The formal introduction of the Shared Education Bill to the Assembly has been welcomed by the Rural Centre for Shared Education.
The Bill provides a legislative definition of Shared Education and also places a power on the Department, the Education Authority and arms length bodies including the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Youth Council for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment to encourage and facilitate Shared Education benefitting of young people and the wider community.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust which administers the Rural Centre for Shared Education said “We welcome the Shared Education Bill’s introduction to the Assembly. This important piece of legislation will ensure that sharing is a key element of education delivery and we hope that through its scrutiny by stakeholders and the Assembly’s decision making processes we will see the Bill passed in the coming months. One which not only encourages and facilitates Shared Education but actively promotes Shared Education through all aspects of the education system.”
Later this month the Bill will be discussed further at the Assembly and will go before the Education Committee for scrutiny, providing an opportunity for those with an interest in Shared Education to have an input into this important legislation. The Bill is expected to reach its Final Stage in March 2016.
Speaking after the Bill’s introduction, Education Minister John O’Dowd said “This Bill will send a strong signal to the education sector and the wider community that Shared Education is a key feature of our education system going forward. I understand that for some, Shared Education is a new and evolving area. Good practice is still being developed however, the Bill will give the flexibility to encourage and build confidence on the benefits of Shared Education for both those in our education system and wider society.
“The case for Shared Education has been well established and this Bill and my Shared Education Policy published in September, have both been welcomed as an opportunity to build a more inclusive approach, at a pace communities are comfortable with. Many of my Assembly colleagues, like myself, believe that Shared Education must be part of the solution to promoting a culture of mutual understanding and I look forward to taking the Bill through to law before the end of this Assembly mandate.”