The Integrated Education Fund
The Integrated Education Fund was established in 1992 to bridge the gap between the limited government money available for integrated schools and what was actually needed.
The IEF is a registered charity which is entirely dependent on fundraising. We draw our mandate from the growing demand from parents and pupils for inclusive high quality integrated education.
After decades of conflict and violence, we now have optimism for the future. Bitterly opposed political parties have sat down together in a ground-breaking power sharing government.
But Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided society. Mistrust and misconceptions are among the biggest threats to a better future. Many children still reach adulthood having had little contact with people from the other side of the religious divide.
Where better to start than with educating children together?
This is not just the IEF’s view. It’s the belief of many communities and schools across Northern Ireland. In some areas people have moved more quickly than politicians in creating a shared future by requesting integrated education for their children. We know the demand exists. Many integrated schools simply cannot keep up with the number of children who want to attend them.
Yet on several occasions we have been told by politicians and officials that an integrated school would not be viable in a certain area. Parents knew they could prove otherwise and asked the IEF to stand behind them – through the generosity and support of individual and corporate donors, and other trusts and organisations we have independently funded eight such schools. The majority of these are now fully government funded and over subscribed for places.
The Integrated Education Movement is parent-led and open to everyone. It can help to provide the cross-sectoral approach to education identified in the Strategic Review of Education carried out in 2006, where “children grow up to feel comfortable in their own uniqueness and comfortable with difference. For that to happen, they need to be able to work together and ‘play’ together so that eventually, they can assume a shared responsibility for their future.” This belief is alluded to again in government’s consultation document, the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI). In Northern Ireland, this will require the various sectors (Controlled; Maintained; Irish Medium; Integrated; Voluntary Grammar) maximising the opportunity to collaborate in the provision of education.
Such a collaboration must be for the benefit of the children, not the sectors.