Education news

Review to push for single education system `must be a priority'

Members of the Integrated AlumNI at Stormont, staging an event to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement

INTEGRATED school campaigners have urged Peter Weir to prioritise exploring the possibility of a single education system.

The New Decade, New Approach deal said the restored executive would establish an external, independent review of education provision.

It will focus on securing greater efficiency in costs, raising standards, access to the curriculum for all pupils, and the prospects of moving towards a single system.

The north has multiple school sectors - Catholic, state controlled, voluntary grammar, integrated and Irish-medium.

The fragmented nature is something that previous executives have discussed, but never managed to remedy.

Plans to have the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools included in the single Education Authority, which replaced the five area boards, were abandoned long ago and there remains strong demand for faith schooling.

The deal also talks about building "a shared and integrated society" by supporting educating children of different backgrounds together in the classroom.

This happens in many schools now and the Department of Education already has a duty to promote both shared and integrated education.

Integrated AlumNI, a network of past pupils and ambassadors of integrated education, said minister Peter Weir needs to prioritise the review.

It said the inefficiency and added cost arising from segregation in the system has been well documented.

Furthering the provision of integrated education, the group added, was vital to "producing leaders who are willing and able to work together".

"The Integrated AlumNI welcome and support the commitment laid out in New Decade, New Approach deal, `to help build a shared and integrated society, the Executive will support educating children and young people of different backgrounds together in the classroom'," said Hilary Copeland, chair of the board of trustees.

"We urge the new executive to act upon the clear and consistent desire of parents in Northern Ireland, to ensure that every child is offered the life-changing benefits that an integrated education provides."

Ms Copeland said the group was further calling on fair employment legislation to cover the recruitment of teachers.

Schools are permitted to use religious belief as a ground to discriminate between candidates for teaching posts.

Those employed to teach religion in a school under Catholic management must be able to demonstrate they have the capacity to do so in line with its ethos.

"We look forward to meeting with and working to support the newly formed executive and MLAs in the furtherance of peace building in our post-conflict society," Ms Copeland added.

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