Events to mark first `shared education week'
THE growing number of education projects that help children from different communities and social backgrounds learn together are to be celebrated.
Northern Ireland's first Shared Education Week will take place from October 8 to 12.
Government focus in recent years had moved away from promoting integrated education in favour of shared models.
Typically, shared education involves neighbouring Catholic and non-Catholic schools working together. Integrated schools educate Catholic and Protestant children under one roof.
From small beginnings more than a decade ago, shared education partnerships have grown to include more than 40 per cent of the schools' estate.
As well as promoting equality and respect for identity, diversity and cultures, it has led to improved outcomes for pupils, better use of resources, improved quality of learning experiences, broadening of the curriculum across participating schools and enhanced teacher professional development.
Almost 60,000 young people in 583 schools now take part in shared programmes across all sectors.
Schools across the north will mark Shared Education Week by celebrating and sharing the success of their partnerships, together with pupils, staff and parents and communities.
In doing so they hope to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of the nature, purpose, extent, value and impact of shared education.
The theme for the week is: Sharing the Present - Shaping the Future.
Numerous events have been organised to highlight the successes and achievements to date and to explore the future direction of shared education.
The week is being organised by the Shared Education Learning Forum (SELF). A steering group is chaired by Barbara Ward OBE, former principal of Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle and the convenor of SELF.
"At its heart Shared Education provides children and young people from different faith, community and social back-grounds, with the opportunity to learn together," she said.
"We've organised Shared Education Week to encourage schools to celebrate and share the success of their school partnerships locally and to help shape its future direction.
Schools planning to hold events celebrating their work can access a range of valuable resources from www.sharededucationweek.org. These include assembly and lesson plans, project ideas, an events planner, publicity materials and a guide to working with the media.
"As a former principal myself I've witnessed the transformative power of a Shared Education partnerships within each school," Ms Ward added.
"Pupils themselves greatly value the opportunity to learn together, it leads to improved outcomes, better use of resources, improved quality of learning experiences, a broadening of the curriculum across participating schools and enhanced teacher professional development."