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Meabh Gilligan and Brian McGrath, Principal of St Martin’s PS
The Department of Education has officially opened the call for applications to the Delivering Social Change Shared Education Signature Project. Only schools with extensive experience of shared education are asked to apply for this pilot phase of the programme which will target around 75 partnerships. As such, Fermanagh’s schools who have led the way on shared education are in a good position to potentially benefit from the funding.
The Department launched the website www.sepni.org designed to guide schools through the application process. The closing date for this round of applications will be 18th December. There will be an information event for schools interested in making an application for this round in Omagh, 4th December.
The major announcement delivered jointly by the First Minister and deputy First Minister in September that shared education will be funded by the government signalled the culmination of many years of hard, with Fermanagh’s schools at the forefront of the journey. The exemplary work in pioneering shared education, which has drawn admiration and praise from all sections of the community and all political parties, contributed significantly to £25million being allocated over the next four years under the Delivering Social Change Initiative.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust, welcomed the announcement saying “The Assembly’s formal adoption of shared education, making it intrinsic to education policy shows the effectiveness of the programme and now with applications open it ensures the good work in Fermanagh will continue. Schools have been waiting for this for a long time, it is a very welcome development and we look forward to working closely with the partnerships in helping them submit their applications. This is an opportunity not to be missed for our schools. The criteria of the programme states that only those that have already engaged in sustained and well developed programmes of shared education activities should consider applying. That means that Fermanagh’s shared partnerships are exceptionally well placed to avail of this funding. ”
When the Assembly’s Education Committee visited Fermanagh in June in order to help form the government’s shared education policy, Meabh Gilligan P4 pupils from St Martin’s Garrison read out a letter she had prepared for the MLAs about how much she enjoyed all the work she had done with the other schools, the friends she has made and how much she wants shared education to continue.
Education Minister John O’Dowd MLA, impressed by Meabh’s letter, responded by saying “I am aware of the good work that has taken place in schools across Fermanagh on shared education over recent years. It is satisfying to hear from Meabh, in such a well written submission, what a positive and enjoyable experience this shared experience has been for herself and the other pupils and teachers involved. I trust that as a result, the schools involved will continue to build on the learning gained through shared education into the future.” Now with this significant funding commitment, schools will have the opportunity to build upon and embed significantly even greater levels of sharing.