The purpose of shared education is to -
(a) deliver educational benefits to children and young persons;
(b) promote the efficient and effective use of resources;
(c) promote equality of opportunity;
(d) promote good relations; and
(e) promote respect for identity, diversity and community cohesion.
Shared Education means the education together of -
(a) those of different religious belief, including reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic children or young persons; and
(b) those who are experiencing socio-economic deprivation and those who are not, which is secured by the working together and co-operation of two or more relevant providers.
A “relevant provider” means a person providing education at a grant-aided school, or services of any kind (including youth services) which provide educational benefit to children or young persons.
Shared Education Act (Northern Ireland) 2016
The purpose of the Act is to make legislative provision in relation to Shared Education. As well as providing a definition of the core minimum requirements of Shared Education, the Act places a number of duties on Education Bodies including the duty on the Department of Education and the Education Authority to encourage, facilitate and promote Shared Education. The Act also provides a power to relevant arms length bodies to encourage and facilitate Shared Education.
The Act and the accompanying Explanatory notes can be viewed using the following link:
Shared Education Policy
“Sharing Works – A Policy for Shared Education (2015)” sets out the background and development of Shared Education. The policy provides a practical description of how Shared Education works in practice and encourages education settings to go beyond the minimum core definition to address the needs of all groups as set out in Section 75 of the 1998 NI Act
The Policy can be viewed via the following link:
Advancing Shared Education Report to the Northern Ireland Assembly March 2022
This is the third biennial report detailing progress on advancing Shared Education and it is laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly in accordance with section 7 of the Shared Education Act (NI) 2016. The March 2022 report covers the period April 2020 to March 2022.
Links to the two previous reports can be found below
- Advancing Shared Education - Report to the Northern Ireland Assembly June 2020
- Advancing Shared Education Report to the Northern Ireland Assembly May 2018
Shared Education Self Evaluation Frameworks
Schools are at different starting points along a continuum in respect of Shared Education. For some, they are beginning their journey while others are embedding high quality Shared Education experiences for their pupils. Drawing on good practice, the Education & Training Inspectorate has developed Frameworks for Collaboration that should be used to self-assess the extent and quality of Shared Education provision. The frameworks can further assist the partnerships when drafting action plans to facilitate the development and embedding of Shared Education in relevant educational settings.
The frameworks can be viewed via the following links:
- Developing Shared Education in Early Years Settings - A Framework for Collaborative Partnerships 2016-2017
- Developing Shared Education - A Framework for School Partnerships - November 2014
- Developing Shared Education - A Framework for Youth Provision Partnerships - March 2018
Delivering Social Change Shared Education Signature Project (DSC SESP)
The DSC framework was established by the Executive to tackle poverty and social exclusion and aims to deliver a sustained reduction in poverty and associated issues across all ages and improve children and young people’s health, well-being and life opportunities.
The DSC SESP aim is to improve the educational and community relations outcomes through school working collaboratively by further developing and embedding Shared Education in schools that are already engaged in delivery of Shared Education. Funding of up to £25m was made available to eligible schools up to June 2019 to support pupil engagement and to June 2022 to build capacity for Shared Education accross the education system. Support was also provided through the Education Authority’s team of Shared Education Development Officers who provided advice and guidance to schools.
The Education Authority has created an online Shared Education Hub to help build the capacity of existing Shared Education Partnerships to deliver highly effective Shared Education Programmes. The Hub includes online Teacher Professional Learning modules, incorporating practitioner voices, external voices and learning journals, and a series of resources to help advance Shared Education. Accessible to all teachers across Northern Ireland, the Hub can also be used as a training programme to support new schools and other educational settings interested in becoming involved in Shared Education.
Mainstreaming Shared Education Strategy
It is clear from a range of recent evaluative evidence that Shared Education is continuing to have a positive impact on children and young people, their families, communities and the schools and other settings that serve them.
Given the NI Executive’s continued commitment to Shared Education, the commitments made in the Sharing Works Policy document and building on the learning from recent funded Shared Education programmes, the Department has worked with key stakeholders on the plans for the future development of Shared Education.
On 21 September 2022, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen launched the Mainstreaming Shared Education Strategy which sets out the long-term vision and plans for embedding Shared Education throughout the Northern Ireland education system. The Strategy aims to create the conditions to enable partnership working across religious and socio-economic divides and seeks to establish Shared Education as a core feature of educational provision in Northern Ireland that is affordable, sustainable and accessible to all. Extending the reach of Shared Education will help to provide opportunities for all children and young people to benefit from those shared learning experiences.
The Mainstreaming Shared Education Strategy and the related Executive Summary documents can be accessed via the links below:
PEACE IV Shared Education Programme
The PEACE IV Programme is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). €35m was initially awarded to fund the PEACE IV Shared Education Programme, with €30m funding from the EU and match funding from the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland governments.
The programme aims to encourage the development and delivery of Shared Education within education settings that have limited or no prior experience. The Programme operates in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland and funds two projects:
- Collaboration through Sharing in Education (CASE) for Primary, Post-primary and Special schools. This project has a budget of €28.9m and;
- Sharing from the Start (SfS) for early years settings, with a budget of €4.26
Details are available at Peace IV Shared Education Programme.
The Collaborating Through Sharing in Education (CASE) project, delivered by the Education Authority and Léargas, targets Primary, Post-primary and Special Schools, and youth to school settings. CASE aims to build a culture of good relations amongst children and young people in a school based setting and delivery is focused on the provision of direct, sustained, curricular-based contact between children and teachers from all backgrounds Further details are available at CASE | Collaboration and Sharing in Education (sharededucation.org.uk)
The Sharing from the Start (SfS) project, delivered by the Early Years Organisation, together with the Fermanagh Trust and the National Childhood Network, targets early years settings. The project involves children in the early years sector throughout Northern Ireland and the border counties taking part in Shared Education programmes improving educational outcomes and good relations. Further details are available at SfS.
Sharing from the Start is scheduled to run until June 2023 and Collaboration and Sharing in Education until March 2023.
The SEUPB commissioned SJC Consultancy to undertake an impact evaluation of EU PEACE IV-funded ‘Shared Education’. The most recent Evaluation Report (2022) is available at PEACE IV Shared Education – Impact Evaluation Key Findings (ncb.org.uk). The interim Evaluation report (2021) can be accessed via PEACE IV Shared Education. Launch of impact evaluation findings (ncb.org.uk)
PEACE PLUS programme (2021-2027)
The Department is continuing to engage with the SEUPB and colleagues in the Republic of Ireland in developing and planning for the forthcoming PEACE PLUS cross-border collaboration programme. This includes the proposed investment area of Shared Learning Together which will seek to build on the success of the existing PEACE IV Shared Education programme.
Please note that the overall PEACE PLUS co-operation programme is currently being considered by the European Commission and is not yet approved.
Further details regarding PEACE PLUS can be found on the SEUPB website at PEACEPLUS Programme | SEUPB
Young Life and Times and Kids Life and Times Surveys
Further details can be found through the following link: