The final lessons of an £18million programme developed by the International Fund for Ireland could be the key that unlocks shared education opportunities in all schools, a Belfast conference heard today.
Launched in 2008, the Sharing in Education Programme (SiEP) engaged more than 500 schools across 22 projects that promote sharing and reconciliation and which span all levels of formal education from early years through to teacher training and development. More than 65,500 children and young people took part in the 22 projects, three of which were also supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies.
An Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) final evaluation of 19 of the 22 projects under the programme, unveiled today, confirmed that ‘the learning accrued from the SiEP is significant’ and ‘provides a range of practical models of how to develop shared education across educational settings’.
Speaking at the conference Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said: “The International Fund for Ireland and the Atlantic Philanthropies have made a huge commitment, in money and effort, to this programme and helped bring shared education to the point where all schools and learners stand to benefit.
“The models developed through SiEP are proven to work and can make a meaningful contribution to the Programme for Government commitment to ensure all children have the opportunity to participate in shared education programmes by 2015. The lessons of the programme can help unlock new shared opportunities for pupils, schools and communities.
He added: “No two areas or schools are the same and many are at different starting points. The reality is that no one will benefit fully from a one-size-fits-all model. The most engaging work in this programme was tailored to meet the needs of the learners and different local contexts rather than using prescribed resources. It’s time to agree the practical approaches that make sense in each locality and can meet the realities on the ground.”
Speaking at the event, Education Minister John O’Dowd MLA, said:
“I see shared education as a cornerstone of education policy here and I wish to thank the International Fund for Ireland for their support, financial and otherwise, in enabling the Sharing in Education Programme to proceed over the past five years. Tens of thousands of local pupils have benefitted during that time and it is this kind of sharing across and between sectors that we will be seeing more of as schools continue to collaborate and establish partnerships that deliver real educational benefits for pupils.
“I also wish to acknowledge the work of the Education and Training Inspectorate in evaluating the programme and offering impartial, constructive comment on its success. The inspectors’ assessment has shown that the Sharing in Education Programme aligned well with my Department’s Community Relations, Equality and Diversity policy and with the school improvement initiative, Every School a Good School. In the most effective practice, the programme also contributed to better learning for the young people through helping to remove barriers to learning.
“I commend everyone who has been involved with the projects as part of the programme over the past five years and look forward to further embedding of shared education in our local educational landscape in the future.”
The conference comes shortly after Education Minister signalled his intentions on advancing shared education in Northern Ireland. The ETI final evaluation of the Sharing in Education Programme also found that:
To find out more about the Sharing in Education Programme visit: http://www.internationalfundforireland.com/building-integration
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