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New move aims to aid cross-community contact in schools

Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren across the north west are taking part in a groundbreaking pilot project to inform future education policy.

The Western Education and Library Board (WELB) and the International Fund for Ireland have this week launched the Promoting Reconciliation through Shared Curriculum Experience.

The three-year project will involve 40 schools in Limavady, Derry, Strabane and Omagh council areas. Pupils of all ages will take part in a range of cross-community and reconciliation learning experiences, with the aim of enhancing key elements of the Northern Ireland curriculum.

In particular, the initiative will focus on personal development and mutual understanding (PDMU) in primary schools and local and global citizenship in post-primary settings. Findings from the project will be used to inform educational policy, enhance aspects of teacher development and influence subject delivery in the future.

Dr Adrian Johnston, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “This is a major project which could have a significant impact on how cross-community and reconciliation experiences are delivered through the curriculum.

“The results of the project will contribute to effective teacher development and enhance schools’ capacity to tackle areas of diversity, inclusion and reconciliation.”

WELB project co-ordinator June Neill said: “This is an important project that will explore and evaluate the impact of cross-community contact in schools, particularly those that directly address areas of good relations and reconciliation.”

The International Fund for Ireland, through its Sharing in Education Programme (SiEP), has provided £450,200 towards the project. The SiEP exists to break down barriers resulting from conflict in Northern Ireland. To date, over £16m has been invested in SiEP, which was launched in 2008.

The International Fund for Ireland was established by the Irish and British governments in 1986 to promote economic and social advance and encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists throughout the island of Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph