The experience of intergroup contact in primary-school ‘Shared Education’ classrooms: evidence from Northern Ireland

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The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of pupils and teachers within two primary school Shared Education partnerships in Northern Ireland; in particular, how intergroup contact is experienced within such contexts. A comparative, instrumental case study design was employed, which included document review, observation of Shared Education activities, interviews with school principals and teachers, and arts-based group interviews with children. While the paper supports existing research from secondary schools which suggests the potential of Shared Education to create spaces for building positive relations between pupils, the findings also highlighted several key issues which further extend understanding of Shared Education. Firstly, it emphasised the importance of planning, time and structure in Shared Education activity in order to dispel negativity and social awkwardness; secondly, it suggested the need for teachers to ‘model’ positive cross-group relations in their relationships between each other; and thirdly, it revealed a lack of clarity around how to deal with controversial issues as part of Shared Education activity. The paper concludes by suggesting that there is a need for additional guidance for schools around the intended aims and outcomes of Shared Education in relation to its potential to promote positive intergroup contact.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Early online date01 Dec 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Dec 2020


  • shared education;
  • contact theory; qualitative; case study; Northern Ireland


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