Education Minister must explain how he will meet obligations to integrated education, says Mathison, ahead of motion

The Education Minister must explain how he is planning on meeting his obligations to integrated education following the removal of funding for a number of local schools, Alliance Education spokesperson Nick Mathison MLA has said.

Education Nick Mathison Integrated Education

The Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee was speaking ahead of an Alliance motion on the Fresh Start funding in the Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday). Ten new-build integrated school projects were put on hold when £150 million ringfenced for integrated and shared schools in the Fresh Start Agreement was reprofiled by the UK Government, leaving the schools unable to proceed.

Alliance’s motion calls on the Assembly to reaffirm its commitment to integrated education, criticises the removal of the money and calls on the Minister to recommit capital funding for new build integrated education projects as a matter of priority.

“Integrated education has a key role to play in building a shared society,” said Mr Mathison.

“These 10 schools have been left devastated by the news the funding for their new building projects has been withdrawn. There was no advance notice of the decision, despite the significant preparation and adjustments they made in preparation for the works needed.

“The UK Government needs to reverse its decision, which flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement’s pledge to facilitate and encourage integrated education as an essential element of reconciliation, and which goes against the Government’s stated commitment to integrated education.

“Years of chronic underinvestment in our education system and multiple collapses of this Assembly have all attributed to this dire situation. Alliance’s motion does not intend to put one sector against the other but rather assure the 10 schools we recognise the heart-breaking position they have been put in and will do all we can to remedy this.

“On that, the Education Minister has a major role to play. Following the introduction of the Integrated Education Act by Alliance in the last Assembly mandate, he now has a legal duty to provide sufficient places in integrated schools to aim to meet the demand for integrated education. Under the Act, resources must be identified to support and provide for integrated education.

“The Education Minister must explain how he is planning on meeting these obligations in light of the removal of this funding. With the money not being lost to the Executive, he must do all in his power to bring it back into his Department's control and ensure these schools still receive this vital investment.”


Wording of the motion -


That this Assembly reaffirms its commitment to the facilitation and growth of integrated education as set out in the Good Friday Agreement; notes the Department of Education’s duty to meet the demand for the provision of integrated education within the context of the overall sustainability of the school estate as set out in the Integrated Education Act 2022; welcomes the support of the Independent Review of Education for expanding integrated education; believes that integrated education is fundamental to transforming our education sector, with both societal and financial benefits, and is vital to building a more shared and reconciled community; regrets the UK Government’s decision to remove ring-fencing from £150m in Fresh Start funding for new build integrated education projects; further notes the Minister of Education’s letter to the Secretary of State requesting funding for Fresh Start projects; calls on the UK Government to reverse its decision; and further calls on the Minister to seek to recommit capital funding to support new build integrated education projects as a matter of priority.