Up to £25 million is being pumped into the shared education signature project.
At the same time, the North’s education minister is encouraging schools to apply to become part of new shared campuses.
Since 2006, more than 15,000 pupils from about 130 schools have engaged in sustained and structured contact through the Sharing Education Programme. Those involved say the educational, economic and societal benefits of this continuing initiative have been ground-breaking.
Mr O’Dowd says shared education can significantly contribute to improving educational outcomes and, in doing so, contribute to a more reconciled society.
The additional funding will provide the opportunity, he says, to increase significantly the numbers of children and young people participating in shared education.
In January, he launched a campus programme and in the summer he announced the first three projects to proceed in planning.
They include shared STEM and 6th form facilities for St Mary’s High School, Limavady, and Limavady High School. The state-controlled Ballycastle High School and nearby Catholic Cross and Passion College will also form a campus.
The programme provides schools with the opportunity to build on existing sharing arrangements and to access funding to help improve or provide shared educational facilities.
“There is no doubt that shared education has the potential to deliver real educational benefits, to ensure the best use of resources and to foster further cohesion between communities of different backgrounds,” Mr O’Dowd said. “Of course, many local schools are already engaged in shared education activities. The Shared Education Campuses Programme will build on these strong foundations and also complement the activities that will flow from the recent announcement of £25 million for shared education.”