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Pupils will 'lose out' on benefits of shared education

Some schools are yet to receive shared education cash due to a stand-off over controversial pupil assessments 

THOUSANDS of pupils risk losing out on the benefits of a new shared education policy, a union leader has warned.

Many schools are yet to receive shared education cash due to a stand-off over controversial pupil assessments.

A £25 million project is designed to create "a more cohesive education system" in which children from different community backgrounds can be educated together.

Schools have been told, however, that "full compliance with the statutory assessment process" is a mandatory condition of funding.

This has angered unions who have, for the past two years, been boycotting the `levels of progression' arrangements.

Education minister John O'Dowd this week launched a new policy aiming to ensure shared education is embedded throughout the sector.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, said schools were being asked to produce data from their key stage assessments.

"However, because of industrial action over excessive testing in schools most teachers are withholding these results from the Department of Education and using it only for their own information," she said.

"The upshot is that the thousands of children will be denied access to the benefits of shared education, yet their teachers are taking industrial action in the first place because they regard the current excessive assessment regime in schools as counter-productive for their pupils."

Dungannon Primary School is one of those affected.

It was hoping to receive £25,000 to implement the shared education policy with St Patrick's PS in the town.

Principal David Thompson said, between the schools, almost 900 pupils would have benefited.

"We were hoping to use the funding to provide the pupils of St Patrick's and Dungannon primary with opportunities to develop life-long friendships, learning together within a shared environment, giving them the opportunity to explore their similarities and celebrate their differences," he said.

"However, under the terms of the policy, one of the monitoring elements would require us to submit the results of the key stage assessments which we are not doing under the terms of our industrial action.

"How can the minister judge the success of his shared education policy - elements such as reconciliation, for instance - based on the results of key stage assessments? It just doesn't make sense."

The Department of Education has said full engagement with the statutory assessment process is necessary "in order to evaluate the success of the programme at school and system level".

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