Two schools knocked back in an application for funding for portion of £500m in shared education monies promised at Stormont House and ‘Fresh Start’ have written to the James Brokenshire asking for an intervention.
Oisín MacEó, of Gaelscoil na Daróige and Nick Tomlinson, of Groarty Integrated, applied for funding to develop a co-location campus in Ballymagroarty, in December.
However, on Monday, the schools received letters from the Education Authority indicating the proposal had not received its endorsement. It said a panel had found that there was not enough evidence of community, parent and pupil support; there was not enough evidence of potential educational and societal benefits; and it did not meet the criteria on religious balance.
Mr. Tomlinson said: “When I got this letter in the door, which coincided with hearing that £47m of £50m in shared education funding had been sent back to Westminster, it just beggars belief.
“I felt a sense of real despair that people in positions of power and authority can plead poverty on the one hand and say how short of money the Northern Ireland Executive is and how short of services they are and then send £47m back to London.”
He believed the application had been strong and had support from the community and from pupils and parents.
“It could have created a wonderful little educational hub in this part of the community. It was such an innovative idea with two schools that speak different languages coming together from different cultural backgrounds.
“My understanding was that that was what this money was for.”
Mr. MacEó said: “The Education Authority needs to realise it has a responsibility to encourage the growth of Irish medium and integrated education and it’s obviously failed in its duty to do that.
“In respect of any new education minister, he needs to be, or she needs to be, aware of their duty as well.
“We will continue to work to build on the cooperation we have been doing and we are not giving up on this by any means.”
The schools have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire questioning why money pledged for shared education is being sent back to London.
They pointed out that the authorities have an obligation under Section 64 of the 1989 Education Order to promote shared education.
They EA said: “In deciding whether to endorse applications, EA refers to the gateway checks and essential criteria that will be used by DE in the final assessment process. EA will not endorse applications that, in its view, do not meet that criteria. EA forwards all applications, including those that have not been endorsed, to the Department of Education.”
The Department of Education said: “Applications to the Third Call to the Shared Education Campuses (SEC) Programme had to be with DE by Janaury 27. The Department has not yet commenced the assessment process.”