The Shared Education Bill has passed its Final Stage in the Assembly, now becoming law and ensuring that Shared Education is an integral part of the education system.
The Bill provides a legislative definition of Shared Education and places a duty on the Department of Education to "encourage, facilitate and promote" it.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust which administers the Rural Centre for Shared Education said “Having been involved with the pioneering Shared Education work in Fermanagh it is remarkable for us 9 years later to see the fruition of that work as Shared Education now becomes law. We were delighted to have had a positive impact throughout the legislative process, helping to strengthen the Bill. It’s encouraging that our proposals around the purposes of Shared Education and the importance of effective screening and monitoring were taken on board.
Mr McCusker added “Congratulations to the Minister, the Committee and MLAs on bringing forward this important legislation that has the potential to bring about real change in education delivery and provides a firm base for the advancement of Shared Education.
Welcoming the Assembly’s endorsement of the Bill, Education Minister O’Dowd said: “Shared Education is an integral feature of our future education system and today the Assembly has given its endorsement. It is a vital element in building a strong and shared community and I hope that those across the education sector and wider community will now show their support and encourage their communities to take up the opportunities available.
“Shared Education provides the opportunity for young people to learn about each other from each other. It can raise standards, helping to increase self-confidence, self-awareness and self-reflection as well as improving skills in problem solving, decision making and critical and creative thinking.”
The Minister went on to commend those involved in developing the Bill:“I would like to thank the Education Committee and Assembly members for their contribution throughout. The final Bill represents the culmination of partnership working and I believe together we have created a platform on which shared education can grow and develop within the next mandate, to the benefit of all our young people and the communities in which they live, study and work.
“Finally, I would also like to thank the many teachers, youth and early years’ practitioners involved in shared education projects. Your pioneering attitude and innovative work has informed the development of the Shared Education policy and of the Bill itself and you are setting the example. I wish you well in your efforts and I hope others will see what can be achieved and follow your lead.”