Integrated education and political outlook

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.”

  • It could be argued that the report’s findings simply point to a third kind of cultural conditioning in the integrated sector; that of a “Northern Irish” identity (whatever that is – a fondness for soda bread and Jimmy Young DVDs perhaps.)
    Of course it’s a good idea to educate Catholic and Protestant kids together but trying to ignore genuine differences in favour of a milk-and-water, contrived “Norn Iron”-ness isn’t really an attractive alternative.

  • dk

    Is it maybe possible that the parents of kids that go to integrated schools send them there as they are non-sectarian. The kids will get this influence at home as well as at school – it’s hard to quantify whether the school is more important than the parents, but I’d suggest that the parents are more important.

  • Crataegus


    I think you have a point.

    The question that really needs to be asked is with decreasing numbers of pupils and the need to provide a wider curriculum, and allocate resources more effectively, why on earth are we funding separate systems of state, maintained and integrated?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Maybe so, but I think that an integrated education would help, in not an insignificant way, break down the problem of sectarianism. What is the purpose behind making it harder for a child to actually get a place in an integrated education, than be forced elsewhere?

    The demand isn’t being met. Full stop.


    All forms of identity are ‘contrived’, whether ‘Norn Irish’, British, Irish, Czech, Australian, American, Russian, Ukranian…

  • Crataegus


    I agree it is important but there is absolutely no reason why all schools should not be integrated; end of story. If Hain can do it on Water Rates and Council reorganisation why not education?

    OK bit difficult in Cregagh or Ballymurphy and bussing in is not the answer. We should not be financing separate systems. With educational reforms looming ideal opportunity to seize the opportunity and end this nonsense. Many of the state schools actually are religiously and racially mixed. Local State Primary School has a high Catholic intake and seems to function harmoniously. Grammar schools like BRA are truly mixed. There is more integration than one would think.

  • DK

    Yes, many state schools do have a large number of catholics (at least in middle class areas). But they also tend to have quite strong religous agendas – often of a born-again mentality (prayers before lesson etc.) Catholics may find this anoying, as would other religions and also athiests. I fall into the last category, which is why my children are going integrated.

  • Crataegus


    I would like to see state schools acceptable to all and personally I would like to see a lot less religion but that would not suit those with deeply held beliefs.

    I am not from a Christian background and from experience have no reason to feel aggrieved regarding the ethos in state schools. Even the hateful state Primary School that I went to long ago, whilst it had more than its fair share of Christian enthusiasts, I thought treated everyone fair enough. Church of Ireland went off and learnt what ever Church of Ireland types learn, A priest came in to teach Catholics and odd ones like me spent half an hour in the Library. It worked. Yes there was Christmas and Easter but it is a Christian society so fair enough. However when considering schools for my own children I did look at Integrated Schools and frankly found them deeply patronising.

    With falling intakes and limited resources why set up a parallel system when we can change the schools we have got?

  • DK

    My local state school’s way of dealing with the odd ones is to either make them sit with the babies in the nursery class or else sit outside the headmaster’s office. Not nice. The other nearest state school was one of those that went on strike when Martin McGuinness became education minister!

    What was patronising about the integrated school you saw?

  • Crataegus


    You have my sympathy sounds like local schools are run by a bunch of fruit cakes. This sort of treatment (and political strikes) should not happen.

    Being made to look silly because you parents choose to question a belief really makes one wonder. Very difficult situation because you have to consider if complaining could make it worse. I would be up there and making my views very clear and if that didn’t work I would pursue it elsewhere. Actually what it may show is they probably don’t have free staff. Suggest an alternative to them like somewhere to read. I had a great time, real skive only bit of school I liked, read Lord of the Rings etc whilst the Christians wallowed in tales from ancient Egypt and all sorts of murder and barbarity.

    The problems I had with a particular Integrated School were;

    1 a smugness, we are nice considerate people and the rest are well lesser. Too much reliance on integration as an asset.
    2 they seemed to be more fixated by religion than the state school!!!
    3 It’s a child friendly place where pupils are on first name terms with the head. Now it all struck me as more than a little bit laboured.

    The real cruncher was the sing along with Joe (or whatever the heads name was) not really the sort of open night speech finale that one comes to expect. Cringe to this day thinking about it. .

    It was a fair while ago and impressions may have been wrong and in the interim perhaps there has been change for the better.

  • IJP

    All these comments are spot on.

    Firstly, I fear this is a bit of a ‘state the bleeding obvious’ report.

    Secondly, there are plenty of ‘mixed’ schools about (including some notably examples in the ‘state’ sector) – it’s the principle that counts, not the specific model.

    Thirdly, the comparison of identities is in many ways invalid. ‘Northern Irish’ is not necessarily the same sort of identity as ‘Irish’ or ‘British’ – the former strikes me as more ‘civic’, the latter as ‘national’.

    This sort of report ignores the real problem, which is that our dear administrators think on integrated education (in its various forms) as a ‘troublesome extra’ rather than the default option.