Segregation in school system must be tackled, charity urges

The IEF has drawn up its `alternative manifesto' saying change is needed across the education system

ANY new schools in Northern Ireland should be integrated, an education charity has said.

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) also said the duplication of teacher training should end.

The IEF has drawn up its `alternative manifesto' saying change is needed across the education system.

With schools facing a budget crisis and continuing social divisions, the body said steps were needed to address segregation.

Northern Ireland maintained an education system that "serves to separate our children", the paper read.

Around 90 per cent of pupils are educated in schools that identify with a single tradition.

"Pupil interactions are mostly with peers, teachers and others from their own community, with limited opportunity to explore and engage with other beliefs and attitudes," the IEF said.

"Reform of public administration has failed to rationalise education provision, with multiple facets and layers of management and governance underpinning a divided system and sustaining a culture of competition between schools.

"We provide initial teacher training through four institutions, each with separate forms of governance and, again, largely segregated according to religious or traditional background. We have a system which is both costly and divisive."

The manifesto called for a single teacher training college "open to students of all religions and none".

In addition, the charity wants a single authority for administration and planning of education and urged government to "develop and introduce a single model of governance for all schools".

"The government should set a target to increase the percentage of pupils in integrated schools to 10 per cent by 2021, and plan to meet it," it added.

"There should be a presumption that any new schools to be established should be integrated, subject to community consultation."

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