The Rural Centre for Shared Education welcomes the new Shared Education policy published by the Department for Education. However following consultation with principals in rural settings it is clear that barriers to advancing Shared Education in schools are still in place.
Education Minister John O’Dowd has said he wants “all children and young people” in Northern Ireland to be involved in Shared Education projects and underlined his department’s commitments to sharing with the publication of “Sharing Works: A Policy for Shared Education.”
Sharing Works provides a framework for Shared Education to be embedded throughout the education sector and that shared learning experience can be delivered for every child. The new policy builds on recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Group, the Education Committee’s Inquiry into Shared and Integrated Education and a public consultation.
The document sets out 14 key actions which includes the Department introducing a Shared Education Bill to the Assembly. It is proposed the Bill would provide a statutory definition and the power to encourage and facilitate shared education.
Launching the policy, Minister O’Dowd said “My vision for the future of Shared Education is one of vibrant, self-improving education communities delivering educational benefits to learners, encouraging the efficient and effective use of resources, and promoting equality of opportunity, good relations, quality of identity, respect for diversity and community cohesion.”
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust which manages the Rural Centre for Shared Education said “This new policy Sharing Works is a welcome development which shows the commitment the government has to Shared Education delivery. However on one hand the Minister says he wants all children to be involved in Shared Education and on the other the Department through the Education Authority puts challenges and barriers in place for the schools to get funding.”
"The policy makes reference to the Delivering Social Change £25 million project but currently schools are seeing their funding letters of offer for this project being withdrawn due to the government unwisely linking Shared Education to industrial action. Industrial action which has nothing to do with Shared Education” outlined Mr McCusker.