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Could Liverpool's Hope Academy be the model for mixed faith schools of Northern Ireland's future?

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Hope Academy pupils

Hope Academy pupils

Hope Academy teachers

Hope Academy teachers

Hope Academy pupils

The inspiration for a multi-denominational school came from a project in Liverpool.

The Hope Academy was formed in 2011 from a merger of St Aelred's Catholic school and Newton Community High School in Newton-Le-Willows.

It now describes itself as a joint-faith school and is sponsored by Liverpool Hope University, the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool.

Hope Academy emphasises the importance of a faith ethos in its mission statement. The school says it aims to nurture spiritual growth through personal prayer and collective worship, providing opportunities for all to take part in worship and liturgy, creating a religious atmosphere, promoting Christian values and supporting the work of all its parishes. The academy maintains a school chapel as a place of worship.

All Key Stage 3 pupils are given two hours of religious education each week, approved by the Catholic Archdiocese and Church of England Diocese.

During Year 7, 8 and 9 all students will follow a course that looks at a range of moral and ethical issues that are part of contemporary society. Students also study a range of world religions, including Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. At Key Stage 4 all pupils follow a GCSE course in religious education and at Key Stage 5 a philosophy and ethics A-level course. The school also runs an annual pilgrimage to Rome.

Currently in Northern Ireland the main faith schools are in the maintained sector which have a Catholic ethos and prepare children for the sacraments.

Controlled schools, attended mainly by Protestant pupils, often include church representatives on their boards of governors.

There are also a number of independent Christians schools in Northern Ireland run by the Free Presbyterian Church.

Read more:

Belfast Telegraph