Engaging young people with the conflict and its legacy: findings from an evaluation of the ‘Prison to Peace’ educational programme

Ms Lesley Emerson, Dr Karen Orr and Prof Paul Connolly (QUB)

‘Prison to Peace’ is an educational programme which assists young people in exploring the conflict and its legacy through the narratives of politically motivated former prisoners. A cluster randomised controlled trial evaluation of the initiative, funded by the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister and conducted by QUB School of Education, demonstrates that the programme has the following significant positive effects on young people: reduction in sectarian prejudice; reduction in support for violence; and increase in likeliness to participate positively in school and community, as indicated by measures of information seeking behaviour, interest in talking to others about politics. Further, the programme increases young people’s knowledge and understanding of the conflict, and its complexity, and processes of transition to peace. Moreover, the results demonstrate the programme’s potential to increase young people’s optimism for permanent peace. This presentation draws on the findings from the cluster RCT, interviews with young people, teachers, principals, parents and educational stakeholders to discuss more generally how education can contribute to the ongoing debate regarding dealing with the legacy of the past. It also discusses how best to co-ordinate this and other educational programmes seeking to address issues of conflict and division in Northern Ireland within the current policy context.

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