Integrated education should be the norm, not exception

Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA is delighted to be sponsoring the launch of the Integrated Education Fund report ‘Young Peoples Voices’ in Stormont today, Wednesday 16 September 2015.

Speaking at the event, Steven Agnew MLA said,

“A full, well-rounded education is one of the most important things we can give our children and young people. After all, the future of Northern Ireland depends on them.

“I believe that integrated education is fundamental to achieving a less divided society and this is clearly borne out by the majority of young people who were engaged as part of the Young People’s Voices report.

“It would be better for our society if our children could be educated together in one school, with no differentiation in terms of faith, ability or socio economic background. This should be the norm rather than the exception.

“Young people need to be allowed to reach their full potential via our education system and this is sadly lacking. From academic selection in primary seven, to a lack of recognition of vocational qualifications, we, as politicians, need to listen to and take on board the views of young people.

“It is only by doing so that our education system will change.

“The Young People’s Voices report also suggests that our future political landscape will be different in the future, driven by the younger generation as they exercise their political choices.

“I can only welcome this as our current Executive staggers from one political crisis to the next. Given that both young people and their parents want integrated education, the barriers must be political.”

With its continued promotion of so called ‘shared’ education the Northern Ireland Assembly risks embedding segregated education for another generation. It is an example of the “shared out” future that has been the direction of travel since the DUP and Sinn Fein took over at the helm.

Steven Agnew MLA added,

“Promoting shared education is a further failure of our education system which denies our children and young people the opportunity to be educated together.

“Shared education is a clever term that sounds like integrated, it sounds like something you have to support, its sound exactly like the sort of thing Northern Ireland needs. However, in effect, it is meaningless.

“Instead of reducing the number of schools by integrating them, shared education is about sharing buildings not classrooms.

“Shared education doesn’t even require the two sharing schools to be ‘different’. Rather, two Catholic schools or two controlled schools could share. That is not integration and nor is it good enough.”

Steven Agnew MLA concluded,

“I am heartened by this Young People’s Voices report from the Integrated Education Fund in that the young people involved expressed an intention to vote.

“I would go a step further than this and encourage all young people, whatever their age, to lobby and inform their local MLAs and political parties as to what government’s priorities should be.

“I would greatly welcome their engagement as it is only having that wider civic engagement that Northern Ireland, as a whole, can move forward to become a less divided society.”

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