General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Body calls for integration in faith schools


11/11/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Church leaders must be convinced of the need to help create thousands more integrated school places, a report has urged.

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) was revealing ambitious plans to 'transform' 30 more schools to integrated status by 2014.

In its document Towards Tomorrow Together, it claimed there was a once-in-a-generation chance in the next five years to develop an inclusive, forward-looking education system.

The fund said its objectives were to:

- strive to meet parental demand by supporting initiatives which would help integrated education account for more than 10 per cent of all school places as soon as possible

- support innovative and meaningful sharing projects across the traditional education divide

- research and provide support for parental demand for integrated schooling in local communities

- increase capacity to influence educational change.

It is estimated that the fund will need to raise £20 million to deliver all its plans, with about £4 million of this to be spent on helping schools transform.

Transformation is the process by which existing non-integrated schools can vote by parental ballot to join the integrated sector.

To date, only schools in the non-Catholic state-controlled sector have transformed.

Catholic education heads say the process is not viable for their own institutions and criticise it as a route for survival for controlled schools threatened with closure.

However, the IEF is hoping that 60 schools will seek to transform with the aim of ultimately achieving integrated status for at least half - producing approximately 7,500 new places.

Another £4 million is to be raised to create an additional 1,000 places in existing schools by supporting the opening of pre-schools or sixth-forms.

The IEF also hopes to invest £4 million to support and invest in "viable new-build schools".

However, the group added that it did not want to "impose anything on anybody".

"We act purely in response to parental demand and fully respect the wishes of parents who prefer other types of school," the document read.

"Integrated schools celebrate everyone's culture. The belief that they somehow sweep religion under the carpet is mistaken.

"Mixing with pupils from other backgrounds does not dilute a child's culture. In our experience, it enriches it."

The fund added that it recognised it had a huge task ahead.

"We need to convince politicians, Church ruling bodies and education policymakers of the overwhelming case for offering more integrated schooling."



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