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£1m offered to schools who want to be part of shared education

By Lindsay Fergus

A total of £1m is up for grabs for schools who want to participate in shared education.

The pledge of £1m to |promote and support sharing between and within schools comes just days after Education Minister John O’Dowd warned that schools will have to share facilities and resources to access funding in the future.

As school budgets come under increasing pressure, the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is offering a range of support for schools wishing to bring greater sharing and collaboration into pupils’ lives .

The money is available under four schemes:

  • PACT (Promoting A Culture of Trust) funds schools of all management types joining to explore diversity and unity through arts, sport and culture
  • Transformation grants are for schools wishing to explore the possibility of gaining integrated status, which needs a parental ballot and Department of Education approval
  • CEE (Community Engagement in Education) issues grants to help community organisations initiate discussions on how to extend sharing and diversity in their area
  • IPIS (Increasing Places in Integrated Schools) is open to integrated schools seeking to increase their enrolment

Sara Shields, IEF grants officer, said: “At a time of constrained budgets for education, IEF is delighted to be able to pledge financial support for schools, and we are committed to continuing and extending our work to develop better community relations, within and between schools of all management types.”

It comes on the same day that a major conference organised by the Sharing Education Learning Forum (SELF) met in Belfast to hear the lessons learned from more than four years of sharing education and to look at its future in Northern Ireland’s schools.

The conference looked at some of the work achieved since the programme launched in 2007 and which now involves 150 schools across 48 separate partnerships and more than 10,000 pupils throughout Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the event, Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “There has been much |debate recently regarding shared education and the |benefit that it could bring both economically and in terms of improving relations between communities. I welcome that debate.

“Over the next months and years I expect to see an increase in the level and type of sharing between and within schools and sectors.”

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