Sir George Bain, will he take his hatchet to state funded religious indoctrination?

George Bain, the man who pushed through a series of significant reforms at what was an ailing Queen’s University, has been given the task of planning Ulster’s education system for the decades ahead. Will he be as radical with the rest of the education system?

The type and quality of education is a key economic driver in the global economy and essential if Northern Ireland is to develop a more dynamic and less dependent economy. Our education sector is also the finest demonstration of wasteful sectarian duplication. As a whole, sectarian duplication costs the taxpayers hundreds of millions if not billions each year. Yet last week, government announed an investment of nearly £400m in maintaining division.

The controlled sector is managing to attract increasing numbers of Catholics (especially at secondary level) so it shows it can cope with a religious diverse pupil base. The integrated sector always has. Increasing numbers in the census do not put down a religious identity. Falling pupil numbers are making new integrated schools a less viable option so is it time to think bigger?

More rural schools could survice if maintained and controlled schools combined. The potential for savings is substantial which could ensure greater pupil to teacher ratios, better facilities and more diverse approaches. At the very least could the Scottish model of shared campuses not be introduced ?

John Taylor says that there was one rule told to all Stormont Ministers “Don’t annoy the Catholic Church”, in the 21st century does it still apply? Government has already announced its intention to reduce the role of CCMS why not go all the way, the provision of one system of state funded secular high quality education for all? Will Hain’s lecture about the unsustainability of the present arrangements apply to education?

Ultimately what is more important, a good education for our children or division?