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O’Dowd visits schools in New York City

Education Minister, John O'Dowd, has visited three schools in New York City on the final day of his fact-finding trip to North America.
Friday, 4 October 2013

The Minister firstly visited Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a full service community school in Washington Heights. Catering for over 1,000 pupils who live in areas of high social disadvantage, the school encourages community participation to promote educational achievement.

Speaking after seeing the school, the Minister said: “Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus serves disadvantaged communities yet it delivers excellent educational outcomes for its pupils each year. It is one of a network of schools in New York that offers a comprehensive, integrated approach to education. The school has become a centre for the community, open evenings and weekends throughout the year.

“This type of community engagement is exactly what I aim to promote with my ‘Education Works’ campaign. Education doesn’t end at the school gates and it is vital that children are stimulated in the home environment so that we maximise the positive impact of school-based learning.”

The Minister then visited Cristo Rey High School, a Catholic-run co-educational school that serves almost 400 pupils from difficult backgrounds. Cristo Rey is a ‘college-prep’ school, specifically designed to prepare students to continue their studies at college, and caters for young people who would not normally have the means to access such an education.

After a tour of Cristo Rey High, the Minister said: “Here is an example of a targeted approach that identifies potential within young people, predominantly from low income families and who are either immigrants or children of immigrants, and delivers a demanding curriculum of traditional academic subjects. Through the use of intensive tutoring and complementary enrichment programmes, 100% of the students go on to study at universities across the USA.

“Cristo Rey is one of a foundation network of 24 schools right across the States that seeks to promote life chances for urban disadvantaged children. The school’s focused methods could certainly contain learning points for the system at home.”

The Minister went on to say: “The NYC Education Department administers one of the largest public education systems in the world. I am very grateful to the Department for giving me the opportunity to see the system operating at first hand, visiting these innovative schools and also the Harlem Children’s Zone.

“The Zone serves over 8,000 children in a highly densely populated and disadvantaged area of the city and its success is based upon holistic community development, a principle which I believe can be a cornerstone of public services.

“The question for me as Education Minister, is what learning points I can take back to help ensure that schools deliver the best education possible for children and young people regardless of their background.

“I also want to maximise engagement in the educational process from families and communities so that, by the time they leave school, every single child is well equipped and has access to employment, training and study opportunities that suit their skills and aspirations.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “I have had an eye-opening and inspirational trip to Canada and USA, on which I have seen first-hand some innovative educational approaches, sometimes being delivered under the most challenging of circumstances. I look forward to investigating further how some of the same ideas might be applied to the system at home for the benefit of all the children.”

Notes to editors:

  1. More information on Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus is available at the Childrens Aid Society website.
  2. More information on Cristo Rey High School and the Cristo Rey network of schools is available at the Cristo Rey NY website.
  3. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect website for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  4. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  5. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.