Liam Neeson has joined forces with the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) to let parents know about a new initiative which puts integrated education within reach for nearly every school in Northern Ireland. The campaign, which is launched today (8 Feb) is called “Integrate My School – I’m In” and Liam Neeson has released a powerful online video message of support.
At the centre of the campaign is a website, www.integratemyschool.com , where parents of children at primary and post-primary schools in Northern Ireland can register their interest in transforming their school to an integrated one, kick-starting a process which research has shown would be supported by most parents in Northern Ireland.
In his video, Liam Neeson says,
“We look to our children for the future, so why do we continue to educate them apart: different religions, different backgrounds, different schools? There is another way. Most people agree that educating children together is a better way forward for our society. It’s time to turn our aspiration into reality, to believe in your children and believe in their future.”
Tina Merron, CEO of the IEF explains:
“Research has repeatedly revealed that a majority of Northern Ireland parents want their school to become integrated . When it comes to making it happen, however, what many people don’t know is that, integration is supported by the Department for Education and government policy in Northern Ireland. And, if a minimum of 20% of parents at a school express an interest in integration, the school’s Board of Governors is then required to put the matter to the whole school for consultation. By logging on and registering their interest confidentially on the IntegrateMySchool website, parents could take almost any school in Northern Ireland on the first steps towards integration.
“This is not an overnight process and schools can only transform to integrated status with parental approval and parental involvement, but this online registration is a very important first step in showing the interest of the school community, in complete confidentiality and without prejudice. A strong expression of interest from enough parents at a school means there is the momentum to drive the school to the next stage.”
Baroness May Blood, Campaign Chair of the Integrated Education Fund, said
“At a time when our political situation is in such turmoil, the most exciting thing about today’s launch is that the process of bringing children together for their education is not something which relies on politicians to begin, but is in the hands of parents and schools and can begin right away. The regulations are already in place, so it only takes parents to show their interest and the wheels of change can begin to turn. It’s not often that this happens in this country so this is quite a unique opportunity. This campaign marks the start of a very interesting and exciting period of change in education in Northern Ireland – and in our society as a whole.”
The IntegrateMySchool website features video instructions on the simple three-step registration process. All of Northern Ireland primary and post-primary schools are listed alphabetically and through a search tool, parents simply find their child’s school, fill in the confidential online form to submit their details and then click on a link to receive an email in order to verify their identity and prevent spamming.
Notes to editors
The IEF is the charity (registered as NIC104886) which provides financial support for the development and growth of integrated education. Our aim is to enable children to learn together in an environment that celebrates religious and cultural diversity, making integration, not separation, the norm in the Northern Ireland education system. On the basis of parental demand we continue to support the establishment of more integrated school places, the transformation of existing non-integrated schools to integrated status and cross-community school initiatives that provide meaningful interaction between pupils, parents, staff and the wider community.
There are currently 65 integrated schools across Northern Ireland; as of September 2016, 25 of these schools had transformed into integrated schools thanks to the support of their parents. The first integrated school, Lagan College, was opened in 1981 with 26 pupils. Today there are more than 22,000 in integrated education at nursery, primary and post-primary levels.
There are four core principles underpinning integrated education:
1) Children of all traditions and background, all faiths and none, learn with and from each other – not just about each other
2) The school seeks to reflect the diversity of the wider community in its staff, pupils and Board of Governors
3) Parents are encouraged and enabled to get more involved in the school
4) Equality and respect are paramount and help to build self-respect and self-esteem.