20/11/2003

Alliance unveil plan for expanding integrated education

The Alliance party has unveiled a nine-point plan aimed at expanding integrated education in Northern Ireland.

Education spokesperson, Eileen Bell said that while integrated education wasn't the total solution to problems locally, it was vital for the future of Northern Ireland if divisions between the two communities were to be overcome.

"Alliance has a long-standing commitment to the support and expansion of integrated education, as more and more parents are making it their choice for their children," the Assembly candidate said.

"Although there now 50 integrated schools in Northern Ireland, over 1,000 children are denied places every year. If we are serious about building a united community, we should be aiming to provide for at least 10% of all schoolchildren by 2010."

Among its plans, Alliance want to:
  • Support the creation and maintenance of new-build integrated schools
  • Set a target of 10% of children being educated in integrated schools by 2010
  • Place a duty on the DENI to encourage, not merely to facilitate, the development of integrated education which should be extended to Education and Library Boards
  • Survey local residents when new schools are being built
  • Encourage the transformation of existing schools to 'transformed' integrated status
  • Reform and relax the criteria for the creation and maintenance of integrated schools, giving recognition of those children of mixed, other or no religious background
  • Give formal recognition to the contribution being made to the process of reconciliation by 'mixed' schools
  • Oppose any creation of any perceived 'right' to a guarantee of public funding for segregated schools
  • Advocate the de-segregation of teacher training courses and facilities
Mrs Bell added: "When children are denied real opportunities to mix with children from other backgrounds until they are in their late teens it only feeds misconceptions and prejudice.

"Integrated education is an excellent example of actual reconciliation, benefiting children and adults alike. It has also made a significant contribution to social cohesion in Northern Ireland, and is supported throughout the world.

"Alliance will implement the following 9-point plan to expand the provision of integrated education in Northern Ireland, in line with demand," she concluded.

(MB)

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