Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson and candidate for Mid-Ulster, Sandra Overend, has welcomed the launch of a campaign by the Integrated Education Fund empowering parents to register their interest in their child’s school becoming integrated.
Mrs Overend said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party has a long standing tradition of wanting children in Northern Ireland to be educated together, across the religious divide. From the first Ulster Unionist Education Minister, Lord Londonderry in 1921 to the last, Basil McIvor in 1974, we have tried to create a religiously integrated school system in Northern Ireland. These efforts have been frustrated but now, 19 years after the Belfast Agreement, with community buy-in to the consent principle and the legitimacy of the state, surely the time is right to make a quantum leap in breaking down the denominational divide in Northern Ireland.
“This is not about favouring one sector over another or seeing integrated education as some sort of alternative to mainstream education in Northern Ireland. Instead, the Ulster Unionist Party wants every child to have the opportunity to be educated together side by side in the classroom under a single state education system. We want to see a society free from sectarianism and hatred. This is one of the most fundamental steps in that process and we must take it, otherwise we will never be truly reconciled.
“We believe that ultimately parents and communities hold the power to make this happen and it must come from the bottom up – not from the top down. If communities can come together and tackle our segregated education system at a grassroots level, we could really make huge strides in tackling sectarianism in our communities as well as simultaneously creating a school system that will serve children and society for years to come.”