Educate Together, the Integrated Education Fund and Ulster University announce partnership to strengthen education provision in border communities

Educate Together, the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and Ulster University are delighted to announce an innovative partnership project to develop and strengthen the sustainability of primary education provision in border communities.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI), which promotes reconciliation and integration between and within communities across Northern Ireland and in the border areas of Ireland, is supporting the project under its Communities in Partnership Programme (CIPP). £99,551 in funding is to be provided under the Strengthening Civic Engagement in Border Communities project.

The project aims to better understand border communities’ experiences of education and expectations of education provision. It will investigate the challenges and opportunities of living in border areas, particularly in access to education. It will explore the preferences of the border communities in terms of the type and location of primary schools and provide an insight into the longer-term views regarding sustainable school provision in each area.

Two cross-border rural areas will be selected to engage in a series of broad and in-depth community conversations – facilitated workshops, surveys, discussions and events aimed at bringing communities together from each side of the border.

The funding has been awarded to Integrated Education Fund, Ulster University and Educate Together on the basis of the three organisations’ shared commitment to community engagement, equality of access to education, and integration as essential to building stronger and more reconciled communities.

Tina Merron, CEO of the Integrated Education Fund commented:

“The IEF is delighted to have been awarded this generous grant by the International Fund for Ireland to work in partnership with Ulster University and Educate Together for this cross-border project. It is crucial that parents and local communities are engaged and have their voices heard when it comes to local educational provision. This innovative project provides an exciting opportunity to achieve that objective through a community-led engagement approach.”

On behalf of the Ulster University research team, Dr Una O’Connor Bones stated:

Researchers from the School of Education at Ulster University are delighted to be part of the project and look forward to engaging with communities along the border on this important initiative. We hope the project will generate a better understanding of educational provision in these areas. This project builds on successful research undertaken by the Ulster University team (Community Conversations, Future Schools Toolkit) and provides a unique opportunity to extend this work into cross-border settings for the first time.”

Commenting on the award, Dr Emer Nowlan, CEO of Educate Together said:

“Educate Together is delighted to be working in partnership with Ulster University and the Integrated Education Fund on this innovative project. The ‘Community Conversations’ approach demonstrates best practice in participatory community consultation, and it is exciting that this expertise is being brought to communities north and south of the border for the first time.

 “This project will facilitate high quality, respectful engagement in border areas on questions of sustainability, school provision and community cohesion, giving all stakeholders a voice and informing future developments. We see great potential to extend this approach to other areas of the country where similar conversations are needed.”


  • The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is a charity which promotes integrated education and supports access to integrated education for those who choose it. The IEF supports the establishment of new schools, the growth of existing schools and those schools seeking to become integrated through the Transformation process in Northern Ireland.
  • Having marked its 50th anniversary in 2019, the School of Education at Ulster University has an established independent tradition of public engagement. Its collaborative and innovative approaches to research position education as an agent of change for civic society leading to impact on policy and practice at local, national and international levels. Ulster University is registered with the Charity Commission of Northern Ireland.
  • Educate Together is a school patron, and the representative body for 117 equality-based primary and second-level schools in Ireland. Educate Together schools guarantee equality of access and esteem to children irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background, are learner centred in their approach to education and are run as participatory democracies, with respectful partnership between parents, pupils and staff.
  • The International Fund for Ireland was established as an independent organisation by the British and Irish Governments in 1986 with financial contributions from the United States of America, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The total resources committed to the Fund to date amount to £728m / €914m, supporting over 6,000 projects across the island of Ireland. The Fund aims to promote economic and social advance as well as encourage contact and dialogue between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.