Deliberative Polling and Educational Planning
The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has done extensive work around engagement with education planning.
The IEF established a grant programme that supports communities in their dealings with local education services, and held multiple events across Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2012 in which discussions were held to foster information-sharing, engagement and understanding among education professionals, elected representatives, community leaders and community members.
The driving force behind the CAP project, a community audit of community engagement in education planning, is the IEF’s support of integrated education going back 23 years.
During that time, the IEF has worked with and supported schools and wider communities, as well as provided practical and financial support in establishing integrated schools.
The audit aims to address two strategic issues that were identified in earlier IEF research. The first is the limited community consultation carried out by the Department of Education and statutory bodies when making major educational planning decisions.
The second is the way the Department of Education measures parental demand for types of education, which, the fund believes, disregards certain important factors.
This issue needs to be tackled in order to ensure that parental demand for types of education is accurately measured so that planning remains in line with demand.
Using the deliberative polling tool– which combines public opinion research with a process of learning, dialogue and deliberation– between 500 and 600 people will be surveyed in one specific locality where education provision is a hot topic. The participant sample base will be balanced to reflect the area demographic.
Deliberative polling, developed and trademarked by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, is often used to examine issues where there is a low baseline of public knowledge or understanding, and the process is designed to increase their knowledge base of a particular issue.
Participants are asked to complete a questionnaire on a particular issue, and then spend a few days together, discussing the issue with a trained facilitator, with access to balanced background materials and access to a range of experts or decision makers.
They are then asked to fill the same questionnaire again, to enable measurement of any shift in opinions.
The deliberative polling tool has been chosen as it will enable in-depth discussion around the current system, assessing gaps, strengths and weaknesses and carrying out empirical opinion research on the issue of integrated education.
If the process highlights a specific issue around local educational provision, and a group of community members are keen to progress this, support will be provided by IEF.
For example, reports of the results will be made available to community groups interested in raising the issue with local authorities.
If there is further interest in integrated education, the IEF will help facilitate conversations with, for example, managing authorities, schools, and the Department of Education.
The IEF will also work strategically to engage with the Department about the audit framework and encourage them to adopt the mechanism for ongoing community engagement in decisions around education provision.