Liam Neeson backs parent power through Integrate My School campaign
LIAM Neeson is throwing his support behind a new campaign to encourage more schools to become integrated.
The Hollywood star has released an online video message as part of the new Integrate My School - I'm In initiative.
The campaign by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) aims to inform parents about the transformation process.
Schools that can demonstrate the ability to draw a minimum of 10 per cent of their first year intake from the `minority' tradition can access government funding to transform to integrated status.
There are 25 integrated schools today that were previously under state control. Just one Catholic maintained school has ever sought transformation but the bid by Clintyclay PS in Co Tyrone was blocked.
The launch comes amid revelations that millions of pounds promised in the Fresh Start agreement to promote shared and integrated education in Northern Ireland is to be kept by the UK Treasury after it was left unspent.
The Irish News revealed on Monday that the DUP-led Department of Education failed to spend nearly all the money allocated for the first year. Just £3m of the £50m available was drawn down and the remaining £47m cannot be carried into next year.
Critics have urged Peter Weir to do more to secure the money while the department has said that negotiations are still ongoing in a bid to carry over the cash.
Neeson, a trustee of integrated education, features in the new campaign where parents of children can register their interest in transforming their school.
The website - www.integratemyschool.com - features video instructions on the registration process.
In his video, Liam Neeson says: "We look to our children for the future, so why do we continue to educate them apart: different religions, different backgrounds, different schools? There is another way.
"Most people agree that educating children together is a better way forward for our society. It's time to turn our aspiration into reality, to believe in your children and believe in their future."
IEF chief executive Tina Merron said research repeatedly revealed that a majority of Northern Ireland parents wanted their school to become integrated.
"When it comes to making it happen, however, what many people don't know is that, integration is supported by the Department for Education and government policy in Northern Ireland," she said.
"And, if a minimum of 20 per cent of parents at a school express an interest in integration, the school's board of governors is then required to put the matter to the whole school for consultation. By logging on and registering their interest confidentially on the IntegrateMySchool website, parents could take almost any school in Northern Ireland on the first steps towards integration.
"This is not an overnight process and schools can only transform to integrated status with parental approval and parental involvement."