COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley– Mooney, today launches her report on ‘shared’ education which provides a unique insight into the views of children and young people.
”Northern Ireland’s education system remains very separate,” said Mrs Lewsley-Mooney. “However, shared education presents important opportunities to promote good relations and respect diversity”.
”It is vital that pupils play a role in influencing how shared education is taken forward and that the Department of Education supports schools to provide genuine shared learning initiatives.”
The Report found that pupils generally agreed with the importance of young people from different school types and backgrounds learning together and recognised its potential to enhance learning.
Pupils also highlighted various issues which they believe should be addressed by schools and Government to improve ‘shared’ education experiences.
”Challenges for some pupils included: sharing spaces and classes with young people of different religions, abilities and backgrounds; and the experience of being in a minority in another school.” said the Commissioner. “Primary school pupils were particularly concerned about the increased potential for bullying.”
Pupils suggested practical solutions to overcome some of the challenges. These included introducing shared education at an early stage in a pupil’s school life. Also by giving pupils opportunities to take part in discussions or interactive workshops in advance of shared learning experiences, it may help challenge negative perceptions before pupils met together in class.
Pupils and teachers highlighted the importance of trialing shared education initiatives and establishing buddy and mentor schemes. They also identified particular subjects which would benefit from collaborative learning approaches.
The Commissioner continued:”There are examples of very good shared education practices.
“However in some cases, experiences of shared education appeared to be ‘shared but separate’, highlighting that although they were in the same class they remained in their own school groups and interaction with other pupils was limited.”
Mrs Lewsley – Mooney concluded: “Whatever arrangement the Minister decides on to move forward with, the voices of children and young people must be heard and acted upon.
“Shared education must be about enhancing mutual understanding and good relations, but this has to be finely balanced with delivering educational benefits for all pupils through the effective use of resources.
“Through this report children and young people have offered very practical solutions to help towards achieving this goal.”