UCD School of Education Hosts Seminar on Equality and Diversity Seminar Series

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The penultimate seminar in semester one's Thematic Seminar Series for Year 2 Professional Master of Education (PME) students featured presentations from a number of informative and experienced individuals who generously shared their extensive experiences of policy formation in the education and/or NGO sector.

The opening speaker was Sandra Irwin-Gowran, whose work with the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) concerns LGBT issues in education and parenting. In addition to hearing about the particular approaches to schooling advocated by GLEN, those in attendance were reminded of the obligation of every school to provide education and information on identity-based bullying, in accordance with the DES' 2013 anti-bullying procedures.

Dr Emer Nowlan has served as Chief Operating Officer of Educate Together, the national patron body for multidenominational primary schools and secondary schools across the country. With four multidenominational secondary school open thus far, there are plans to open another four in the coming year. Dr Nowlan detailed the successful growth of the movement and discussed the 'Educate Together Ethos', including the recently established 'second-level ethical curriculum framework', a five-strand course of study which all post-primary students explore as part of their education in Educate Together schools.

Paula McGarry is a board member of the Trangender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), and her address focused on the experiences of, and attitudes towards, trans pupils in Irish schools. Reviewing the conceptual discourse around gender theory explored with Dr Declan Fahie in Year 1 of the PME, Paula was clear in her assertion of the challenging status of trans students in Irish schools, and the work that is being done to afford them their rightful entitlement to dignity and respect.

Dr Frances Hannon of the National Disability Authority (NDA) gave the next address. Both the work of Dr Hannon and that of the NDA strive to realise, through both practice and policy advice, equality of opportunity and access to education for students with disabilities. This was briefly highlighted by drawing attention to key legislation that aims to facilitate equal participation among disabled people in Ireland.

Deirdre Twoomey, a Development Officer with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), was the final speaker of the day. Established in 2014 through the amalgamation of the Equality Authority and Irish Human Rights Commission, the IHREC's primary interaction with schools takes the form of the development of methodologies and curricula on controversial and sensitive issues surrounding human rights, both in Ireland and globally. Deirdre was also kind enough to provide every student with practical resources and information on methodologies to promote and facilitate equality in the classroom.

The Year 2 PME student-teachers would like to sincerely thank the guest speakers for their insights shared from positions of experience and authority from across the landscape of Irish education.

(Simon Acres, Year 2 PME)