Limavady principal defends shared education policy

Mary McCloskey, principal, St. Mary's, Limavady. DER4213JM101
Mary McCloskey, principal, St. Mary's, Limavady. DER4213JM101

A Limavady school principal has defended the policy of shared education after a claim it iss “fundamentally flawed”.

St. Mary’s, Limavady Principal Mary McCloskey defended the policy saying it is an ideal way for schools to share resources to the advantage of both schools. She said it allows for professional development for teachers and educational experiences for students.

“Shared Education allows schools from different sectors to embrace their own ethos while working with others,” Mrs. McCloskey told the ‘Journal’.

The St. Mary’s principal was speaking after Sandra Brown, President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union and a teacher of Drumrane Primary School, Dungiven, said shared education “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,” said Ms Brown. “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?” said Ms Brown. “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.”

Mrs. McCloskey said in many places in N. Ireland shared education has been happening for over 50 years, while in other areas it is a new concept.

“Shared Education is a policy which can only be realised by each individual situation in the way that is best for them,” said Mrs. McCloskey. “We in St Mary’s, Limavady are very lucky to be in close partnership with Limavady High School. We share classes in Learning for Life and Work at Key Stage 3 as well as subject blocks at GCSE and A level. The benefits of shared education are curricular, economic and social.”

Mrs. McCloskey added: “The sharing in Limavady is seen as an example for the whole of N Ireland. What better education could we wish for our children – the future citizens of this country.”