The Alliance Party has launched a ten-point plan to expand the provision of Integrated Education in Northern Ireland – and challenged the Government and other parties to provide leadership, not just lip service, to ensuring every child has access to integrated education without exception.
As the plans were published at the start of Community Relations week, Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long stated: “It is outrageous that parents seeking to send their children to integrated schools have this choice denied to them. The prospects of an integrated, stable and prosperous future for this area of the world will remain bleak for as long as this basic right is denied.
“Alliance is putting forward a ten-point plan on the broadening of integrated provision to meet demand, and on the promotion of integrated education. In so doing, we are challenging other parties and the Government to stop talking grandly about the principle, and move on to taking practical action to ensure that every parent in Northern Ireland who wants integrated education for their child has access to it, and that the case for integrated education is made loud and clear.
“We have long called for a clear target of 10% of children educated by the integrated sector by 2010, and for the Government to recognize its duty not just to encourage but to facilitate integrated education.
“To achieve this, the presumption should be that all new-build schools are integrated, that transformation to integrated status is more easily achieved, and that all teacher training courses should be integrated.
“It is essential that the contribution made to integrated education goes beyond the integrated sector and includes schools that have become effectively ‘mixed’, that sharing of facilities between schools outside the integrated sector is encouraged, and that the use of ‘labels’ or ‘quotas’ should not be essential to attaining integrated status.
“The outcome must be that parents’ basic right to local, integrated education is respected without exception, that more and more parents and children become aware of the short-term and long-term benefits of integrated education. A society free from ‘benign apartheid’ at such a young age will be a society free from the sectarian poison which has held us back for far too long.”