Educate Together have been working closely with the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Eduction (NICIE) to share information and ideas in recent weeks. NICIE support the development of integrated primary and post primary schools in Northern Ireland. Integrated schools share many similarities with Educate Together schools, however integrated schools have a Christian ethos, and focus on integrating children primarily from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, as well as those from minority or no religions. Their schools work to create a ‘shared space’ where children are safe to express their cultural and religious beliefs, as well as acknowledging Northern Irelands post-conflict environment. All integrated schools are publicly funded schools, maintained by a Board of Governors.
Lorna McAlpine, Senior Development Officer with NICIE met with staff in Educate Together’s national office. Lorna’s experience in both starting up new schools and transforming existing largely segregated schools into integrated schools proved to be very interesting for all the staff who met with her.
The following day, a number of Educate Together staff visited two of NICIEs Second-level integrated schools, accompanied by Peter McCreadie, retired principal of Priory Integrated College, Holywood and Olwen Griffith, principal of Blackwater Integrated College in Downpatrick. Both Peter and Olwen are members of Educate Together’s Second Level Advisory Panel. The visit to the schools, New Bridge Integrated College in Banbridge, and Priory Integrated College was very interesting and informative. Educate Together staff received an extremely warm welcome in both schools. The experiences that students and staff encounter in integrated schools have extraordinary similarities with Educate Together schools. As Educate Together embark on journey that will involve transforming existing primary schools into Educate Together schools, the advice and experience of NICIE will almost certainly be drawn on.
NICIE, and the schools we visited, have expressed a keen interest in linking more closely with Educate Together schools. One way to link up with an integrated school in Northern Ireland is through the ‘Dissolving Boundaries’ programme which brings together schools from both sides of the border, using ICT. Each year, the programme brings together 60 schools, some of which are integrated schools. The paired schools collaborate on projects, sharing experiences with each other. Educate Together schools, such as Donabate/Portrane ETNS have taken part in this programme in the recent past.
For further information, visit www.dissolvingboundaries.org