MLAs reject Alliance motion on integrated education

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Trevor Lunn of Alliance called on the education minister to allow integrated education "to be allowed to expand according to parental demand", on 17 June 2014.

His party's motion centred on a recent High Court ruling which reaffirmed a statutory duty to "encourage and facilitate integrated education" under article 64 of the 1989 Education Reform Order.

Mr Lunn said the current policy of area planning and the duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education "are often incompatible".

The DUP's Mervyn Storey said that rather than resolving a problem the Alliance motion was "in danger of creating another whole set of problems".

He said his party had "always apposed the 89 Order because the 89 Order does not give a level playing field" to all sectors.

Pat Sheehan of Sinn Fein said he supported an "all-singing, all-dancing model of integration".

Mr Sheehan said the current model "fed into the falsehood that the conflict and divisions were sectarian in nature when in fact they were about differences in national allegiance and national identity".

He said many nationalists saw the integrated sector as "a Trojan horse aimed eroding anything associated with Irishness".

Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan opposed the Alliance motion saying it would only perpetuate an already-existing flaw in the education system.

"It pits sector against sector," he said.

Mr Kinahan said his party supported integrated education and that "shared education is really the only way forward".

Steven Agnew of the Green Party said he was a director of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and supported the motion.

Mr Agnew said he would prefer that integrated schools should not have a Christian ethos.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said the recent court ruling was "not a landmark judgement against my department".

He welcomed the clarification it afforded and said the judge had declared that the "needs model" and area planning policy were not illegal.

The minister said he would review internal guidance to his officials and that education provision would continue to be "planned on a strategic basis".

The motion was defeated by 40 votes to 29.

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