Apparently, according to a new piece of research published at Queens today, 94% of Protestant children attend de facto Protestant schools. The figure is only slightly lower for Catholics attending Catholic schools at 92%. However, the integrated sector which has grown from one school, Lagan College in 1981 to 57 drawing more than 17,000 pupils or 4.6% of the school population. It also suggests some trends that appear to be moderating political preferences: Particularly striking was:
• 80% of Protestants who had attended a fairly mixed or segregated school favoured the union with Britain, compared with 65% of those who attended either a fairly mixed or segregated school.
• 51% of Catholics who had attended a segregated school supported Irish re-unification, compared with 35% of those who had experienced a formally integrated education.
Indeed, Catholics across the educational board show much higher levels of acquience in remaining part of the UK (20.6% of the whole sample) than the general Protestant preference for a united Ireland (3.8% of the total).
However a research note states that it cannot determine whether integrated schools themselves were affecting change, or simply reflecting the political mores of the families that tend to send their kids to non sectarian institutions. Bearing in mind that this is a tiny proportion of Catholics, it could indicate however that the solid sectarian head counting that dominated much discourse before the Census 2001 results came out is going to be enough to push NI into a United Ireland.
Professor Bernadette Hayes:
“These results, tentative as they are, add weight to the studies which have shown that integrated schools can and do have an impact on the outlooks of the pupils who attend them. Moreover, our study – based on a large sample of the adult population – suggests that the positive effects of integrated schooling extend into later life. As the numbers experiencing integrated schooling grows, these individuals have the potential to create a new common ground in Northern Ireland politics.”