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£3.7M Sharing Education Programme launched at Queen's

Published on:  20 Sep 2007

Over 2,500 school pupils in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from a new £3.7 million Sharing Education Programme being launched at Queen’s University today. The Sharing Education Programme (SEP) will offer students the chance to share enhanced educational and development opportunities, while at the same time building positive relationships with those from different backgrounds and cultures.

Funded by the International Fund for Ireland and The Atlantic Philanthropies and administered by Queen’s University, the programme involves a total of 12 collaborative projects amongst 60 schools, from across every education sector in Northern Ireland. Each collaborative project involves schools from across the different management sectors, that is, Controlled, Maintained, Catholic Voluntary and other Voluntary schools. Many of the projects also involve partnerships between grammar and secondary schools, or primary and post-primary schools.

The collaborative networks in the Sharing Education Programme involve the first cohort of 12 Specialist schools and up to 48 of their partner schools. Acting as the academic anchors for the programme, the Specialist schools were chosen to lead the partnerships due to their recognised commitment to collaboration and excellence in key areas

Ultimately, the Sharing Education Programme aims to encourage all schools to make inter-community collaboration an integral part of their everyday life. A key goal of the Sharing Education Programme is to share the experience and learning of the partnerships with the rest of the education community through a a series of conferences, seminars and publications and through the Programme website,

In addition, the Programme’s funding will be used to support teaching and coordination across the schools partnerships, as well as providing curricular and practical support to enable effective collaboration. A programme of training and support for participating schools is being provided by the School of Education at Queen’s University in collaboration with the leadership programmes in the Regional Training Unit.

Explaining the rationale behind the Sharing Education Programme, Professor Tony Gallagher, Head of the School of Education at Queen’s said: “Northern Ireland is now experiencing a time of unprecedented change, and this is especially evident in education. With the Sharing Education Programme our short term goals are to provide teachers and pupils with opportunities to engage with different traditions and learning cultures and to share access to academic excellence.

“In the long term, we hope to provide examples of best practice in cross sectoral educational initiatives that can be used by schools to foster reconciliation and partnership, and promote educational excellence. It is our young people who will be the main beneficiaries.

“We also hope through the involvement of teachers, pupils and parents, the positive effects of the programme will also be felt throughout the wider community in Northern Ireland. That will be the greatest achievement of Sharing Education. It will also be testament to the vision and ambition for a better, shared future, from all those schools taking part in this exciting and groundbreaking initiative.”

Commending the programme, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson added: “The Sharing Education Programme is very appropriately named. This is an important and challenging project, which reflects Queen’s leading role in promoting positive social change, and underlines the University’s position at the forefront of innovative developments in education in Northern Ireland.”

Speaking on behalf of the Programme’s funders, the International Fund for Ireland and The Altantic Philanthropies, Denis Rooney, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said: “While we have made tremendous progress as community towards becoming a peaceful society in recent months, we still have to face the unpalatable reality that we are still a segregated society in terms of where we live and learn.

“We believe that ‘sharing education’ is a step towards bringing all the diverse experiences in our community together in a way which creates advantage for everyone involved. This is not sharing for its own sake but a tremendous opportunity for our young people to increase the opportunities available to them at almost every level and play a fuller role in developing a more stable society for all of us.”

Speaking about the benefits available to the schools, students and communities already committed to the project, Mr Lex Hayes, a teacher at Ashfield Girls' High School, Belfast, said: "The resources provided by the SEP enable us to create links with schools outside our own sector that would not have been possible otherwise. The programme also links directly into the curriculum, which marks it apart from other projects in the past."

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