The ‘Sharing from the Start’ project is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). It involves early years settings throughout Northern Ireland and the Southern Border counties forming cross-community and/ or cross-border partnerships, and the children taking part in joint curricular classes, improving educational outcomes and promoting good relations.
Sharing from the Start will be administered by Early Years working in collaboration with the National Childhood Network and the Fermanagh Trust. Together these three organisations have a strong track record and over twenty years experience of working for the benefit of children and community relations development.
The project aims to bring about positive attitudinal and behavioural change among children, parents, teachers and the wider community. This will be achieved through the implementation of purposeful, direct and sustained curriculum-based contact between children of predominantly different religious backgrounds and different ethnic or socio-economic backgrounds.
Applicants from NI are invited to form cross-community partnerships (partnering with a setting with children of a predominantly different religion). In the ROI, where this is not possible, applicants will be encouraged to partner with settings with children from different ethnic or socio-economic backgrounds.
The main activities of the project, which will run from September 2017 – June 2021 include:
- Developing neighbouring shared education pre-school partnerships;
- Training of pre-school staff on a shared basis;
- Supporting pre-school partnerships to develop and implement a policy to sustain shared education in their settings beyond the end of the project, to sustain inclusion, equality and diversity;
- Involving parents in workshops and activities;
- The project will give priority to children from marginalised and divided communities, ethnic minority communities and vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds.
- Engaging 9,914 pre-school children in shared education activities on an ongoing and sustained basis over the duration of the project.
Shared Education will reduce community divisions in NI and RoI where children predominantly have little interactions with other children from differing backgrounds. Research shows that children develop prejudices from an early age, which further highlights the need for Shared Education to improve community relations. Research and experience show there is demand for Shared Education among pre-schools, schools and young people
Sharing from the Start will place a strong emphasis on developing and deepening reconciliation between divided communities, increase tolerance and respect, promote increased community cohesion and contact and enhance cross-border cooperation. Our aim is to use the provision of direct, sustained, curriculum based contact between children and teachers from different backgrounds to promote good relations and enhance children’s skills and attitudes to contribute to a cohesive society.