Dungiven teacher slams shared education

Copyright � Kevin Cooper Sandra Brown, UTU President
Copyright � Kevin Cooper Sandra Brown, UTU President

A Londonderry teacher believes the Education Minister’s Shared Education policy is ‘fundamentally flawed’.

Sandra Brown, President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union and a teacher of Drumrane Primary School, was speaking as a consultation period was launched on the policy and accompanying Shared Education Bill.

“The Executive wants schools to engage with the concept of shared education – which schools have no problem embracing – but the question is, at what cost,” said Ms Brown, a teacher at Drumrane Primary, Dungiven.

“It must not be introduced to schools on a basis which means they have to compete against each other, yet that is exactly what is happening and as such it is fundamentally flawed. We need the Executive to take this on board and come up with a more joined-up approach.

“The Minister is expecting schools in various clusters throughout Northern Ireland to share resources, expertise and best practice yet at the same time these schools face potential closure if their numbers dip.

“This is because of how schools are funded – a system based on the number of pupils. It is common sense – why would one school share its best practice, its winning formula for success, with a neighbour if that neighbour might potentially poach its pupils and leave it facing possible closure.

“Schools will not be able to embrace shared education in its fullest sense until that threat of potential closure is lifted. The Executive is creating a system which is not sustainable – it threatens to set school against school. It is a system which must surely ultimately implode and again we will have seen millions of pounds wasted.”