Education Minister John O’Dowd has welcomed the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Advancement of Shared Education. The Minister described Shared Education as one of the most important and sensitive issues facing society and stated that, if Shared Education is to succeed fully, there needs to be a shared readiness to change across society.
Mr O’Dowd said “Sharing must become the accepted reality at every stage of education, from early years to post-graduate study”. Shared Education is “central to the vision of raising standards for all learners”, adding “too many NI schools can’t on their own deliver rich, high quality education experience children need and deserve”. He also congratulated groups like the Fermanagh Trust for the role they have played and outlined how the evidence of Shared Education in County Fermanagh, the Moy and Ballycastle had informed his policy going forward.
The Minister outlined his response to each of the recommendations in the Group’s report. He accepted proposals around the mainstreaming of funding for Shared Education and a statutory duty on the Education and Skills Authority to facilitate and encourage Shared Education.
In relation to area planning which is at a critical stage for Primary schools, the Minister committed to developing guidance and advice on how schools can bring forward proposals for sharing. He stated clearly he wants to see “collaboration, not competition; sharing, not duplication”.
The Ministerial Advisory Group under the Chairmanship of Professor Paul Connolly, Professor of Education at Queen’s University, launched their report in April. It acknowledged that Fermanagh’s schools have led the way on the development of Shared Education policy.
The Group’s visit to Fermanagh in January had a significant impact on their work. Hearing from principals, teachers, boards of governors, Fermanagh District Council and the Fermanagh Trust about the Shared Education work taking place in school communities across the county was of great value in informing their recommendations.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust said “The Minister’s statement sees a commitment to mainstreaming Shared Education which is great news. Shared Education is not a one off project but an approach to improving educational standards and building relationships in local communities. We are delighted the schools and communities across Fermanagh have shown that Shared Education works and the County has been at the forefront of this development.’’
‘‘Many of the recommendations from the Fermanagh Trust in relation to building relationships between our two main communities across our education system have been taken on board by the Ministerial Advisory Group and now by the Minister. The Fermanagh Trust has played a leadership role here and that is something we are very proud off. Special thanks to the International Fund for Ireland and Atlantic Philanthropies who have been so supportive of Shared Education in Fermanagh and elsewhere. ” emphasised Lauri
The Ministerial Advisory Group recognised that Shared Education encourages all schools to critically evaluate their resources and needs. In the smaller rural primary schools, this sharing of expertise can be invaluable.
In conclusion Mr O’Dowd said “The report asks us all to think differently about the delivery of education. It asks us to put the needs of young people ahead of the interests of institutions and it challenges long-held assumptions about what is possible. Through sharing, we all benefit, and no-one loses”.
Professor Paul Connolly, Chairman of Ministerial Advisory Group, Fergal McCann, Principal of St Mary's PS Tempo, Ruth Wilson, Principal of Tempo CPS and PJ O'Grady, member of Ministerial Advisory Group