Ulster Unionist Education spokesman Danny Kinahan MLA has questioned the sincerity of the Department of Education to shared education in Northern Ireland. His comments come in the wake of the ending of a teacher sharing project in controlled and maintained primary schools in County Antrim.
Mr Kinahan commented:
“For some time I have doubted the sincerity of the two parties leading the Executive in their professed commitment to shared education. Yes, there has been some rhetoric from Sinn Fein and the DUP about shared education, and occasional announcements like the Shared Education Campus Programme. However the timescale for schools to make applications to this programme is far too short. Then we see the discontinuation of projects like the Primary Integrating/Enriching Education programme in County Antrim. If a programme like this was working- and all agree that it was- then the funding to support it should be mainstreamed – not left to short term charitable contributions.”
The South Antrim MLA added:
“The main driver for reorganising schooling in Northern Ireland at the moment is the Area Planning process, but this is completely flawed with regards to cross community sharing. The Catholic Maintained sector have rationalised and reconfigured their schools estate completed independently of the other sectors. Area planning has ignored this and the DUP and Sinn Fein are complicit in this major oversight. In some towns where the sharing of classes and resources across the religious/ educational divide had been developing organically over many years, it ended almost overnight- without any reference to ‘area planning’ or the greater good of wider society.
I am afraid that the current situation means that shared education across Northern Ireland remains piecemeal and an exception to the rule.”