40% more schools per head than UK average

Bob Osborne for the University of Ulster with an interesting analysis of the real state of Northern Ireland’s diverse school base. Even if the number of integrated schools remains low, local demand continues to integrate Catholic pupils into state schools. He reckons there needs to be specific teacher training for such mixed educational environments.

About 6% of the NI school population is in integrated schools, but some complex patterns are emerging. Hence, while the overwhelming majority of those attending and teaching in Catholic schools (owned by the Catholic authorities but fully funded by the state) are Catholic, a large proportion of non-Catholic schools are in fact state-owned and funded, with only a residual involvement of the Protestant churches.

True these are de facto Protestant schools, with the majority of teachers and pupils being Protestant – however, many of the large Protestant grammar schools, especially in the greater Belfast area, record rising proportions of Catholic students. Approximately 15% of Catholics are now educated outside Catholic schools. Moreover, state nursery schools record 31% of their pupils being Catholic, whereas Catholic nursery schools are 97% Catholic.

But Northern Ireland doesn’t just divide by religion. Over 30% of pupils are educated in single-sex schools, including primary schools. These divisions – together with the creation of Irish-language schools, the retention of academic selection, and the growing integrated sector – mean that Northern Ireland probably has at least 40% more post-primary schools compared with comparable areas, in terms of pupil numbers, in England, Scotland or Wales.

  • smcgiff

    ‘He reckons there needs to be specific teacher training for such mixed educational environments.’

    OR keep religion out of schools!!! Or only present as an optional subject.

  • Stephen Copeland

    smgiff,

    OR keep religion out of schools!!! Or only present as an optional subject.

    Given that religion is unproven superstition, it has no place whatsoever on the school curriculum. By all means study it as a sociological phenomenon, and study the impact of organised religion (good and bad) on human society in history, but to actively seek to use school time and resources to attempt to brainwash young people into believing the ludicrous nonsense is reprehensible.

  • willis

    I think you missed his point, which was that teaching in an Integrated School is different from a State or Maintained school. The mixed environment is political, cultural and religious.

    But then why engage with the original text?

  • kensei

    “Given that religion is unproven superstition, it has no place whatsoever on the school curriculum. By all means study it as a sociological phenomenon, and study the impact of organised religion (good and bad) on human society in history, but to actively seek to use school time and resources to attempt to brainwash young people into believing the ludicrous nonsense is reprehensible.”

    Or how about you leave that down to parental choice. I believe very stroingly with keeping it out of Science classes, but in it’s own subject it really is none of your business.

  • slug

    Personally I have always thought that the state schools should be integrated while the Catholic ones should be Catholic and that it was just because such a high % of the Catholic parents sent their kids to Catholic schools that the state schools ENDED UP being de facto protestant.

    If this is changing, then good.

    I would question the need to build more new integrated schools. Rather I would prefer a policy of encouraging this trend in which Catholics are attracted to existing state schools.

  • Westchick

    As a catholic educated totally within the catholic school education I have to disagree with smcgiff and Stephen Copeland
    The catholic schools do not just teach religion but generally they have a very christian ethos that brings with it a community feel and this only serrves to enhance the education on offer. My own school was a convent school and I can honestly say that the transition to university was made harder because of the loss of the closeness in the school.
    I’m not saying that state schools are flawed and I know many who would defend them but my experience of the school system in England and Scotland (as a member of staff) opened my eyes to just how good an all round schooling I recieved.
    It wasn’t in anyway discrimatory in fact we were encouraged to learn about other traditions and to mix as much as possible but the kindness of the teaching staff and the tightness of the school community meant that we learnt strong moral values which can only benefit the society into which we were released at 18.
    In comparison to some of the schools I encountered on the mainland, we were more rounded and more open to new ideas than any of the pupils I met.
    I recently had an arguement with a friend about the advantages of integrated education vs the catholic system and although I am for integrated education on the basis that in the long term it’s the best hope of finding some way of living together I still argue that the catholic maintained schools produce better students, if not in exam results then in the way they look at the world.
    My own brother attends the local integrated post primary and it is there that he has learnt to hate protestants and has come home with some choice words that he never learnt at home. Anyone fancy explaining how that has happened?

  • Dr Stangelove

    The glaring ommision in his article is any analysis of why the % of catholic puplis in state schools is increasing.. I suppose it was not part of the brief.

    The more well known state schools such as Methody have always attracted catholic puplis, not least because of the educational record of such establishments.

    Is the decision for catholic pupils to attend state schools down solely to educational reasons or are factors such as convenience etc having a bearing.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Dr Strangelove,

    … why the % of catholic puplis in state schools is increasing …

    Ah, but is it?

    The article above tends to jumble things up a little, talking about state and grammar schools in the same paragraph.

    If you look at the schools census (surely the best if not the only source of reliable stats), the situation seems quuite different. The schools census shows that the proportion, and the absolute number, of Catholics in controlled secondary (non-grammar) schools is actually decreasing:

    2000/2001: 1105 (2.9% of the sector total)
    2001/2002: 984 (2.6%)
    2002/2003: 808 (2.1%)
    2003/2004: 640 (1.7%)
    2004/2005: 612 (1.7%)
    2005/2006: 586 (1.6%)

    So while Catholics may be going increasingly to ‘Protestant’ grammar schools, they are going less to state secondary schools.

    Over the same period there isn’t a huge change in Catholic numbers in state primary schools either, from 3.9% up to 4.3%.

    The issue of nursery schools may be related to location and availability – I don’t know.

  • Bilbo

    Westchick

    How exactly can you believe in integrated schooling when you think catholic schools are much better?

  • Westchick

    I’m talking from my own experience in saying that I think catholic schools are better. From everything I have seen I would want the best for my own children and that is the catholic system.
    However I’m not saying it’s perfect and I agree with people that it could be seen as divisive in an already split society. I wholeheartedly encourage the intergrated movement and I think that long term we do need to look at mixing children or we’ll never get over the prejudices of NI. I’m just not sure I could turn my back on a system that worked well for me, especially not as I like the way morality, be it catholic or christian is a part of every day life in a catholic school.

  • Animus

    I would love the quality of the Catholic system as espoused by Westchick, but I don’t want the superstition and dogma. I don’t want my child to be taught Christianity – integrated education can serve as community building as well. The fact that parents set up integrated schools is testament to that. Catholism is, by its nature, discriminatory in that its teachings are right and the others, quaint thought they may be, are wrong. It’s easy not to hate Protestants if there aren’t any in school, Westchick.

    I am certainly in favour of teachers learning to foster diversity in a way that educates children to respect each other even if they don’t agree.

  • Westchick

    Animus,
    I totally understand your point and I am in favour of integrated education in principle. However having seen my youngest brother, from the same family as myself attending an integrated school from the age of four, and being far more bigoted and unaccepting of other faiths questions my belief in the effectiveness.
    If a parent is catholic do you argue that they shouldn’t have the choice of educating their children in a catholic environment?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Animus: “Catholism is, by its nature, discriminatory in that its teachings are right and the others, quaint thought they may be, are wrong.”

    As is Protestantism… and Hinduism… and Islam…

    In fact, that is one of the prevailing notions in religion — “We right and everyone else is wrong…”

  • Bilbo

    “I wholeheartedly encourage the intergrated movement and I think that long term we do need to look at mixing children or we’ll never get over the prejudices of NI”

    Thats a fine sentiment but it does seem a little insincere when you concede that you would not send your own children to an integrated school.

    As for the teaching of morals, that should really be up to the parents.

    I went to a state school and was exempted from prayers each morning. My religious instruction came from my parents, church and sunday school. There is absolutely no need to teach religion in schools, asides from the whole catholic/protestant angle there are many new people in our society who would not be from either faith, why should they have to learn about christianity in school when that is not the wish of their family?

  • Stephen Copeland

    Westchick,

    I don’t want to appear like I’m bashing Catholicism, because my point applies equally to all religions.

    However, is there not a contradiction is talking about ‘education in a catholic environment’? The Catholic environment implies an element of brainwashing, which is the antithesis of real education.

    If what you really want (I know I do) is that our kids are educated in a tolerant, friendly environment that ensures a respect for others, an aversion to bigotry, irrational hate and discrimination, then why not seek to achieve those through a common education system?

    I did not go to a Catholic school, so I am pretty certain that those things are not the exclusive preserve of Catholicism – indeed my friends who went to the CBS can vouch for the fact that they were largely absent from their schools.

  • Westchick

    Bilbo,
    I realise that I sound insincere but as a (future) parent I’m going to want to give my children the best start I know and that to me is a catholic education.
    In my school we had morning prayers, a prayer at the start of evevry lesson (generally something bland like “Lord help us to have a sucecssful and interesting lesson”) and a school mass on special occasions.
    I appreciate that there are other faiths who would find this strange and possibly quite wrong but it was part of a broader picture which taught respect and consideration to others as part of what religion and catholicism is.
    I do support integrated education for those parents who want it and I think it is important. But can I honestly say that I will definitely send my children to an integrated school? No, I can’t

  • Animus

    Yes, but if you want your child to undertake religious instruction you should have to pay for it. My child has a Catholic parent who doesn’t want him to attend Catholic school because he thinks it’s indoctrinary. Would a Satanist school get state funding?

    DC – my point exactly – Westchick said her education wasn’t discriminatory. With the possible exception of unitarianism, they are all convinced they are right and everyone else is wrong.

  • Animus

    Westchick – most four year olds are not very accepting of anything different than themselves. That’s fine – the fact that he has a chance to talk about it now means he may not grow up thinking he is superior to Protestants. This week Protestants may be crap, but next week it might be people who wear glasses or people who support Manchester United. We all self-select into different ‘tribes’. Little kids spout off about all kinds of things to get a reaction, so I wouldn’t abandon hope for your little bro just yet!

  • Westchick

    Animus,
    he’s currently 18, he’s certainly old enough to form his own opinions and they aren’t a great reflection of what 14 years of integrated education produces

  • Animus

    Oops, sorry, don’t know where I got that – am working and commenting. I see – educated from the age of four, not currently four. But your one little brother is perhaps one bad exception to a good system? I know many people who, having attended Catholic schools, are now atheists and have nothing but scorn for their education. Again, this is merely anecdotal, but it doesn’t say much for the Catholic maintained system.

    If people want their children to receive religious instruction, that’s fine with me. But I don’t want to pay for a system which props an unequal system which encourages the poor to stay poor but faithful, women to be second-class and discourages independent thought. No thanks. And in case I sound sectarian, those are my thought on nearly all religious schools. I know individual teachers vary, but it’s the underlying principles which are so potentially damaging where religions are concerned.

  • Bilbo

    “I appreciate that there are other faiths who would find this strange and possibly quite wrong”

    I don’t think there are any other religions that would find regular prayer “strange and possibly quite wrong”. Interesting thought process.

    To me it seems a little excessive but as a presbyterian I do feel that faith is a personal thing and an individual thing. The idea of rabbitting the same prayer over and over does seem a little odd and meaningless.

  • kensei

    “Again, this is merely anecdotal, but it doesn’t say much for the Catholic maintained system.”

    Quite the reverse, and it kind of blows the argument of brain washing out the of the water.

  • Reader

    I am nominally Prod, and have 1 child in an integrated secondary, 1 in a Catholic maintained Grammar, and 2 still in a Catholic maintained primary (first guess is that 1 is destined for the State Grammar, the other for RC secondary). Why? Because we’re middle class, and we looked around for the best options for each child.
    There has never been any problem over religious indoctrination (a few timetabling issues and citizenship classes with Mr No-hair being the exceptions, perhaps).
    My wife is a teaching student at Stranmillis. Through chance and misunderstanding, she has so far spent 12 weeks School Based Work in 2 different RC primary schools, and 6 weeks in a State Primary. Again – no problems experienced. No indoctrination other than what parents specify or allow (e.g. “Preparation for First “).
    In summary – modern Religious Education isn’t the same as old fashioned Religious Instruction. Things aren’t what they used to be.

  • barnshee

    The answer of course is to rebadge the state schools as protestant and recruit only where the teachers can contribute to “a protestant ethos” (the old reformed faith etc) and stop this nonsense from a fringe minority wittering on about “integrated education”.

    Do these people not look at election results- the society WANTS to stay divided.

  • Crataegus

    Reader

    “modern Religious Education isn’t the same as old fashioned Religious Instruction. Things aren’t what they used to be”.

    So it shouldn’t be any problem for all our children to go to the same schools then? We are funding a system that segregates our most vulnerable citizens. It is quite beyond my comprehension why this should be.

    The Assembly has to have cross community, business has to be fair employers, we don’t have integrated, state and maintained hospitals etc so what’s so different about education?

    Time someone grasped this nettle and stopped the nonsense, stopped wasting money and helped our children broaden their circle of reference.

  • Alan

    *So it shouldn’t be any problem for all our children to go to the same schools then? *

    Hear, hear !

    There is no difference in the teaching of subjects, only in which clergy get the most access. Unfortunately it also means that schools teach the teachers’ own brand of religion.

    Barnshee,

    Evidence of around 1000 pupils each year being refused access to integrated schooling, but having to made do with other provision would suggest that a lot of people don’t want the division.

    It is time for the Catholic hierarchy to fall in behind IE. They must provide chaplains in all IE schools and to all state schools where requested. Why should access to the sacraments depend upon the school you attend? Why should leafy south Belfast get special treatment throught the provision of communion and other classes for kids attending state schools and it be denied elsewhere? Why can individual Priests deny kids communion classes because they attend an integrated school? Why . . . ? I could go on and on.

  • Westchick

    I agree alan, there are too many of the catholic hierarchy who refuse to accept the reality of IE.
    There should be provision for those who want it.
    An interesting article on the BBC website today explains why.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4621426.stm

  • Westchick

    Oops didn’t check the date on that article, it’s an old one but still got valid arguements.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Westchick,

    An interesting article on the BBC website …

    I think it was said at the time, but it bears repeating: the fact that kids in IE are ‘less sectarian’ may not be due to the school itself, but due to the fact that parents who actively choose IE are likely to have less sectarianism in them in the first place, and thus their kids have not picked it up.

    I wonder what proportion of the IE parents are mixed relationships. It would be very hard to be sectarian against a religion if one of your parents belonged to it.

  • gingerminger

    “80% of Protestants who attended a fairly mixed or segregated school favoured the union with Britain, compared to 65% of those who went to an integrated school.

    51% of Catholics who attended a segregated school supported Irish re-unification, compared to 35% of those who had experienced integrated education. ”

    That’s interesting, far more protestants than catholics conform to stereotype. Wonder what the rest of them want for the future

  • Westchick

    Stephen,
    I totally agree however it is an interesting piece of research which does validate the argument for intergrated education. However you do need to look beyond the schooling and see the family life. A non intergrated education does not instantly make you sectarian and for that matter, does supporting the union make you hate catholics? or vice versa? Surely the politics aren’t as important as the ability to live and work together?

  • Stephen Copeland

    Westchick,

    I strongly disagree with your assumption that your education ‘makes you’ sectarian (or not). Maybe its the old-fashioned Protestant conditioning in me, but I believe that we all have free will, and regardless of the rubbish that is pumped into our heads, we all have the ability to see through it, and to make up our own minds once we are adults.

    To use an example (myself), I went to an über-Protestant school (Campbell College), and did not knowingly meet any Catholics whatsoever at school. The school was (maybe still is?) a bastion of big-house unionism, and was in thought, word and deed, Unionist. I reached 18, left that place, and opened my eyes. Through personal contacts, experiences, reading, and simple thought, I have come to a political, social and cultural place that is so far removed from the narrowness (and bigotry, it must be said) of my ‘education’ that I am even slightly embarrassed to call it an education – my real education came in spite of my schooling. However none of my post-18 consciousness was forced on me, it simply came from having an open mind and a willingness to use it, and I believe that others can do the same thing. To blame your schooling for your life-long behaviour is a cop-out and should not be accepted.

  • Westchick

    Stephen,
    Firstly sorry if you have gotten the wrong impression about me, I am not at all saying that education of any sort makes you sectarian, in fact if you look at my earlier posts you would see I was very strongly defending a traditional catholic education, such as the one I reccieved.
    I’ll counter your example with my own, I was educated in a convent school, lived in a catholic ‘stronghold’ for want of a better word, went to Irish colleges in the summer, didn’t know anyone who wasn’t catholic, and I wouldn’t consider myself paticularily sectarian. If you read my earlier posts I actually said that my education left me with an open enough mind to embrace and respect the differences in people when I encountered them in my adult life.
    What I was saying is that the figures, while giving some strength to the battle for intergrated education, need to be looked into more.
    We all know about lies dam lies and statistics. The questions quoted:
    80% of Protestants who attended a fairly mixed or segregated school favoured the union with Britain, compared to 65% of those who went to an integrated school.

    51% of Catholics who attended a segregated school supported Irish re-unification, compared to 35% of those who had experienced integrated education.

    seemed to say that by supporting the union you were being sectarian and my question was, surely that isn’t exactly true. My political views are my but my friendships with people no differing views are not affected by them.

    I totally agree that we have free will in our choices and I would never argue that schools brainwash children, cos I don’t believe it.

    But the point remains that segregating children stops them from knowing anything of any other viewpoints, and should we be looking at ways of changing mindsets for those, unlike yourself, who don’t question what they have learnt.

    – The school was (maybe still is?) a bastion of big-house unionism, and was in thought, word and deed, Unionist. I reached 18, left that place, and opened my eyes. Through personal contacts, experiences, reading, and simple thought, I have come to a political, social and cultural place that is so far removed from the narrowness (and bigotry, it must be said) of my ‘education’ that I am even slightly embarrassed to call it an education

    How many people never opened their minds and learned to question?

  • Stephen Copeland

    Westchick,

    I did not mean to make any assumptions about you personally – I can see from your posts that you are fairly openminded – so sorry if it sounded that way. I was simply trying to make the point that too much in NI is ‘blamed’ on schooling, and/or community, and too little on personal responsibility. Some of the most tolerant and broadminded people I have met have never moved far from their point of origin, and on the other hand I have met many world-travelled, highly educated racists and bigots. It is depressingly true even here on Slugger that many apparently educated people continue to parrot narrow petty bigotry – though they’ve learned to dress it up – it still smells rotton to me.

    One small irony in all of this is that the south, where IE is at a similar level to the north, has almost no trace of sectarianism left. There never was very much, but certainly some – yet by now it has disappeared [cue the ‘dressed up’ bigots to jump in with rubbish about the Love Ulster march …. depressing but predictable]. Many southern Catholics don’t meet Prods at school, but come out without much of an attitude. Southern Prods meet plenty of Catholics because they form about half of the student population in Prod schools (which are popular amongst all sections of the population).

  • Cataegus

    But if schools are integrated it assists and widens the terms of reference of the pupils, encourages the parents to mix etc.

    It must be remembered that not all people have questioning minds which can recover from a tilted educational experience.

    There are also the issues of funding segregation and the reduction in academic choice that can arise from fragmentation of the system.

  • Westchick

    Stephen,
    Don’t worry about it. Actually I tend to agree that people in NI are too quick to point at the flaws in the system without looking too closely a their own prejudices (take the plank out of your own eye before you point at the splinter in your brother’s etc.) It is true that some people are more open to seeing beyond their own situation than others. One of the arguments that IE supporters use is that IE gives children a more open point of view with regards to other faiths. I mildly agree with that but would question whether it is the only way forward or even the most effective.
    It is sad to see so many intelligent and educated people who don’t see beyond their own barriers, especially those who have lived outside NI and have seen how insignificant we are in relation to the rest of the world.
    I totally agree with you that the bigotry we see daily in the north is not reflected in the south. It’s interesting that this wasn’t achieved without any need to have totally integrated schooling and that a choice of school is dictated by which is the best and not what religion is taught there.
    So we come to the real question, how come some people, regardless of background, community and education can be broadminded and how can those who aren’t be shown the benefits of an open mind?

  • Westchick

    Cataegus:
    I would say that that the diverse education system gives more choice to parents and not less. When I chose my secondary school I had more options because of the system than I seen pupils having in England. I actually chose the local catholic school but not before I had looked at a state (protestant) school several miles away. Although the other school had slightly better academic results I settled on the catholic school because of it’s atmosphere. There aren’t many places in the UK where a pupil has so many options.
    I accept that from a financial point of view, coupled with falling pupil numbers this isn’t exactly perfect but neither is forcing parents (and students) into schools that might not suit them.
    But if schools are integrated it assists and widens the terms of reference of the pupils, encourages the parents to mix etc.

    It must be remembered that not all people have questioning minds which can recover from a tilted educational experience.

    Why pick on the schools system, you have to remember that most parents send their children to a school that reflects their own beliefs as well. Would you say that parents shouldn’t teach their children any religion until they are 18?

  • Cataegus

    Westchick

    I am not picking on the schools system, but the way I see it the school system is an anachronism. You couldn’t get away with such a system in any other sector so why finance segregation in education, because that is what we are doing. Politically it makes nonsense of all other initiatives.

    If we are serious about building a society that is equally accommodating for everyone then we cannot exclude schools from that mix. We must have one state funded educational system that all feel at home in. It is not a question of ignoring peoples views but of accommodation and inclusion. That should be the aim and challenge. On economic grounds alone the present system really cannot be defended.

    “I accept that from a financial point of view, coupled with falling pupil numbers this isn’t exactly perfect but neither is forcing parents (and students) into schools that might not suit them”.

    In what way ‘might not suit’ is it the academic standard, the racial mix, perhaps the socio-economic background or is it simply the wrong religious ethos? What are you expecting us to finance? Eton for everyone perhaps, now that I think would be more laudable.

    “most parents send their children to a school that reflects their own beliefs as well. Would you say that parents shouldn’t teach their children any religion until they are 18?”

    Now let us follow this logic, should the state fund Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist schools, and then what about non believers? Also in what language should they be taught, Ulster Scot, Irish, Hindi? What about Rudolf Steiner Schools? Where does it end!

    As far as I am concerned parents can teach their children as they please but don’t expect society to spend scarce resources on what is personal belief, mine or yours.

  • Alan

    *I totally agree with you that the bigotry we see daily in the north is not reflected in the south. It’s interesting that this wasn’t achieved without any need to have totally integrated schooling and that a choice of school is dictated by which is the best and not what religion is taught there.*

    Sorry did I miss something? Did the South just rise out of thirty years of murder, bombs and troops on the streets like the North?

  • bag’oshite

    dear o dear intergrated schools tsk tsk tsk! for the ignorant and uninformed there is an old adage “you can prove anything you want with facts and figures”, if so who am i do stand in the way of retro progress(bit like retro porn, but with pearls and twin sets). segregation people! its the way foward. never mind lord bucky beard and lady aldernice they are full of mad dogs keech. i do not want my kids to play learn work or otherwise associate with people of another faith (i mean protestants) i do not hate them, i just do not want to be near them.

  • Intelligence Insider

    I’m one of those who has a strong belief in integrated education, only a bigot could have an argument with children being brought up together, learning together, living together and hopefully building a future together which is free from violence.