Michael Long, Alliance Youth Affairs Spokesperson, has expressed his dismay at the decision by Down District Council not to support an application to increase numbers of pupils at Cedars Integrated School, Crossgar.
Mr Long said:
“Whilst I was not surprised at the stance of the anti-Agreement parties, I was appalled that members of the SDLP and UUP joined together in voting against supporting the extension. It is apparent by their actions that these parties have only skin deep commitment to the concept of an integrated society and are content to live in a society in which children are segregated from the age of 4 years based upon religion.”
“The SDLP claimed that Education for Mutual Understanding (EMU) and falling intakes at other schools were valid reasons for turning down the application. Alliance recognises that the effectiveness of EMU is very dependent upon the commitment of individual teachers to the programme, and as a result much EMU activity has been superficial in nature. Even well run schemes cannot foster the long-term social relationships between individual pupils which are nurtured in an integrated school environment. Furthermore, if the SDLP concede that EMU, as a forum for bringing children together, is necessary and positive then the logical conclusion is that they should be actively supporting integration across the board. Their current stance is akin to applying a sticking plaster to a broken leg.”
“We in Alliance believe in parental choice and so if parents wish to send their children to an integrated school, or any other school for that matter, then funding should follow the pupils.”
Mr Long concluded:
“Far from being in accordance with the Agreement as the Council is actually in contravention of it, as it states clearly that the parties should ‘facilitate and encourage integrated education’. Down Council may well have met and reached a consensus, but it appears to deny the rights of a growing minority who want their children to have an integrated education.”