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North West schools celebrate three-year cross-community programme

on .

0210IFI08webA unique project that gave 1,700 children in the North West region a chance to learn in shared environments was last night (2nd October) hailed at a special event held at St Cecilia’s College.

 Hundreds of participants gathered to share their experiences and celebrate their successes at an awards ceremony for the Community Learning and Social Skills Project (CLASS) project.

The initiative encouraged new cross-community contact between pupils aged 10-18 from 28 schools in County Londonderry/Derry and was facilitated by Reach Across with £475,000 from the International Fund for Ireland’s Sharing in Education Programme (SiEP).

CLASS combined classroom sessions, workshops and residential courses to help young people explore common issues, differences and divisive issues like flags, parades and policing.

Speaking at the event, International Fund for Ireland Chairman Dr Adrian Johnston said:

“The CLASS Project is about bringing schools and communities together and proving the type of educational benefits and societal benefits that can be secured when young people can share in educational opportunities.

“The success of the project can be seen by the huge number of pupils, teachers, classroom assistants, principals and parents who have sought to engage with it.  Projects like this have a part to play in a genuine shared future and are timely given the Executive’s Programme for Government commitments to advancing shared education. The SiEP projects give policymakers practical examples of how young people can participate in shared educational experiences.”

Barney McGuigan Project Coordinator for CLASS said:

“This project has shown that anyone from any background and any age can have an active role in contributing to the building of a shared society. As a result of CLASS, young people have gained academically and in some circumstances it has been their first contact with people from other communities.

“Many have also realised the positive alternatives to anti-social influences in their areas and completed high quality OCN qualifications. This project leaves behind a legacy for generations to come.”

The CLASS Project enabled 363 learners to complete OCN Level 1&2 courses and 854 have completed non-accredited courses. As part of the project 34 teachers also completed innovative community relations training.

 The REACH Across project was awarded £475,000 from the International Fund for Ireland's Sharing in Education Programme.

 Click here to download press release