Belfast Telegraph

Integrated education backed by employers

By David Elliott

One of Northern Ireland's most influential business organisations has thrown its weight behind integrated education here.

Kirsty McManus, deputy director of the CBI, called on the Executive to re-engineer the education system and rationalise the schools estate so as to drive out the huge costs of divided learning.

"There is clearly now an opportunity for an enhanced role for integrated education," she said in post on the Intergrated Education Fund's blog.

"The costs of our divided society are manifest. Estimates of up to £1bn per annum have been put against the cost of running duplicated services in Northern Ireland."

The CBI's comments mark the first time a major business organisation or business in Northern Ireland has publicly backed integrated education.

Ms McManus said the organisation was looking at the education system from a purely fiscal point of view and along with the savings involved in joined-up learning, it would also help Northern Ireland market the economy abroad.

"Leadership is now required to address this and to redirect the education-related savings to that which is more important than buildings - an education system that supports all our young people towards achieving their potential and allows Northern Ireland to truly market itself as somewhere that is open for business."

And she was adamant that the changes need to be implemented now before the public sector's purse strings are squeezed further.

"We strongly believe that duplication of resources can and must be driven out of the system, especially as we appear to be falling deeper into a period of public sector fiscal retrenchment.

"We cannot afford to again shirk the need to significantly alter our schools estate. Our education system requires significant and urgent change. It is incumbent on our Education Minister that he ensures integrated education plays a significant part in that change."

The Integrated Education Fund welcomed the comments.

Marie Cowan, chair of the Integrated Education Fund, said: "It is becoming more widely recognised that more sensible public spending would benefit everyone in the community and also that an integrated education can contribute to a more cohesive Northern Ireland making it a more attractive place for potential inward investors."

Belfast Telegraph