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UUP leader’s ‘educational apartheid’ comments ‘inflammatory and unhelpful’

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Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive CCMS (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools).

Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive CCMS (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools).

Pacemaker Press Belfast 28-05-2021: Ulster Unionist Party leader, Doug Beattie MC MLA and his newly appointed Economy Spokesperson, Mike Nesbitt MLA, meet with representatives from the business sector on Friday morning. Doug Beattie pictured during a Press Conference after the meetings. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 28-05-2021: Ulster Unionist Party leader, Doug Beattie MC MLA and his newly appointed Economy Spokesperson, Mike Nesbitt MLA, meet with representatives from the business sector on Friday morning. Doug Beattie pictured during a Press Conference after the meetings. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker.

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Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive CCMS (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools).

The chief executive of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) has hit back at Doug Beattie after the UUP leader called for an end to “educational apartheid”.

The Upper Bann MLA also urged Northern Ireland to adopt a “single education system”, which he believes can help to “end segregation in our society”.

But Gerry Campbell said Mr Beattie’s comments were ‘misguided’ and that he was “extremely concerned at the inflammatory language.”

Mr Beattie had said he wanted to see children in Northern Ireland being educated together.

“Northern Ireland has been blighted by division and yet we do not take the brave steps to try to deal with that division,” he said.

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“The Ulster Unionist Party believes that our children should go from the playground to the classroom together, and from the classroom to the workplace together.

“We need to end educational apartheid which is taking place here.

“We need our children to get to know each other from their early years. We need a single education system in Northern Ireland that allows them to do that.

“This is the future we want for our children. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

“We need to have big aspirations to build a better Northern Ireland. We must end segregation in our society.”

But the CCMS said the choice of language urging the “need to end educational apartheid,” had been “extremely concerning”.

“Catholic schools and many others across the education sector firmly reject the use of this inflammatory language as they work tirelessly to promote a shared educational landscape,” said Mr Campbell.

“CCMS categorically rejects the very idea that Catholic schools are divisive or that they stand in opposition to an inclusive and diverse education system. Catholic Schools promote the dignity and worth of every human person; the purpose and value of education; the relationship between education, family, and the local community; and the purpose and meaning of life itself.

“The terminology used by Mr Beattie is not helpful and is representative of the misconception that schools that do not have an integrated status are not welcoming and inclusive, particularly given the longstanding work that has gone on in not only Catholic schools but rather all schools to promote shared education.

"The one-dimensional and divisive ‘segregated v integrated’ dichotomy suggests that there is only one way forward, namely making all schools ‘Integrated’. There is in fact a wide spectrum of approaches to break down barriers, end division and promote a unified strong society. Catholic schools and others continue to work together to realise this ideal.”

Mr Campbell has now offered to meet with the UUP leader

“I would welcome the opportunity to share with Mr Beattie the context of Catholic schools in Northern Ireland, their vision and purpose and the important role that Catholic schools exercise in educating and enriching the lives of everyone in their host communities,” he added.

“Equally, I would encourage Mr Beattie to discuss with both myself and colleagues across the education sector the positive changes that many governors, principals, staff, children, and young people have cultivated in their communities through shared education programmes and partnerships across Northern Ireland.

“Catholic schools firmly believe that no child should be left behind. Our vision is to enable all young people to meet their full potential, through access to a high-quality education irrespective of location, socio-economic background, ability, or gender. Catholic Schools wish to cultivate an education system which guarantees all children will be equally supported to fulfil their potential.

“The challenge for all of us is to build a fair and respectful society. Education and all of our schools have a very important role to play in progressing this vision – Maintained, Controlled, Integrated, Irish medium and Grammar.

"However, this can only work if we all continue to work together and in this regard the label of educational apartheid is extremely unhelpful.”


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