NI Secretary hopes integrated educations becomes 'norm' as Government announces £1.9m funding boost

P3 teacher Jessica Cargill with her class at Springfield Primary School in Belfast. Today marks the first day back for Pre-school, nursery and primary school pupils in P1-P3 have retruned to classrooms across Northern Ireland. Picture date: Monday March 8, 2021.
Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Archive/PA Images
The IEF will receive £1,465,000 and the Nicie will receive £435,000. Credit: Archive/PA Images

A £1.9 million funding package to support schools in Northern Ireland which wish to transform to integrated status has been announced by the Government.

The funding will go to the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (Nicie), which work to enable a greater number of children from different community backgrounds to be educated together.

It comes after a High Court judged ruled that the exclusively Christian-focused religious education taught at primary schools in Northern Ireland is unlawful.

The Secretary of State Brandon Lewis is set to visit Lough View Integrated Primary in Belfast, where he will meet its principal Sean Spillane to make the announcement.

Mr Lewis said: "Seeing greater integration of education across Northern Ireland is an absolute priority for me.

"When a school becomes integrated, children learn, grow and build communities together. Parents get to know each other, and long-term friendships develop.

"This is an essential aspect of the reconciliation process.

"My hope is that integration will soon become the norm and not the exception in schools across Northern Ireland.

"The work done by the IEF and Nicie is essential in helping Northern Ireland's children to grow up in a truly shared society."

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is to visit Lough View Integrated Primary in Belfast. Credit: PA Images

Tina Merron, chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund, said: "Integrated education is a core commitment of the Good Friday Agreement and we remember that the British Government is a co-guarantor of that agreement.

"This is an enormous boost to our charitable organisation as we seek to empower and support parents, schools and local communities who want to see more Integrated schooling.

"In the past few years 14 schools across Northern Ireland have held a democratic ballot of their parents in favour of integrated status and the IEF and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education are now working to support more schools than ever before."

US president George Bush visited Lough View Integrated Primary in 2008. Credit: Archive/PA Images

Roisin Marshall, the chief executive officer of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, said: "The Council for Integrated Education empowers school communities to deliberately and intentionally attract children, young people and the adults, who identify as coming from both sides of our divided society as well as those from other religions and cultural backgrounds.

"This funding will enable Nicie to offer more dedicated support to those school communities who wish to explore, develop and embed their Integrated ethos.

"We are very grateful for this additional support to help to meet the increase in parental demand for integrated education."

The IEF will receive £1,465,000 and the Nicie will receive £435,000 over the next two-and-a-half financial years.

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