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Welcome £300m boost for shared and integrated education in the north

Shared and integrated cross-community education programmes in the north are to receive an extra £300 million from the Budget
Michael McHugh

SHARED and integrated cross-community education programmes in the north are to receive an extra £300 million following Monday's Budget, the Chancellor said.

Fifteen schools projects to free up more places across the country could be progressed, integrated education authorities said.

The money is part of a previously-announced commitment made by the UK Government following the Stormont Fresh Start Agreement with the main local political parties.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said: "Today's announcement shows this government's support for an inclusive future in Northern Ireland, with £300m for shared and integrated education."

Integrated education involves the teaching of Catholic and Protestant children together.

Most schools are overseen by either the state, attended mainly by Protestant youngsters, or the Catholic church, meaning traditionally pupils were separated by denomination.

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Integrated Education Fund chief executive, Tina Merron welcomed the draw down of extra cash from Westminster coffers.

"Fifteen integrated schools around Northern Ireland have been waiting for more than two years for proposals to progress, and we look forward to seeing these projects now being able to move forward so that more families can access places in integrated education," she said.

A shared education campus in Omagh in Co Tyrone is under construction, separately from Monday's announcement.

The biggest school building project in Northern Ireland will see six schools built on the site of the former Lisanelly army barracks in the town.

The Government has previously announced a £140m contribution towards the cost, unrelated to Monday's Budget.

Cross-community Alliance Party Assembly member Kellie Armstrong said:

"I look forward to reading the detail and to seeing which schools have finally been allocated the necessary capital funding to increase the provision of integrated and shared education.

"I recently met with the NIO as I was concerned by the lack of movement and announcements regarding this funding. Today it fell to the Chancellor and the Treasury to announce the expenditure.

"I will be encouraging the NIO to use the small remaining amount to further develop opportunities such as nursery provision."

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