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Time to end segregated education


NICIE Chief Executive Officer Noreen Campbell

NICIE Chief Executive Officer Noreen Campbell

NICIE Chief Executive Officer Noreen Campbell

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) welcomes the debate stimulated by the DUP policy document Education For All.

The continued focus on schooling attests to the powerful role of education and illustrates the reluctance to challenge the segregated system that exists.

At this time of economic crisis, when schools' budgets are being cut, the potential for savings through the creation of a "network of sustainable schools" is ignored in favour of maintaining the status quo.

Calling for the removal of the statutory duty towards integrated education and Irish-medium education is a distraction which cloaks an adherence to the status quo.

The recent judicial review highlighted the failure to implement the statutory duty and noted the flaws in area-based planning, which presumes no growth in integrated provision and favours protection of other sectors over growth of integrated schools.

The establishment of a single education authority presents the opportunity to address this inequality of planning.

The new authority must accept its responsibilities under the 1986 Order to plan for the provision of schools of different character in every area. This includes planning for integrated schools.

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Our school system reflects the divisions of the past - not the reality of today's increasingly diverse society.

The majority of schools today have a diverse enrolment; they are not monocultural - regardless of school type.

NICIE has developed an initiative which will support schools in exploring and deepening an inclusive ethos.

Formal recognition of being integrated should be given to our special schools. Pre-school education should also be expected to provide an education for all.

Such non-controversial changes will support the reform of our educational system and remove education from the political arena.

The time is right for such changes. It is time that our schools supported the normalisation of our society as a diverse and vibrant society, preparing their students for a rapidly changing and uncertain future.

  • Noreen Campbell is CEO of the NI Council for Integrated Education

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