The major announcement delivered jointly by First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness that Shared Education will now be funded by the government is the culmination of many years of hard work, with schools in Fermanagh at the forefront of the journey.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust enthusiastically welcomed the news that Shared Education is to be mainstreamed. He said “Shared Education has been an integral part of education in Fermanagh for the last six years. The Government mainstreaming of Shared Education is to be greatly welcomed.”
“The exemplary work that has taken place across Fermanagh’s schools in pioneering Shared Education, which has drawn admiration and praise from all sections of the community and all political parties, has contributed significantly to today’s announcement by the First Minister and deputy First Minister in helping to inform and develop the programme” added Mr McCusker.
This new £58million package of services, under the Delivering Social Change initiative,will deliver improved early years provision, Shared Education and support for people with dementia and their carers. £25 million of this funding from the Executive and Atlantic Philantropies will go towards Shared Education.
Many linkages have developed between schools, building bridges between the two main communities, with significant joint working, sharing and collaboration. The Assembly’s formal adoption of shared education as their policy shows the effectiveness of the programme in Fermanagh and ensures that the work will continue.
There has been widespread support from school communities, political parties, churches and other organisations for the programme which launched in 2009, administered by the Fermanagh Trust. The year on year growth in terms of numbers of schools participating and the number of pupils involved was evidence of the demand for Shared Education and the benefits that they derived from it. Shared education has resulted in educational benefits for pupils, societal benefits in terms of better relations between communities; and economic benefits, through joint work and cross-sectoral collaboration.
During a visit by the Education Committee to Fermanagh in June there was high praise for the county’s schools, where the Fermanagh Trust had the opportunity to brief the MLAs. They stated that the Assembly must not treat shared education as an ‘add-on’ or a programme but that it must be in the DNA of how Education is delivered. The Delivering Social Change announcement, the commitment from the Executive and the £25 million of funding ensures that shared education will be intrinsic to education policy.