Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Separate education systems in Northern Ireland are unsustainable, claim business leaders

Belfast Telegraph LucidTalk poll on segregated education in Northern Ireland. June 2013
Belfast Telegraph LucidTalk poll on segregated education in Northern Ireland. June 2013
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Business leaders have called for Stormont to heed the findings of today’s poll and ensure more focus is placed on integrated education.

They claim Northern Ireland cannot afford to run two separate education systems.

The CBI has commissioned a major survey of all primary and secondary schools to explore how business can further engage with schools. Kirsty McManus, the assistant director of CBI, said pupils’ skills base underpinned the potential success of any economy.

“We have long held the view that this skills base must not solely be made up of those with academic qualifications but rather must promote a mixture of people with qualifications across the spectrum,” she said.

“The CBI is supportive of rationalisation of our schools estate.

“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 shirk the need to significantly alter our schools estate.”

She said some estimates put the cost of running duplicated services at up to £1bn a year.

“Leadership is now required to address this and to redirect the education-related savings to that which is more important than buildings,” she added.

“That is an education system that supports all our young people towards achieving their potential.”

Joanne Stuart, former chair of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland and a trustee of the Integrated Education Fund, said the poll contained a clear message.

“The results of this poll show that the majority of people are clear on the future direction our politicians should be taking,” she said. “There have been and continue to be initiatives to provide opportunities for school pupils to come together across the sectarian divides and they show some positive results, but as this poll shows, the majority of people want our politicians to act with more urgency and take the next step towards a non-segregated education system.”

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