NIO deserting a shared future…

THE integrated education sector finally bared some teeth in disgust at the Government’s lack of support for funding mixed schools. It certainly appears to fly in the face of the NIO’s much-trumpeted ‘Shared Future’ policy for Northern Ireland. The Integrated Education Fund has stepped in with funding instead. The Government’s commitment to its policy has yet to be proven.

  • slug

    Does integrated education have to be done in newbuild schools, rather than in existing state schools? I can see where the government is coming from – we have to be cost conscious as Alliance themselves point out. Maybe the way forward is to increase the level of integration in existing schools rather than create integrated schools which syphon off a lot of the mixing that exists in the state schools.

    e.g. Slemish Academy in Ballymena is a very good integrated school but is it taking catholic kids out of regular schools and making the latter schools less integrated?

    There is a lot more to this than the government being uncommitted to integration. I say that as someone who would dearly love to see a more integrated school system.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    If the Goverment was serious about transforming existing schools into integrated ones, surely it would relax the criteria for funding?

  • Young Fogey

    I didn’t know the NIO were even committed to it in the first place.

  • slug

    ” if the Goverment was serious about transforming existing schools into integrated ones, surely it would relax the criteria for funding? ”

    are they the %-ages by religion needed to declare you are transforming to integrated? Maybe you have a point – not too well up on that.

  • observer

    theres plenty of integrated schools around – theyre called state schools, and have no religous barrier for entrance

  • Yokel

    Falling numbers, excess places. I’d say that is a perfect recipe to look at integrated schools to cover a geographical area.

    Does anone want to tell me why integrated schools are not a good idea especially at primary level. Anyone suggesting they will be discriminatory to the minority in that area, forget using that, its lame.

  • Moyle Rover

    Three years ago in Ballycastle the state primary school, County Primary, voted narrowly against going integrated. A number of parents got cross and set up an integrated school, Lir, funded by the integrated education fund, I think. The government refused to fund Lir but told all the schools in Ballycastle that four schools for a town this size was ridiculous. As the catholic primary has 5-600 pupils it was going nowhere. The Irish language school opened about four to five years ago and had about 80 pupils and rising. This left the county primary, about 80 pupils and falling, with the choice to go integrated or face possible closure. They chose integration with the result that Lir and its 30 or so pupils now face an uncertain future as no one will fund two integrated schools in the same town. A handful of pupils have transferred back to the catholic primary because they suspect Lir will close and that the county will be integrated in name only. That remains to be seen but I would expect similar scenarios all over NI as stated by Yokel above.

  • willis

    Moyle Rover

    Thanks for that insight. Ballycastle seems like a microcosm for the debates that are going to rage over education in the next 10 years.

    Observer’s view is interesting because it is probably shared by 50% of Unionists. Anyone with a passing knowledge of integrated schools could soon disabuse him. Does Orangefield or Belfast Model have a Catholic chaplain? Teach Irish? Play GAA?

    Integration is not about accepting Catholics into a State/Prod school/culture or vice versa. It is a school/culture where everyone does/studies/plays everything.

    I have to admit that I applaud Angela Smith for not funding further integrated schools until the finances have been sorted out. If the Government is seen to be backing integration as a way of delivering cost savings instead of an individual choice by parents and children then all the DUP jibes will be re-inforced.

    Which leads on to the question.

    “The legislation which allowed Integrated and Irish medium schools (Tory law, not the GFA, Sammy) also allowed the creation of Free Presbyterian schools, yet we hear very little about their growth, why is that?”

  • I left it back inN E Ireland

    Is there any integrated orange lodges?

  • Alan

    Let’s be clear about a number of points. The Controled schools are around 85% P and 15% other, CCMS schools are around 99%C.

    Simply declaring all schools integrated will do nothing to help our society. We have an emmense opportunity to build integrated schools, but it has to include the positive encouragement to integrate Controled and Maintained schools at a local level. To my mind, that encouragement should include the withdrawal of funding for schools / sectors who refuse to consider integration – but we can argue the rights and wrongs of that.

    On the IEF’s decision, I simply do not understand why they should place themselves in the same position as those who would refuse integration. How is that? Because private funding of additional over-provision, with 45,000 empty places currently, simply reduces the opportunities for the integration of more children who attend non-integrated schools at the moment. It also improperly encourages parents and children to enter into sweeping changes to their futures that the IEF cannot stand over.

    Better surely to spend the hundreds of thousands of hard raised funds to prepare the way for the integration of local schools with the assistance of the Department. Steal a march on those who deny integration and force the pace for a change, rather than sticking obsessively to outmoded methods of building new schools to encourage our children to build a shared future.