Education Minister John O’Dowd has been accused of encouraging and facilitating “segregation” in education.
South Antrim MLA and UUP education spokesman Danny Kinahan said: “On the one hand we have a minister professing his support for shared education, and saying it is a priority for the Executive.
“Yet on the other hand he is enthusiastically approving proposals from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) to amalgamate Catholic maintained primary schools and Catholic grammar and secondary schools – without any reference whatsoever to the local integrated and state controlled sectors.
“These decisions are often accompanied by major public expenditure in terms of new school buildings.”
Mr Kinahan claimed that doubt had been cast on the minister’s commitment to shared education after approving the amalgamation of St Michael’s Grammar, St Mary’s High and St Paul’s Junior High in Lurgan.
The UUP man said he had come to the conclusion that “an ideological decision has been made to attack and end academic selection above all else, and implicit protection has been given to segregated education in Northern Ireland”.
He added: “So much for shared education; under this minister, educational apartheid continues.”
Last night, Mr O’Dowd said: “Mr Kinahan seems to misunderstand the concept of the shared education campuses that the Executive is seeking to establish.
“The campuses will consist of schools that retain their individual identity while sharing a location, facilities and other resources. They will be cross-community between the two main local traditions and others; there will not be any ‘educational apartheid’, as he calls it.”
Mr O’Dowd added that in January he had called for local schools to submit proposals for shared education campuses.