06/07/2022

£1.9m To Transform Integrated Education In NI

The UK Government is to provide funding of £1.9 million to transform integrated education in Northern Ireland, Secretary of State, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP has announced during a visit to Lough View Integrated Primary School.

The funding will help support schools through the transformation process as they work towards integrated status.

The £1.9m will go to the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), which work to enable a greater number of children from different community backgrounds to be educated together. NICIE offers advice and support to parents and schools in the ballot process which sees parents vote on where to transform to an integrated school. The IEF raises awareness of the transformation process and the merits of integrated education.

The Secretary of State today (Wednesday 6 July) visited Lough View Integrated Primary, where he met its Principal, Sean Spillane and discussed the school's work to provide a high quality education to children in an integrated setting.

At the school, he discussed how, as highlighted by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, greater integration in education is an essential aspect of the reconciliation process and the promotion of a culture of tolerance at every level of society.

Research clearly demonstrates the positive social attitudes instilled by increased integration in education. Schools of all types have been successful in delivering greater integration and instilling the values of acceptance and cooperation that they carry with them into later life, helping to create a more inclusive society.

The Secretary of State, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, said: "Seeing greater integration of education across Northern Ireland is an absolute priority for me.

"When a school becomes integrated, children learn, grow and build communities together. Parents get to know each other, and long term friendships develop. This is an essential aspect of the reconciliation process.

"My hope is that integration will soon become the norm and not the exception in schools across Northern Ireland. The work done by the IEF and NICIE is essential in helping Northern Ireland's children to grow up in a truly shared society."
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Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund said: "The Integrated Education Fund is delighted with today's announcement by the Secretary of State. Integrated Education is a core commitment of the Good Friday Agreement and we remember that the British Government is a co-guarantor of that Agreement.

"This is an enormous boost to our charitable organisation as we seek to empower and support parents, schools and local communities who want to see more Integrated schooling.

"In the past few years 14 schools across Northern Ireland have held a democratic ballot of their parents in favour of Integrated status and the IEF and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education are now working to support more schools than ever before."

Roisin Marshall, the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education said: "The Council for Integrated Education empowers school communities to deliberately and intentionally attract children, young people and the adults, who identify as coming from both sides of our divided society as well as those from other religions and cultural backgrounds.

"This funding will enable NICIE to offer more dedicated support to those school communities who wish to explore, develop and embed their Integrated ethos. We are very grateful for this additional support to help to meet the increase in parental demand for Integrated Education."

Welcoming the funding Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong – who secured major reform to meet the demands of integrated education in the last mandate – said it was now time for Education Minister to finally make long-awaited decisions on a number of development proposals sitting on her desk.

She added: "This funding boost is another clear example of the desire for greater access to integrated education in Northern Ireland – yet locally the growth of integrated education is being stalled by the inaction within the Department.

"We all should be aiming to see a greater number of children from different backgrounds educated together and yet those who want to deliver this change on the ground are facing long delays in waiting for the department to make decisions.

"Across Northern Ireland our children parents and teachers are dealing with the impact of this inaction on a daily basis. For example, a proposal for the new Mid Down Integrated College, that would provide a much needed integrated option in an area which sees massive over subscription for Lagan College, remains dormant.

"Our on Minister must match the enthusiasm from the UK Government on this issue. Integrated education is a key way forward in building a united community and this money will now allow parents to transform their school to integrated status, especially in areas where no alternative integrated option is available."

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