There was high praise for the Fermanagh Shared Education Programme during a formal presentation by the Fermanagh Trust to the Education Committee.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust and Catherine Ward, Shared Education Programme Manager briefed the politicians during their meeting at Fermanagh House where they discussed the widespread support from school communities, political parties, churches and other organisations for the programme which launched in 2009.
MLAs heard how shared education has resulted in educational benefits for teachers and pupils, societal benefits in terms of better relations between our two main communities; and economic benefits, through joint work and cross-sectoral collaboration.
Chairman of the Committee Mervyn Storey MLA said “The journey that you’ve commenced in Fermanagh has been exemplary and you are to be commended for the work you’ve carried out. We will continue in promoting and trying to advance the aims of shared education. We wish you well for the remainder of your work and look forward to it being embedded more across Northern Ireland.”
The Fermanagh Trust reiterated that as their funding comes to an end, the opportunities to mainstream shared education must be availed of and barriers need to be overcome.
Lauri McCusker said during the briefing “shared education should not be seen as a ‘programme’ but integral to the way in which education is delivered. From area planning, to capital builds to school funding etc sharing must be in the DNA of our education system.”
MLAs also had the chance to meet with pupils and principals from the Brookeborough, Tempo, Belleek, Lisbellaw and Mullanaskea partnerships. Members heard about the work being done together, the friends the pupils have made and how they want to see shared education going forward.
The Education Committee members, made up of representatives from the five main political parties were all supportive of the shared education work and commended the Fermanagh Trust for the important role they have played. Chris Hazzard, Sinn Fein MLA said “This is fantastic work and a great platform for change. It’s clear to see the benefits for the schools involved.” Trevor Lunn, Alliance MLA said “I really do admire the work you’re doing and Fermanagh is leading the way. You’ve gone further down the line here compared to other places.”
Lauri McCusker added “With a number of upcoming announcements expected regarding the government funding of shared education, the Education Committee meeting with schools and hearing how it works on the ground was surely helpful. It was a timely opportunity and a chance to restate that the progress that has been made through shared education must be built upon.”