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O’Dowd discusses shared education during a visit to Fermanagh

Education Minister, John ODowd, today visited Fermanagh where he met with representatives from the Fermanagh Trust before visiting two schools in the area.
Wednesday, 17 April 2013

During the first part of the day the Minister met with the Fermanagh Trust and Principals from local primary schools who are participating in the ‘Shared Education’ Programme.

The Minister heard of the successes and challenges of shared education in Fermanagh and had the opportunity to discuss the Department’s position on shared education going forward.

He said: “‘Every School a Good School’ is my Department’s flagship school improvement policy. Its primary objective is to raise education standards and address underachievement to ensure that our children and young people reach their full potential.

“The policy outlines that one of the main characteristics of an effective school is a strong connection with its local community. It is within this context that shared education solutions can progress with the agreement and support of parents, schools and the wider community.

“In the current Programme for Government there are commitments that relate to the advancement of shared education. To assist in this process I established an independent Ministerial Advisory Group and asked them to provide recommendations on advancing shared education. Following publication of the independent report, it is my intention to open up the debate about shared education and start a much broader civic discussion on the subject of cross-sector co-operation, collaboration and integration.”

The Minister also recently announced additional funding of approximately £10million to help schools deliver on their commitment under the Entitlement Framework. From September, schools will be required to offer an increased number of courses to Key Stage 4 and Post-16 pupils, ensuring a broad and balanced range.

At that time the Minister said: “We need to prepare our young people so they can contribute positively in a rapidly changing society. Pupils who have the opportunity to study subjects that interest and excite them are more likely to enjoy school and gain the qualifications they need to successfully progress into further or higher education, training or employment. Greater sharing and co-operation between schools and across sectors is the key to delivering access to the curriculum on the basis of equality. The full implementation of the Entitlement Framework will therefore play an important role in ensuring equality of opportunity for all pupils and advancing shared education.”

During his meeting with the Fermanagh Trust, the Minister made reference to the ongoing area planning process and how it will inform how education is delivered. He said: “I know there are concerns about this process, particularly in some rural areas of Fermanagh. I want to emphasise this process is not about closing schools. It is about ensuring that all young people have access to high quality education that is delivered efficiently and effectively. Through the area planning process, my department will look at new ways of helping schools deliver high quality education and that includes shared education models. I want to assure everyone, however, that no decisions will be taken on the future of any school without a period of public consultation where the local community and other key stakeholders will have the opportunity to have their say.”

Following his meeting with the Fermanagh Trust, the Minister visited Bunscoil an Traonaigh in Lisnaskea where he met with the Principal and pupils, followed by a tour of the school.

Concluding official business in Fermanagh, the Minister visited St Mary’s Primary School, Newtownbutler where he attended a ‘Families and Schools Together’ graduation ceremony which is managed by ‘Save the Children’.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Department of Education has launched a new ‘Education Works’ advertising campaign. The campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect website for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  2. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.