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Learning from each other – Shared Island Dialogue to explore the opportunities and challenges in improving education access and outcomes on the island

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD to launch significant new Shared Island research partnership Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD highlights all-island approach to meet skills needs Students, teachers and practitioners on both sides of the border share their insights on how best to work together to improve educational opportunities on the island


More than 140 students, parents, teachers and education experts from North and South are coming together tomorrow (Friday 01 October 2021) to discuss how access to education and educational outcomes on a shared island can be advanced in the coming years. “Learning from each other: The future of education on a shared island”, is the seventh Dialogue in the Shared Island Dialogue series. The half day event, will feature panel discussions on enhancing education accessibility,  matching skills need with opportunities, and addressing educational underachievement on the island. A focus on “innovative connections on a shared island” will hear from students and young teachers across the island about the opportunities they see for furthering cooperation and connections through school and extra-curricular activities on an all-island basis. Speaking ahead of the Shared Island Dialogue, Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said, 


“I believe that education is the foundation for our future prospects and prosperity, and this Dialogue is examining how - through our education systems and other interactions - young people are best enabled to reach their full potential and to take their own steps towards a deeper reconciliation on this island. “There are many successful examples of cross-border and all-island collaborations in education – from the North South Schools Exchange Programme, to the invaluable work undertaken at the Middletown Centre for Autism – but there is so much more that we can learn from each other’s experience and expertise across the sector.  Education has always been a bedrock for progress and prosperity on this island and it is important that we have settings like this to listen and learn from each other in open, inclusive, practical and forward-looking ways.” Minister Foley will also launch a new Shared Island research partnership with the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) at the Dialogue.


This new research programme, funded by the Shared Island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach, is for action-oriented research on educational underachievement issues and, covering a range of teaching and learning themes for teachers on curriculum delivery.


Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD added, 


“Partnership, collaboration and interaction between universities, colleges and research communities is one of the most promising and impactful ways in which we can do more together across the island in the years ahead.  While there is already  strong cooperation and interaction between the higher and further education and research institutions across the island, which the Government is proud to support, we want to see that grow in the period immediately ahead.  “There are skills shortages and capacity limits in key sectors on the island and opportunities to deploy our skills, training and labour market on an all-island basis, offering capacity, employment and business gains, both North and South. For instance, under the Government’s new Action Plan for Apprenticeships, we want to develop new cross-border apprenticeship programmes that can enhance our ability to respond to skills needs, as an all-island economy.” The Shared Island Dialogue series was launched by the Taoiseach in October 2020 as part of the Government’s Shared Island initiative, to foster constructive and inclusive dialogue engaging with all communities and traditions on a shared future on the island underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.





Note to Editors:Shared Island SCoTENS research initiative •            The Shared Island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach has developed a partnership with the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (SCoTENS) to commission action-oriented research on tackling educational underachievement and on curriculum delivery and other teaching and learning themes. •            The aim is to support continuing and increased engagement in teacher education on the island; to share experience on key themes for teachers; and to inform development of policy, research and practice, on a shared island basis, in the years ahead.

  • The call for applications is open now to the wide SCoTENS network of colleges of education, university education departments, teaching councils, curriculum councils, education trade unions and education centres, and research partners they may wish to involve, on the island of Ireland, in Britain or internationally. • The Shared Island unit will fund four research projects, of up €25,000 each, across two areas:

- Enhancing educational attainment: sharing experience and learning on a shared island:

Proposals are sought to address how teacher education can best prepare teachers for the challenges of addressing educational underachievement, in particular in socially-disadvantaged communities. Projects must contribute to understanding and future development of policy, research or practice on the island.

- How we teach: acknowledging, understanding and learning from others on a shared island

As well as an option to focus research on curriculum delivery in individual subjects, the research call welcomes proposals across other common themes and concerns for teachers, such as: promoting pupil mental health; learning about the environment; effective use of technology to support learning; supporting children with special and/or additional educational needs; and, online safety.  Research projects must contribute to understanding and future development of policy, research or practice on the island. •            North/South collaboration between educational institutions/partners is a requirement of the research call, which also makes provision for the inclusion of international expert contributions to add further value to the projects.

  • Proposals will be assessed by SCoTENS in consultation with the Shared Island unit and successful projects announced in early November. • Further information is available here

Shared Island Dialogue series

  • This Dialogue is the seventh online event convened as part of the Shared Island Dialogue series that was launched by the Taoiseach in October 2020 to foster constructive and inclusive civic dialogue with all communities and traditions on a shared future on the island, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.
  • Content from the event will be posted on social media throughout the day by @merrionstreet and you can follow the discussion online using #SharedIsland
  • The Shared Island Dialogue series has been focusing on important issues for the future of the island, including climate change and environment, equality and economic recovery.  The previous Dialogue in July, “Working together for a healthier island” can be viewed here
  • The Dialogue series will contribute to the Government’s approach to the Shared Island initiative, complementing commissioned research being published through this year and next, and the implementation of commitments on a Shared Island that are set out in the Programme for Government.
  • Strengthening social, economic and political links on the island and the promotion of all-island approaches to the strategic challenges facing Ireland, North and South are key objectives.  
  • The Shared Island Dialogues are being organised by the Shared Island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach in partnership with Government Departments. Today’s dialogue was delivered in collaboration with the Department of Education, the Department of Further and Higher Education, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
  • Further information on the Shared Island initiative, can be found on and the previous Plenary sessions of the Shared Island Dialogues are available to watch at