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Integrated Education

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2020

The Government continue to be committed to integrated education in Northern Ireland, which is why we provided £500 million of funding to the Northern Ireland Executive for the development of integrated and shared schools as part of the “Fresh Start” agreement. The Executive have confirmed that they have so far spent £31 million to the end of 2019-20, and the full £500 million of “Fresh Start” capital has been committed to the end of 2025-26. We want to see investment delivered quickly in Northern Ireland, and the establishment of an independent fiscal council would support the Assembly to hold the Executive to account on delivery, as well as on other fiscal and budgetary matters.

Who we learn with and live alongside could scarcely be more fundamental to how we see the world. Integrated education is one of the major unfulfilled legacies of the Good Friday agreement. Is it not time to seize the opportunity presented by the “New Decade, New Approach” deal and together drive real progress on shared education that will build a fairer society?

Last March, I was pleased to host the Integrated Education Fund here in Westminster. We had a very positive cross-party discussion with the fund about how we all support our shared desire to ensure that every child in Northern Ireland gets a good education in a good school. Despite the pandemic, good progress is being made on the ground with the parties to support children. Will the Secretary of State and the Minister commit to doing all they can to support them in delivering this long overdue legacy work?

I agree with the hon. Lady about the importance of this issue. As she knows, under the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement, the Executive agreed to establish a programme for government, including an

“Enhanced strategic focus and supporting actions on educating our children and young people together in the classroom, in order to build a shared and integrated society.”

I have met some of the Northern Irish parties to discuss progress on delivering shared and integrated education, and I share their ambition to speed up delivery. I believe that the establishment of an independent fiscal council would help to accelerate that delivery.