‘Innovative projects’ key to shared future in Northern Ireland

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Lessons gained from shared education programmes between diverse secondary schools can benefit every institution in Northern Ireland, inspectors have said.

Dozens of post-primary schools are among those taking part in an £18 million programme developed by the International Fund for Ireland.

It is due to end at the end of the year, but inspectors now say that the innovative projects can be the key that unlocks shared education opportunities in all schools.

The Sharing in Education Programme (SiEP) supports a range of projects which facilitate reconciliation for a shared future through education.

It works to promote sharing by linking schools representative of the Catholic and Protestant communities and builds on community relations within and between schools.

An Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) final evaluation of 19 of the 22 projects under the programme confirms that “the learning accrued from the SiEP is significant”.

It adds that it “provides a range of practical models of how to develop shared education across educational settings”.

The Spirit of Enniskillen project, involving schools from different sectors in Co Fermanagh, was singled out for praise.

Inspectors say post-primary pupils respond well to the approaches modelled by the young volunteers and facilitators when discussing contentious and sensitive issues.

Dr Adrian Johnston, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said the models developed are “proven to work”.

He added that they can make a meaningful contribution to the Programme for Government commitment to ensure that all children have the opportunity to participate in shared education programmes by 2015.

He said: “No two areas or schools are the same and many are at different starting points. The reality is that no-one will benefit fully from a one-size-fits-all model.

“The most engaging work in this programme was tailored to meet the needs of the learners and different local contexts rather than using prescribed resources.

“It’s time to agree the practical approaches that make sense in each locality and can meet the realities on the ground.”

 


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