Concern after shared education project comes to an end

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South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan has questioned the sincerity of the Department of Education to shared education in Northern Ireland.

His comments come in the wake of the ending of a teacher sharing project in controlled and maintained primary schools in County Antrim, including one at Moneynick and Duneane primary schools.

Twenty-three schools took part in a series of partnerships between schools attended mostly by either Catholics or Protestants.

The loss of funding means 10 jobs for shared teachers have been lost.

Both Duneane and Moneynick schools thought the scheme was so valuable that they are spending their own budgets to buy in a shared teacher for two days a week.

Donna Winters of Duneane Primary and Emer Hughes of Moneynick Catholic Primary have clubbed together to find the money but Ms Winters said: “We don’t know how long we’ll be able to fund the shared teacher ourselves, even though we do want to continue it at all costs.”

Mrs Hughes said: “The results have been amazing, not just for pupils but for teachers, principals and parents.”

Responding to news the project had ended, Mr Kinahan said: “If a programme like this was working - and all agree that it was - then the funding to support it should be mainstreamed – not left to short term charitable contributions.”

The UUP MLA added: “In some towns where the sharing of classes and resources across the religious/educational divide had been developing organically over many years, it ended almost overnight - without any reference to ‘area planning’ or the greater good of wider society.

“I am afraid that the current situation means that shared education across Northern Ireland remains piecemeal and an exception to the rule.”

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