Innovative Consultation in Kilkeel with IEF

Consultations in education planning have ‘left ordinary people’ behind, but IEF have tried a new process that engages and involves the community, and could be rolled out as a ‘best practise’.
How It Works

A new way to do consultation has been trialled in Kilkeel, and its success shows that this could be an exciting model for involving the community in decisions.

The project was run by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) who recently published a final report -  with their findings of the project. They plan to use this to propose that this model could be developed as ‘best practise’.

From their years of experience in the sector, the IEF noticed that people weren’t involved in how the education system worked in their local area and there was limited community consultation. They felt that increased public involvement in planning decisions could improve how education planning decisions are taken.

They wanted to find a way to fix this; they wanted to find out how the community is engaged in decisions about education planning and where there was room to do more to involve people.

They did this through a process called Deliberative Polling.

So, have they created a ‘best practise model of consultation’?

The ‘model of consultation’ showed that a new way of engaging people delivered tangible and real results, delivering clear opinions on how the community felt.

The audit allowed IEF to check in with people’s current level of understanding about local education provisions, and assess their level of awareness of existing opportunities for public engagement, and gauge any enthusiasm for more public engagement in the future.

The engagement process highlighted a number of findings:

  • The engagement process reached a broad range of people and used broad range of means:
How It Works
  • Demographically representative sample of 540 people to fill out survey
  • Targeted groups (teachers, parents, business professionals etc)
  • Held focus groups, of between 6-15 people
  • Held one-to-one and small group interviews
  • 45 people attended the public interaction event
  • Results suggested that more could be done to engage with people, because people aren’t involved in planning decisions and aren’t consulted: ‘between 95% and 99% said they weren't consulted about education provision in the Kilkeel and South Down area’.
  • There was a call for improved communication around education plans and consultation with the community on these plans.
  • The participants in all stages of the project wanted more public involvement, with ‘overwhelming support for public consultation regarding education plans’.
  • There was growth in support for integrated education throughout all strands of the community audit. This suggests there was quality deliberation, as shifts in public opinion are expected during a high quality deliberative polling exercise.

As a result of experimenting with community auditing and deliberative polling, IEF are calling on education planning departments to use this new model of consultation to ask people what they think, listen to their opinions and take these into account when making planning decisions.

What’s next?

They aim to encourage the adoption of the audit framework model for use in future decisions on education provision.

The implementation of this engagement tool will be shared as a case study. The lessons learned and experiences that IEF had with using the tool will be shared as learning resources. These will be presented at the Civic Activism Programme final conference in March 2017.

Watch this space!