Follow the UN's lead on integrated schools
The United Nations has urged Northern Ireland to move towards an integrated education system. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has also expressed concern that "segregation of schools by religion persists".
In its review of the UK's implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, published this month, the UN Committee recommends, "the state party ... in Northern Ireland actively promote a fully integrated education system and carefully monitor the provision of shared education, with the participation of children, in order to ensure that it facilitates social integration".
The observation represents an endorsement of the aims of the integrated education movement. It is, however, a sad reflection on the current, slow progress in reforming our education system, as the committee itself is aware, showing recognition at the highest level that young people are still largely growing up in a context of division and separation according to religious tradition.
Such a clear expression of support for education reform sends a strong message to the Executive and, as the Programme for Government is being developed, should help shape plans to take us towards the shared society envisaged.
The education system should be a major supporting plank in the construction of a more cohesive community and, therefore, tackling effective segregation in our schools system is crucial.
The integrated education movement wants to see shared education activity planned as a defined step to take us towards the fully integrated education system envisaged by the UN Committee.
Research has shown that the changes urged by the United Nations Committee are the changes young people and their parents want.
BARONESS MAY BLOOD MBE
Campaign chair, Integrated Education Fund