School communities explore new jointly managed model

Religious and education leaders have met to discuss the new model ‘Jointly Managed Schools’. Public meetings have been held in Enniskillen and Omagh by the Rural Centre for Shared Education, supported by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. This new concept has been agreed upon by the main Churches and the Department of Education as a means of creating strong sustainable schools and having a positive impact on the educational landscape.

With the growth of a variety of shared education initiatives, some school communities have expressed an interest in establishing a jointly managed school, where the Transferor Churches which represents the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodists, and the Catholic Church working together have a joint role in the management of the school.

In response Education Minister John O’Dowd published guidance last year, having worked closely with the Transferor Representatives’ Council and representatives of the Catholic Trustees. The guidance was designed to support the establishment of new schools, enabling a Controlled school and Catholic maintained school to, in effect, amalgamate. The Minister has hailed this as a progressive step which would compliment other shared education programmes.

Under a jointly managed model, the Churches would appoint a number of governors to sit on the school board. A new faith based school would then be established, founded on common Christian principals with the Churches working together in an agreed way.

A spokesperson for the Rural Centre for Shared Education said “This is a very new concept but there has been significant interest and discussions taking place, as we have seen with the well attended public meetings in Enniskillen and Omagh. It has been very much a bottom up approach and there is certainly a willingness to work together, as evidenced by the Transferors and the Catholic Trustees coming together in a positive and respectful manner to consider how this new model may be implemented. During the information sessions all of the speakers including representatives from the Department of Education, the Education Authority, the Transferors Representatives Council and CCMS said that they would welcome proposals coming in and it could sustain local provision in rural areas.