Students and staff at Lagan College were delighted to welcome the leader of the Labour party, the Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn MP, to the school yesterday (Thursday 24 May). The Labour leader was keen to see Northern Ireland’s first planned integrated school during his visit to Belfast, and to learn about the ethos of integration.
Jeremy Corbyn was greeted by Lagan College Principal Amanda McNamee and governors’ chair Francis Martin; Baroness May Blood; Roisin Marshall, CE of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE); and Tina Merron and Richard Lemon of the IEF. The Labour leader was accompanied by the Shadow Secretary of State for NI, Tony Lloyd MP and his team.
After meeting with staff and prefects and hearing about the ethos of integrated education, the Labour leader was then introduced to a panel of sixth form politics students, who made the most of a question and answer session with Mr Corbyn.
Praising the students he had met at Lagan College Jeremy Corbyn said
“Having difference is not a problem; having difference and not recognising it is a problem; having difference and hating somebody because of it is a big problem. Lagan College teaches us that there is another way and it’s been fantastic to be here. Thank you for having us.”
Ms McNamee said
“I am very proud of our students, who enjoyed questioning and challenging Mr Corbyn on his political views whilst demonstrating our ethos of respect and equality. It was also wonderful for the young people to meet Baroness May Blood, who has been a strong advocate for integrated education and who has called for more provision to meet the parental demand for children in Northern Ireland to be educated together.”
Commenting on the visit, Labour Peer and integrated education campaigner Baroness Blood said
“It’s a pleasure to welcome the party leader to Northern Ireland and to take the opportunity to show him how integration works – for everyone. Like all the integrated schools in Northern Ireland, Lagan College was not begun by government, but by passionate campaigners. We’re all very proud that from small beginnings within this school, the movement has grown and spread throughout Northern Ireland. There are now 65 integrated schools promoting social, cultural and religious integration alongside educational excellence.”
Lagan College was founded in Belfast in 1981 by a small group of parents as a response to the challenge of community conflict and a religiously-divided school system in Northern Ireland. On its opening day 28 pupils attended the college; the school’s enrolment is now more than 1300 pupils.
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