Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We can all learn from these lessons

There is no doubt many schools are facing an uncertain economic future as budget cuts begin to bite.

Already there are schools hundreds of thousands of pounds in the red and resources are going to get tighter over the next few years. Evidently schools will have to find innovative ways of stretching their funding and sharing resources between neighbouring facilities is one obvious initiative.

Two primary schools in Mid Ulster are showing the way. The tiny Church of Ireland and Catholic schools are sharing a teacher who takes joint classes in both schools. Anywhere else in the UK this would be remarkable only because of its common sense approach to a funding crisis. But here where schools are, for the main, rigidly segregated on religious grounds, it is almost regarded as a breakthrough.

Of course there is a small, but vibrant, integrated education sector but this shared experiment has important differences. Both primary schools retain their separate faith traditions and culture, while pupils mix and learn common subjects. That addresses one of the Catholic Church's strongest objections to greater harmonisation of the school systems in the province. It is keen to retain its religious ethos in its schools - as reiterated by Bishop Donal McKeown recently - but the shared framework adopted by the two primary schools does not impinge on that ethos.

While economic necessity may be the driving force behind more schools sharing resources and facilities, there are also social and personal gains to be achieved. Pupils from different traditions mixing from an early age can help break down the sectarian barriers that still exist here and school sharing also forces parents from different traditions to meet in a neutral setting during the school run and at after-school activities. Maybe the one lesson that will be learned is that co-education is a good idea.


From Belfast Telegraph