This paper examines an initiative promoting collaboration between schools located in a city setting in Northern Ireland, which is broadly divided along ethnic and political lines. The schools involved, like the vast majority of schools in Northern Ireland, educate Protestant and Catholic children separately. This presents particular challenges for school collaboration as it implies the establishment of new, connected relationships in an education system, which is historically and contemporaneously more characterised by division. Since 2007, the schools in this study have been involved in an education initiative which promotes cross-sectoral shared learning in core areas of the curriculum with a view to promoting school improvement; the additional, indirect goal is also about improving community relations. However, over this period, the relationship between the institutions has deepened, leading schools to examine how they can sustain partnership and evolve collaborative practice. This paper explores how the partnership has evolved and assesses its effectiveness as a collaborative enterprise. The paper concludes by demonstrating how effective collaboration between schools in Northern Ireland mitigates the potentially negative impacts of educating children separately, but also how effective models of school collaboration are capable of providing enhanced learning opportunities for pupils and are also capable of developing the communities in which they are located.
- school collaboration; shared education; collaborative effectiveness