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Teachers' union blasts 'flawed' education plan

By Rebecca Black

A bid to establish the promotion of shared education in law has been slammed by a teachers' union as "fundamentally flawed".

Shared education is when schools work together and pool resources. It can range from one class a week to using each other's facilities on a larger scale. It differs from integrated education, where pupils from different communities are educated side by side.

The Shared Education Bill, launched for consultation by Education Minister John O'Dowd yesterday, will for the first time see his department face a legal obligation to encourage, facilitate and promote shared education.

But Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU), accused him of pitting school against school.

She said: "This is because of how schools are funded - a system based on the number of pupils. It is common sense - why would one school share its best practice with a neighbour if that neighbour might potentially poach its pupils and leave it facing possible closure?

"Schools will not be able to embrace shared education in its fullest sense until that threat of potential closure is lifted."

But the department said: "Shared education is absolutely not about pitting schools against each other.

"Rather, it is the opposite, with the vision of schools coming together to educate children of different religious and socio-economic backgrounds."

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