ALLIANCE candidate for North Down and Education Spokesperson Eileen Bell has said has revealed the party’s nine-point plan for expanding integrated education in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Bell stated: “Integrated education isn’t the total solution to our problems, but it is vital to the future of Northern Ireland if we are ever going to get over our divisions. Alliance has a long-standing commitment to the support and expansion of integrated education, as more and more parents are making it their choice for their children.
“Although there now 50 integrated schools in Northern Ireland, over 1,000 children are denied places every year. If we are serious about building a united community, we should be aiming to provide for at least 10 percent of all schoolchildren by 2010.
“When children are denied real opportunities to mix with children from other backgrounds until they are in their late teens it only feeds misconceptions and prejudice. Integrated education is an excellent example of actual reconciliation, benefiting children and adults alike. It has also made a significant contribution to social cohesion in Northern Ireland, and is supported throughout the world.
“Alliance will implement the following 9-point plan to expand the provision of integrated education in Northern Ireland, in line with demand.”
1. Support the creation and maintenance of new-build integrated schools.
2. Set a target of 10% of children being educated in integrated schools by 2010.
3. Place a duty on the DENI to encourage, not merely to facilitate, the development of integrated education should be extended to Education and Library Boards.
4. Survey local residents, by the Department, when new schools are being built, for example to service new housing developments, with a presumption that they will be integrated or inter-church; as far as possible, new schools should be sited to service mixed catchment areas.
5. Encourage the transformation of existing schools to ‘transformed’ integrated status.
6. Reform and relax the criteria for the creation and maintenance of integrated schools, giving recognition of those children of mixed, other or no religious background.
7. Give formal recognition to the contribution being made to the process of reconciliation by ‘mixed’ schools, those that have a mixed enrolment but no formal integrated status.
8. Oppose any creation of any perceived ‘right’ to a guarantee of public funding for segregated schools, as this could forever entrench segregated schools and frustrate the process of integration.
9. Advocate the de-segregation of teacher training courses and facilities, and the familiarisation of integrated education policies and practices in such institutions.