Further Investment for Shared Learning

Wednesday, 19 June 2024


A cross border consortium led by the Education Authority has been awarded €34.5m (£29m) of PEACEPLUS funding to support shared learning in formal education settings across Northern Ireland and the border counties. 

The Advancing Shared Partnerships through Inclusive Relationships in Education (ASPIRE) project will bring students from different cultural, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds together to learn, while also providing joint training schemes to upskill educators to better equip them to facilitate shared learning.

The project aims to engage 111,000 pupils and 1,761 educators over the next four and a half years. The programmes will be delivered at every level including pre-school, primary and post primary schools, primarily targeted at those with no or limited prior engagement in shared education.

The ASPIRE project is led by the Education Authority, working alongside partners Léargas, Early Years, National Childhood Network and the Fermanagh Trust. The project will engage with key stakeholders from across the education sector including parents and communities.

The Special EU Programmes Body announced the award, which follows awards made  earlier this year of €13.3m for a North South schools civic exchange programme and non-formal shared learning projects.

Commenting on today’s announcement:

Education Minister Paul Givan said: “Building on the success of earlier PEACE IV shared education projects, the new ASPIRE programme offers the opportunity to deliver a range of educational, social and economic benefits over the coming years. This will enable children and young people to participate in a range of shared learning opportunities with their peers, supporting the professional development of education staff, and fostering a collaborative approach across the system.”

Minister for Education, Ms Norma Foley said:

"I am delighted that the ASPIRE project under the Shared Learning Together Education Programme has been awarded funding under this ambitious new PEACE PLUS Programme.

“It is the principal aim of the PEACEPLUS Programme to build peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland and to contribute to a cohesive society.

“In direct support of this goal, the Shared Learning Together Education investment area aims to provide direct, sustained contact between children from all communities, socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds, to build a more peaceful, prosperous and cohesive society.

“Through increasing the number of children, educators and school leaders in sustained cross-sectoral and cross-community partnerships, a focus on achieving educational, societal and economic benefits will be central to the outcomes of this Programme.

“Initiatives such as this will support the North-South collaboration in education policies and strategies with a view to increasing participation and completion in pre-schools and schools. Further investment through my Department for this project underlines my commitment to this collaboration.

“The continued investment and support from the EU for the PEACE Programme is valued, welcomed and commended.”

SEUPB Chief Executive Gina McIntyre said:

“We are delighted to announce this landmark investment in shared learning. Bringing children and young people, from different communities and different backgrounds, together at the earliest stage is key to breaking down the divisions and segregation that still exists today, and provides an opportunity to create a truly integrated, equal and shared society. The ASPIRE programme will support thousands of children and young people to see that “difference” is not a cause for division but for celebration and an opportunity for learning and growth. I congratulate the Education Authority and the project partners on the work they have done to develop such a diverse and ambitious programme and I look forward to seeing the impact it will have for generations to come.”

The PEACEPLUS Programme has been designed to promote peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland and has a total value of €1.14 billion. The Programme will be delivered over the next five years and will support a wide range of sectors including health and social care, the protection of the environment, rural regeneration, smart towns and villages, local regeneration and mental health services.

PEACEPLUS is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body and represents a funding partnership between the European Union, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive.

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