Trevor Lunn MLA said: “As I speak, our schools are still over 90% segregated. The maintained sector is pressing ahead with its own post primary review which appears to pay scant regard to the needs of our school population as a whole. The controlled sector insists that as a state system it is open to children of all faiths and none, as indeed does the maintained sector, but they both utterly fail, with a few honourable exceptions, to attract pupils from across the divide.
“The Department of Education in the terms of the 1989 Order has a duty to encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education. I ask the question – Would an objective study of the Department’s actions in this area conclude that it had tried to carry out this duty with anything approaching enthusiasm? I believe that it may have facilitated where it had little option, but has fallen well short in terms of encouragement.
“The statistics of empty desks, school building and maintenance programmes in disarray, a crumbling school estate point the way towards a massive and urgent need for cross-sectoral co-operation as an absolute imperative.
“Does anyone still doubt the economic, educational and social benefits of more sharing and integration? If so, they are living in a different world to me.
“The Department should reform and relax the criteria for the creation and maintenance of integrated schools, to give recognition to those children of mixed, other or no religious background.
“Things cannot stay as they are. Current arrangements are totally unsustainable and I look forward to the Minister’s response to this motion.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Here is the Alliance motion debated in the Assembly today:
Motion – Integrated and Shared Education
That this Assembly notes the report by Oxford Economics ‘Developing the Case for Shared Education’; believes that the current education system is unsustainable; recognises the economic, educational and social benefits that can come from integrated and shared education; and calls on the Minister of Education to actively promote a system of integrated and shared education throughout Northern Ireland.
Mr T Lunn Mr C Lyttle Dr S Farry