Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Minister urged to back integrated education for all

Northern Ireland's education minister has been told to "step up to the plate" and pave the way for an integrated system of learning for children.

John O'Dowd was on Sunday night urged to help roll out out integrated schools here by Alliance education spokesman Trevor Lunn.

Consultation is taking place over a mass shake-up of post-primary education, with the latest proposals made public last week.

With International Integrated Education Week getting under way today, Mr Lunn called on Mr O'Dowd to back an integrated system after a poll last week showed 79% of people here support all-inclusive education.

"There is an opportunity for Government and the minister to show he means it in terms of integrated education," Mr Lunn, Alliance MLA for Lagan Valley, told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Clearly there is a public appetite to see our children educated together. It is time to step up to the plate on integrated education."

This year's event takes on an international flavour with children from across the world joining with integrated schools here in promoting the work of their schools in encouraging respect and reconciliation through education.

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) said it hopes to "create a Tweet storm" in favour of the system, with social media.

The event was launched on Friday in Ballycastle, where the first radio signals were sent in 1898.

A NICIE spokeswoman said: "Children and young people will explore their place in the local and international world.

"They will share their experiences of how they have been connecting to other countries."

Factfile

In Northern Ireland around 93% of children attend schools which are exclusively or predominately Catholic or Protestant. The first integrated school here, Lagan College, opened in 1981. There are currently 62 integrated schools in Northern Ireland, 20 second level colleges and 42 integrated primaries, educating 21,000-plus pupils.

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