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Because of the historical divisions in Northern Ireland society, an education system has evolved where primary and secondary level education is mostly aligned along religious lines. NICIE, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, aims to reverse this situation and it's working towards a system which builds a more cohesive society by educating children of all beliefs and cultures together. NICIE is a Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department of Education.

NICIE's 4 key strategic aims in support of its mission

Growth. NICIE aims to increase the provision of integrated education by supporting interested parents, supporting and advising integrated schools that wish to expand, and supporting schools that wish to transform themselves to integrated status.

Achieving high quality Integrated Education. NICIE provides training to staff and governors, mentoring to school principals, advice and support on developing the integrated ethos, and marketing and promotional support. It also develops school improvement programmes and provides operational support.

Promote, influence and advocate for Integrated Education. Key activities include representation on educational committees and at conferences and public outreach events. The organisation has a presence on national and international media, and regularly engages with opinion formers, politicians, government departments and higher education bodies.

Run an effective organisation. This involves ensuring the cost effective and efficient use of resources to meet the other strategic objectives and strengthening the organisation’s capacity to carry out its work through development and training and ensuring effective governance.


The key challenge

The organisation has an incredibly broad and varied remit for growth, quality and advocacy in integrated education. This, together with limited resources, means that its fourth strategic objective -  of running an effective organisation - is fundamental to its achievement of all the others. It has responded to this challenge by adopting a model of:

  • a relatively small permanent head office structure
  • temporary funded posts to support projects and initiatives
  • utilising associates with a wide range of specialisms, rather than adding to permanent headcount. Everything from planning and construction, planning, mentoring Principals, community development, Public Relations, Market Research, Policy Development, Integrated Ethos, Curriculum Development and Data Analysis
  • outsourcing key head office support functions

In support of this model NICIE sought to appoint by competitive tender an HR partner with the breadth of expertise and flexibility to provide a fully comprehensive service on demand.

It was also vital for the HR partner to have sufficient sector experience to appreciate what the organisation was seeking to achieve, and to advise not just NICIE itself, but also the schools it represents.

As a Public Body, it was also essential for NICIE to work with an organisation with the relevant knowledge and experience to ensure that NICIE met not only its core statutory obligations, but also the additional obligations placed upon it by virtue of its Public Body status.

Our approach

Our first step was to review and update all of NICIE’s core HR documentation including its contracts and policies. These have been updated and refreshed on an ongoing basis as legislation has changed and the organisation’s structure evolved.

We carried out training and development work with NICIE’s staff and Board members to ensure that there is a consistent approach to managing HR activities.

We have also coached and advised a wide range of school leadership teams on HR issues relating to disability, sickness absence, capability and other contractual terms.

As the organisation has changed and evolved, we’ve worked closely with NICIE to draw up revised job descriptions and assisted with the recruitment of a range of new positions at all levels in the organisation from Chief Executive, to Development Officer to PA.

When NICIE resources were constrained we took over the administration and management of the recruitment Associates to the panel, supporting this essential element of how NICIE delivers its services with limited permanent resource.

Throughout the contract we have successfully advised NICIE’s senior team and Board on a broad range of HR issues, always providing pragmatic and timely advice when it was most needed.



NICIE has successfully outsourced its HR function, accessing the combined expertise of our team, without a fixed budgetary commitment, for maximum cost effectiveness.

As well as working with NICIE itself and becoming a trusted HR partner we have assisted and successfully resolved a broad range of HR issues at individual schools, relying not just on our HR expertise but also on our education sector experience.

We were the first external HR advisor appointed to NICIE. Following the completion of the original contract, it was decided to re-tender for a further period using the same model, validating the approach NICIE had taken. We were thrilled to be re-appointed through a second competitive tender, ensuring that NICIE continues to receive high quality value for money HR support in line with its strategic aims.

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