After months of intense rehearsal, the Erne West Learning Community Shared Education choir received high praise after their first ever public performance. Pupils from St John the Baptist PS Roscor, St Martin’s PS Garrison and Belleek PS provided entertainment for over 200 delegates at the Irish National Teacher Organisation’s (INTO) Northern Conference, held in the Killyhevlin Hotel.
Esdille Lappin, Principal of Belleek PS said “We were so proud of the young children. The choir only started in January but they did so well in front of a large audience for their first public appearance and even got a standing ovation”. Brian McGrath, Principal of St Martin’s PS added “The shared education choir is a good example of how the expertise of a teacher can be shared collaboratively within the partnership”.
Paul Sweeney, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education addressed the INTO Conference of behalf of Minister John O’Dowd MLA. He acknowledged the benefits shared education has brought to Fermanagh; the educational benefits for teachers and pupils and the respect for diversity and good relations. Mr Sweeney reiterated that “shared education is not just a top priority for the department, but the Executive as a whole” and he encouraged schools to continue to develop shared education through area planning.
One of the motions supported by the conference congratulated those schools involved in the Shared Education Programme and the huge strides they have taken towards a shared future within our communities. Brian McGrath and Marie O’Shea, Principal of St John the Baptist PS spoke on the motion which called on the Minister to engage more proactively by providing concrete support for local schools and communities to take this programme of work to the next stage.
Northern Secretary of the INTO Gerry Murphy commended Fermanagh schools for taking the agenda forward. He called for the formation of a separate branch within the Department of Education dedicated to Shared Education. Mr Murphy also gave the support of the INTO to ensure specific guidelines are given to schools and that a shared education premium is produced. Marie O’Shea said “We were very happy with the response from the floor. It’s good to see the INTO recognise shared education as an example of good practice. It’s also good to see them recognise that they need to support the schools in lobbying to allow this rewarding work to continue”.