Funding for the cross border European Studies Programme (ESP) has been withdrawn by the Minister for Education in the Stormont Executive, John O’Dowd MLA. The Programme has been funded on a 50:50 basis by the Department of Education, Northern Ireland and the Department of Education and Skills for nearly 30 years. ESP links 90 post-primary schools north and south through collaborative curriculum-based projects furthering tolerance, mutual understanding and an appreciation of the cultures of others.
“I have been contacted by schools across Ireland who are upset to lose this valuable programme. The teachers worked on a volunteer basis and the programme is administered by staff in the Southern Education and Library Board in Armagh. Once the funding was withdrawn by the Stormont Department of Education the programme finished. The staff in Armagh will keep their positions and be reassigned. As a result the funding that is being withdrawn is a direct loss to the pupils. At a time when the European Union is bigger and more diverse than when the programme was established 30 years ago, I want to see the programme restored.”
“90 schools in the Republic and 90 schools in Northern Ireland will lose out as a result of the loss of funding. These 90 schools were assigned to a cluster/working group which contains a Northern Ireland school, a school from the Republic and 4 to 5 other schools from different European countries. The cluster group completed an agreement of curriculum-based work for pupils. Some 70,000 pupils have been engaged in the programme since its inception.”
“I’ve written to the Minister for Education in the Stormont Executive, John O’Dowd MLA. I’m asking him to continue funding this valuable programme. It is not a vast amount of money, circa £1650,000, given the number of schools involved. The funding also has a multiplier effect as it is matched by the Department here in Dublin. I’ll be working with the Department of Education and Skills and the European Commission to see if the European Studies Programme can continue to be funded in the future in another form, but the North-South element is important and should be maintained.”