Pupils from Bangor and Belfast have come together to celebrate the changing traditions in culture through dance, music and sport.
Thousands of pounds in funding has been made available for schools wishing to develop paths of reconciliation. The PACT (Promoting a Culture of Trust) programme, which is now in its 12th year, encourages cross-community projects which explore and celebrate diversity with a pot of £100,000 to share between successful applicants.
Alan Brown, principal of Towerview Primary in Bangor, whose pupils have joined with St Malachy’s Primary, says: “The PACT scheme brings children from all backgrounds to work collaboratively.
“Our project provides pupils with an opportunity to explore the issues surrounding their identities and the identities of others. This is something which will play a major part in our pupils’ lives as they head out into the wider world.”
The PACT programme is funded by the Integrated Education Fund and is open to all schools, of any management type, in Northern Ireland. Already £841,647 in PACT grants have gone to 194 projects involving 446 schools and directly involving and benefiting over 12,000 children.
PACT projects must explore the differences between the Catholic and Protestant denominations, but may also explore other divisions experienced here.
Activities involve pupils, staff and parents and reach out to the wider community.
Projects in recent years have demonstrated the willingness of communities to collaborate across cultural barriers and reveal a level of creativity in the way schools approach the issue.
Glencraig Integrated Primary in Holywood and St Michael’s Primary in Belfast tried different types of dancing and music as they and their parents explored the differences and bonds between them.
Other projects have involved drama, sport, cookery, or the design of new flags and emblems as teachers devise new platforms for young people to address issues of sectarianism and inclusivity. The project also includes several nursery schools.
Dorothee Wagner, IEF trustee and chair of the Grants Committee, says: “We are committed to making the funding accessible to as many people as possible. The success of PACT and the growing interest in the programme is testimony to the determination that exists in schools across Northern Ireland to contribute to peace building and to undertake vital cross-community work.”