Published on 22nd Jul, 2020
Peacebuilding is a key theme of SCI’s work - we enable inclusive discussion, collaboration and good practice to support peace building across the world. In Northern Ireland, the concept of shared education has been developed to provide opportunities for children, teachers and communities to build relationships by learning together. The Atlantic Philanthropies invested over £30m in the development of shared education. This included supporting a wide range of research studies examining the impact of sharing in reconciliation and educational terms. Following Atlantic's closure in Northern Ireland in 2015, SCI took on responsibility for its remaining commitments, including its interests in shared education.
SCI’s Summary Review of Evidence draws together the findings from research and policy in the 2010s, concluding that shared education has a positive impact in terms of:
Contact - sustained high quality contact between pupils from different religions in shared education settings results in positive reconciliation effects.
Curriculum - it contributes significantly to school improvement by offering greater curriculum choice and a richer educational experience, with resulting development of critical skills and values among pupils.
Collaboration - the relationships developed through shared education are creating a system of professional self-improvement, re-engineering school processes, enhancing the learning environment and building social capital in communities.
QUB's research on school improvement provides more detail on the views of teachers and principals from schools involved in shared education. It found that collaboration is leading to enhanced opportunities, outcomes and practices, for pupils and teachers, and that it is helping schools not only meet their core educational goals, but to promote positive innovations.
The findings from two recent quantitative studies by QUB and Oxford University are consistent with a body of international evidence that endorses the importance of intergroup contact in improving relations between divided groups and communities:
Queen’s University Belfast and Oxford University carried out a 5 wave longitudinal study of 69 post-primary schools and 6,052 pupils participating in shared education. It found that the students participating in Shared education reported more intergroup contact, more favourable outgroup attitudes, more outgroup trust, and more intergroup empathy in Years 11 and 12 than non-participating students.
Queen’s University also completed a comparative study of 297 teachers and principals, finding that teachers involved in shared education had more (and more positive) cross-community friendships, were more likely to engage in approach behaviours towards members of the ‘other’ community (e.g., seek them out, find out more about them), and reported greater professional satisfaction than teachers not currently involved in shared education.