75 percent believe integrated education in Mid and East Antrim should be 'the norm'

Some 75 percent of people surveyed in the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area believe an integrated education should be 'the norm'.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 9:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 9:52 am

A major LucidTalk NI-wide attitudinal poll also reveals that three quarters of people in area would support their child’s school becoming integrated.

The NI-wide survey, collated by Belfast-based independent polling company LucidTalk on behalf of the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), polled more than 2000 people from all areas of the community here, including residents in the Mid and East Antrim area.

The findings come as the NI Executive prepares to launch an Independent Review of the NI Education system as part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement reached in January 2020.

Annie, Lorenzo and Isla from Brefne Nursery School in north Belfast, which will become the first standalone nursery school to transform to integrated status in Northern Ireland in September.

This agreement described the NI education system in its current form as ‘unsustainable’ and pledged to examine the prospects of moving to a single system of education.

The findings of the survey also reveal that a clear majority of the NI community, regardless of their political affiliation, are in favour of an integrated education system, which sees children of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures educated together.

The attitudinal report found that 59 percent of DUP voters and 72 percent of Sinn Fein voters believe NI children should be educated together.

It also concluded that 74 percent of people in the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area agree that all schools, regardless of management type, should aim to have a religious and cultural mix of its pupils, teachers and governors.

Although a clear majority of the area’s voters want to move in the direction of an integrated education system, new integrated schools still have to be either set up by parents or parents have to vote democratically to change the status of an existing school.

There are currently 68 formally integrated schools and colleges, which represent 7.5 percent of Northern Ireland’s educational settings, educating around 25,000 children. But there is still no government plan for integrated education and its growth is still down to determined campaigners and pioneering parents.

The findings from the LucidTalk survey are published more than 23 years after a Good Friday agreement pledge promised "to facilitate and encourage integrated education” as an essential element in the process of reconciliation.

In a multiple choice question, 64 percent of those surveyed around NI attribute the slow growth in integrating NI pupils to local political parties and NI politicians, with the influence of the churches also being ranked highly (64 percent) as a contributing factor.

The publication of the report and its findings are released as the IEF’s Integrate My School Campaign gathers momentum.

The drive empowers parents to express their support for integrated education and encourage existing schools to explore formal integration.

In 2021 there have been four schools that have transformed to integrated status including the first ever Catholic primary school (Seaview Primary School in Glenarm).

It joins Brefne Nursery in north Belfast, Carrickfergus Central Primary School and Harding Memorial Primary School in east Belfast in gaining recent Ministerial approval for integrated status.

A further two more schools, Glengormley High and Bangor Central Nursery School are awaiting a Ministerial decision.

The results of such democratic ballots held in schools, coupled with the LucidTalk survey, are testament that the appetite for change in the NI education system is strong.

Speaking about the findings of the poll, Jill Caskey, Parental Engagement Campaign Manager, IEF said: “The findings in this survey highlight the demand for integrated education in Northern Ireland and they should prompt our Executive to actively promote a fully integrated education system for the benefit of our entire society. It should also help inform the new Independent Review of the NI Education system in terms of public opinion on this crucial aspect of our society.

“Although the level of integrated education has continued to grow since the Good Friday Agreement, it is nowhere near the rate it needs to be in order to reflect the demand from parents for more integration.

“There is no government plan for developing more integrated schooling with growth solely dependent on parents, schools and campaigners.

"We are going into an era in NI needs an education system fit for the 21st Century which is fully inclusive. We need to see a dedicated governmental plan to accommodate the demands of our parents and children.”

For further information visit https://www.ief.org.uk/

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Liam Neeson praises Seaview Primary School over move to integrated status during video message - click here.

Carrickfergus primary school to move to integrated status from September 2021 - click here.

Ballyclare homebuilder donates £100k to support integrated education - click here.