Northern Ireland Assembly "failing" on integrated schooling commitments

Northern Ireland Assembly "failing" on integrated schooling commitments

THE Northern Ireland Assembly is failing on its commitments to integrated schooling, a British university lecturer has claimed.

Despite many parents in the region keen to expand the levels of integrated schooling, the Northern Ireland Executive is |"out of touch" with common feeling, Dr Shaun McDaid, of the University of Huddersfield, claimed this week.

“There seems to be a genuine desire among parents to bring about integrated schooling, but it hasn’t materialised. On this issue the Executive is behind the curve,” said Dr McDaid, a Research Fellow at the University and a member of its Centre for Research in the Social Sciences.

His claims follow the recent contribution the academic made to the first edition of the new online journal Identity Papers, published by the University’s Academy for British and Irish Studies.

For his article Dr McDaid compared the education policies pursued by the power-sharing executive of 1973-74 with those of the current devolved government.

And while acknowledging that today’s Ulster “no longer suffers the intense sectarian violence of the 1970s and 80s”, he finds it remains “plagued by inter-communal divisions” with few attempts made to improve community relations via integrated education.

By contrast, the executive of the early 1970s formulated what Dr McDaid describes as “one of the most progressive and ambitious strategies for integrated education in the history of Northern Ireland”.

“Despite the costs, integrated education was at the forefront of the first executive’s efforts to improve community relations,” he says.

“That this occurred at a time when the violence was at its most intense is all the more remarkable, and provides an interesting contrast with the education policies of the current executive.”

He adds: “However, the current Northern Ireland Assembly has shown no commitment to fully-integrated schools. Instead it has earmarked £25 million for the development of “shared schools”, in which pupils of different sectarian backgrounds share facilities such as sports grounds and assembly halls but are taught in segregated classes."

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