Parents in Northern Ireland want integrated education

By staff writers
September 9, 2008

Parents in Northern Ireland, which is seeking to recover from years of conflict and sectarianism, would like to see single-faith denominational schools replaced by integrated ones, a new survey has shown.

They says that the country's power sharing executive should set up jointly managed schools, the Belfast Telegraph newspaper revealed yesterday.

The Northern Ireland Education Minister has faced fresh calls to establish joint schools after the survey indicated that over two thirds (67%) of parents and grandparents of children of school age or yet to start school would support this move.

In 2007, the Belfast Telegraph reported that representatives from the Catholic and Protestant churches and school principals had travelled together to visit inter-church schools in Liverpool.

Schools jointly managed by the main churches would be a radical move in Northern Ireland if given the go-ahead by church leaders and Government.

Currently, maintained schools are owned and managed by the Catholic Church, while controlled schools are owned by the education boards with the three main Protestant churches key stakeholders in their management.

The survey, which was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and carried out by Millard Brown, also found that 43% of the respondents would prefer their children or grandchildren to attend an integrated school.

Of those whose children or grandchildren had never attended an integrated school, 38% said this was because there were no places available in their local integrated school or no integrated schools in their area.

A massive 79% of the respondents also supported schools sharing facilities with nearby schools, even if they were in a different school sector, and 84% of those questioned believe that integrated education is important for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Over 1,000 people were approached for the survey with most of the questions addressed to a representative sample of those with children or grandchildren aged under 19 still at school or college or not yet started, of which there were 478.

The churches say they would back research into such a move.

The news broke after a Scottish TV presenter called for integrated schools in Scotland, and the British coalition Accord was launched to call for the reform of faith schools towards full inclusion and non-discrimination in their policies.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.