Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Academic: more shared schooling is way ahead for Northern Ireland

A senior public policy professor will today call for more schools from both Catholic and Protestant communities to work together to help raise the standard of education in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a conference at Queen’s University, Colin Knox will say there is increasingly strong evidence that a “shared education” and greater cross-community school collaboration can also help contribute to a more “reconciled society”.

It comes after a Belfast Telegraph poll showed that six out of 10 people support the merging of schools of various backgrounds in order to save money.

During the second annual Shared Education Learning Forum (SELF), the University of Ulster professor will say schools working together can complement each other, where one is strong and another weak.

“Existing models have shown that shared education can significantly contribute to the Education Minister’s agenda on raising educational outcomes and, in doing so, contribute to a more reconciled society,” he said.

“There is strong evidence to suggest that if schools are incentivised to collaborate in areas where one is strong and the other weak, improvements in teaching and learning, pupils’ behaviour and education achievement can be gained.

“Shared education can be the mechanism to deliver this and the way education should be |delivered moving forward.”

The conference will look at some of the work achieved since the programme launched in 2007.

It now involves some 162 schools with almost 13,000 pupils throughout Northern Ireland.

That includes primary schools such at those in the Belleek area of Co Fermanagh, who have been working together with joint curriculums and regular joint |classes for pupils.

Pro-vice chancellor of Queen’s University, Tony Gallagher (below), said when schools “work together there are benefits to be had for principals and teachers, pupils and the wider community”.

“The Sharing Education Programme has demonstrated that by running shared classes on a sustained and regular basis, schools can increase opportunities for pupils, improve standards and promote better understanding,” he said.

The Programme for Government has made a commitment to substantially increase the number of schools sharing facilities by 2015.

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