irish situation. The topics were: language barriers, social integration, and the involvement of parents in the education system. These discussions gave everyone in attendance a platform to voice their opinions, debate issues and negotiate solutions.