Is Peter’s sudden move towards integrated education the game changer?

Peter Robinson’s belief in integrated education comes out of the blue.

I believe that future generations will scarcely believe that such division and separation was so common for so long. The reality is that our education system is a benign form of apartheid, which is fundamentally damaging to our society

I have to point out that the real savings in terms of education will not be gained by simply creating a single educational administrative body but by creating a single educational system.”

Just in case you harbour the unworthy thought that this is an anti-Catholic ploy, note that his views appear to chime with Martin McGuinness’s. The DFM confirmed them at a meeting on the fringe of the Conservative party conference

“The first decision I took as minister of education was to establish two integrated schools in Belfast”, he said. “I’m all for it”.

So on the eve of the comprehensive spending review, is the dam about to burst on the Executive logjam at last?

Not so fast. Nearly 150,000 children – 45% of the total – are educated in the Catholic maintained sector, fully funded by the State since the 1970s.  As the CCMS don’t hesitate to point out, Catholic education enjoys very deep conscientious and widespread support- though how wide isn’t certain of course because most Catholics simply send their kids to the local Catholic school without necessarily feeling strongly about its governance.

How to proceed? Peter urges the go- ahead for the stalled single Education  and Skills Authority, partly on  reasonable efficiency grounds.  The  Catholic co-ordinating  body the CCMS point to a possible conflict of interest between that authority’s  projected management of  the State sector and its more arms length role with maintained schools.  Yet this appears to be only a temporary problem.

  And yet the question persists: can integration happen without replacing the present system of school ownership which through various reform programmes  has privileged the Churches in  different ways on both sides since partition?  Can that happen without a  confrontation with the  clerical and lay faithful?

Confrontation would seem a luxury we cannot afford. I detect no appetite for a French- style anticlerical crusade, more a desire to try to work with every force for social good in the community including the Churches. It was once memorably said that they were part of the problem  but undeniably they were part of the solution too in holding society together.  

More fundamentally, a vision of integration  has to crystallise which is acceptable to conscientious opinion throughout  the community, one that  preserves a Catholic ethos without imposing it on Protestants, another that is mutally acceptable.   No doubt this happens in those controlled schools with a Catholic majority. But this is a difficult one. A Catholic ethos is supposed to permeate all subjects and  all aspects  of life, even though in practice it avoids fights with the Enlightenment tradition.

 The small integrated sector was an ideological creation, however benign and voluntary. Universal integration is completely different. Can a system be created that is compatible with human rights and commands widespread support?

If the Executive leaders are serious about it, they must raise their game far above the lamentable performance level over the 11 plus. It is no more possible to compel integrated education on an unwilling section of the public as it is to abolish selection at 11 at a stroke. The very idea is so much hot air.

Integration in any form is a far bigger issue, exciting and potentially transformational certainly, but as huge can of worms as can be imagined, and one that goes to the heart of our divided society.

It will require more than the threat of big budget cuts to bring integrated education  about, useful catalyst though these might be. A “one size fits all” will no more work in this area than it will over selection. It will probably require a new term to separate it out from the minority  sector of the same name.

 A united Assembly and a unifying society is essential to bring it about over several years. We pray that FMDFM can get their act together and are  not raising false hopes.

Adds  First reaction to  the FM’s speech from Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd is  confusing.

“The principle of children going to school together, no-one can argue against,” he said.

“However, I suspect that is not the motivation behind the DUP leader’s statement last night.

What we are witnessing is an attack on the Catholic education sector, not based on the principle that the DUP support integrated education.

How does John O’Dowd know that and how do his remarks square with Martin’s?

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  • Pete Baker


    “note that his views appear to chime with Martin McGuinness’s”

    And not just McGuinness’ views. The NI Secretary of State too.

  • JAH

    It didn’t take SF long to attack Robinson!

    Doesn’t take long for their true colours to emerge.

    Of course it’s absurd that the two communities still education apart.But imagine the horror at Inst if Falls and Shankill road lads turned up in Year 7. The irony is that the rich will perpetuate the caste system by setting up lots of religious private schools.

  • Glencoppagagh

    ‘Catholic education enjoys very deep conscientious and widespread support- though how wide isn’t certain of course because most Catholics simply send their kids to the local Catholic school without necessarily feeling strongly about its governance.’

    A commenter on another recent thread acknowledged that he sent his children to maintained schools, not because they were Catholic but Irish.
    Catholic maintained schools would not be divisive if they were just that as they are elsewhere in the UK and indeed the world. It’ll be a lot easier to remove the religion from them than the rest of the ‘cultural’ baggage they carry.

  • John East Belfast

    “A Catholic ethos is supposed to permeate all subjects and all aspects of life, even though in practice it avoids fights with the Enlightenment tradition”

    and John O’Dowd

    “What we are witnessing is an attack on the Catholic education sector”

    There are lots of things being mixed up here – religion, politics and culture and then of course the motivations of all concerned.

    ie a Catholic Education as far as John O’Dowd is concerned is probably not the same as what the Catholic hierarchy consider it to be.

    ie a Catholic School helps to promote Nationalist separateness from the NI State with GAA, all Irelandary and a certain view of Irish History.

    Protestant Schools meanwhile do promote Britishness – British Army cadets, Union Flags, UK National Anthems on Prize Day, the Duke of Edinburgh Sceme, No GAA, N.Ireland sports (eg football team) and many of them have “Royal status”. – and of course a British view of history.

    And that is just the “civilised” grammar sector – the largely “working class” secondary sector is even more base in its differences.

    Hence taking the Priests out of education here is barely scratching the surface of our educational separateness – our schools are simply a sympton of our divided society.


  • Ulick

    “Nearly 150,000 children – 45% of the total”

    Where are you getting your figures from Brian? The last school census said there were 167,000 children in CCMS schools – 50.7% of the total.

  • John,
    I know where you are coming from but I must point out that my traditional state grammar school never displayed the union flag, we never sang the national anthem, did not play football (football I seemed to be considered too working class). I agree that it was more British than Irish but it was not very British at all. Yes they did the Duke of Edinburgh and taught British history but did Irish history as well.

    I agree, however, that the specific religious denomination is not the whole issue about Catholic or state schools. Also the Integrated sector is extremely politicised in its own agenda. I would suggest that the state sector is actually the least overtly politicised part of the system.

  • John East Belfast


    I am sure there are individual differences but I suppose I can only speak from my own experience.

    My State Primary had a picture of the Queen flanked by the Union flag and NI Standard – granted it was the 60s/70s.

    My State Grammar had its House System named after the first 3 Prime Ministers of NI plus Lord Carson and did GSTQ at its School prize Day. In the seventies and eighties there was never any doubt about where the school loyalty lay.

    My children have gone to other shools where I have seen examples of all I have described above.

    Hence how “neutral” can we make our schools ?

    It is good practice in most countries that loyalty, service and pride to the state is fostered including the political systems, Head of State and also the Armed Forces.

    How does Peter propose catering for all that in our divided society ?

    Indeed which “side” has most to lose by diluting Britishness from our State School system ?

    My view is that the Nationalist agenda in NI is to talk about Neutral environments when faced with British Trappings but advance “Parity of Esteem” when trying to promote a nationalist agenda. e tend to lose out in that trade off.

    Hence has Peter Robinson really thought all this through ?

  • The ghost of Londonderry*
    Is beating on the door.

    * That’s Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess.

    New readers and slow learners could usefully start with Neil C. Fleming’s essay in History Ireland, vol 9, no. 1.

  • I think my epiphany was at St Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin; and I guess early in 1958.

    School prize-giving.

    Guest speaker: some big-wig from Northern Ireland.

    His bon-mot: “We like to think of St Columba’s as a little bit of Northern Ireland in the Republic.”

    Half his adolescent audience (and I guess a few of the mortar-boarded and gowned on the stage) did an audible intake of breath.

    And that was the attitude some irredentists were prepared to export. I later came to recognise that many of the Northern Irish prod arrivals at TCD had it far, far worse. They must have got it from somewhere.

    When I look at and hear my Northern Ireland in-laws, two generations after mine, they seem to be getting it even now and even worse.

  • Rory Carr

    It is precisely this desire to ” remove….the ‘cultural’ baggage from them” – which can only be interpreted as intent to deprive children from the nationalist community of any grounding in their native Irish cultural traditions- that will breed the type of suspicion heralded by John O’Dowd. Indeed it was the fear of the language and culture being lost entirely as had long been the policy of English imperialism, not alone in Ireland, but also in Scotland and Wales, that underpinned the loyalty that even luke warm Catholics gave to to a seperate schooling system.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Sorry but PR’s conversion to ‘integrated education’ is nothing of the sort.

    It is the old DUP ‘ state schools are integrated’ line. I await the introduction of GAA at Orangefield.

  • edgeoftheunion


    ‘Also the Integrated sector is extremely politicised in its own agenda.’


  • Rory Carr

    “It is good practice in most countries that loyalty, service and pride to the state is fostered including the political systems, Head of State and also the Armed Forces.”

    Whether or not such ought to be considered as “good practice” is open to debate but I do know that it is not common practice at all in most state schools here in the heart of the Empire. Teachers in Inner London have a hard enough time of it without trying to promote this jingoistic claptrap and most of them would be up in arms were they so obliged.

  • John East Belfast


    It doesnt have to be “jingoistic clap trap”

    Perhaps Inner London is not typical of the rest of the world but name me a state anywhere that doesnt try and promote state pride in its schools?

    I know the kind of silly thinking that has infected English Schools causing those with money to educate their children elsewhere and so perhaps you are right regarding inner London but it is not typical.

    The issue is that in NI with a substantial number of the parents wishing the state did not exist at all then our divided education system is simply a sympton the wider malaise.

    We cant even support the same “national football team”. Unionists see the Head of State as the Queen and nationalists look to the “President of Ireland”. The armed forces visit Protestant schools trying to recruit and are treated with pride and respect but in natiionalist schools the British Army is veiwed with suspicion and possibly contempt.
    In any other normal country these aspects would be treated as a given – how would all this be handled in a fully integrated State System ?

    Therefore although it is both desirable and feasable to make the NI scjhools religion free it is not possible to find a national identity, view of history, sense of belonging and sports adherence one size fits all.

    I know the integrated sector endeavour but on a “national scale” it would fall over

  • DC

    Which shows Sinn Fein holds schooling to be a variation of its big theme: state-hood – via schooling base on culture and that it will lead to Irish statehood. Culture equates to statehood. How very last century.

    Schools operate with strong catholic ethos and culture in Britain without such anxiety, but generally accept that religion comes first schooling a very very almost inseparable second. Irish nationhood grievances as interpreted by politicians such as O’Dowd in SF do not factor into that equation. Why should this be the case in NI?

    The question is do we want that sort of grievance ethos and style and concept of political life to be replicated in Catholic schooling long into the 21C?

    Not that it has prevented the Irish state from falling on its face economically, where such a form of schooling was so potent most of last century.

    Basically maintained schooling should be about education and faith, not a concept of how life should always be a la SF politicians and its own ropey take on Irish nationalism. Much of it if not all of it is worth very little to today’s society given the need to perform in a market economy and particularly given the economic issues facing many western societies.

  • joeCanuck

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be any role for dialogue. The Catholic church, bishops that is, would fight with all their might to keep control of their schools and would be unlikely to lose the battle.
    Great idea will come to nothing.

  • DC

    Q. What does the Catholic Church, Trade Unions and Orange Order have in common?

    A. Extreme Conservatism..

  • Pete Baker

    Does this move shed any light on OFMDFM’s aspiration for the future?

  • Rory Carr

    “In any other normal country these aspects would be treated as a given –”

    …and therein lies the rub, John. Northern Ireland is not, never was and never will be a”normal country”. It is merely an abortion and a seceded part of the country wherein it lies. The best that can be accomplished is for violence to be tamped down and civil inter-community discourse to be promoted but, “normal”, never I’m afraid.

  • The ethos of a “national football team”

    When I saw this in posts above, it nearly induced an infarction.

    Outside of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, North Korea and similar benighted spots, has sport of any kind been nationalised? I gather Pakistan has a Minister of Cricket (or some such nonsense): little good does it do them.

    Correct me if I mistaken: the team which represents the Irish Football Association, a.k.a. “Northern Ireland”, is just that. Ditto all the other “national” bodies throughout this archipelago.

    Whatever the outcome of the opening game of the UEFA U17 Championship Mini Tournament at Shamrock Park (NI versus RoI, if you must put it that way), is that a matter of “national” triumph or disaster? Or is it devalue below the adult men’s games simply because it’s just wee girls?

    “Inner London”:

    How did that creep into the debate? Is it some subtle racist jag? It is reckoned that, across London schools (and outer London is as multicultural as the inner boroughs) one might count over 300 first languages, not excluding Irish, Welsh and (for all I know) “Ulster Scots”.

    Or is the point some perversion of Norman Tebbit’s infamous “cricket test”?

    For what it’s worth, I’ll take my education (as I tried to deliver it over forty years, many of them in London schools and colleges) as free of flag-waving and sloganeering as possible. That way we might get some teaching done.

    Now, is there any chance we might focus on Brian Walker’s essential point: that NI education needs reform, needs simplifying, and we need to build on what we’ve got, rather than throw the whole lot into some bureaucratic Magimix?

  • lamhdearg

    Pete has said what almost all non cath/nats think and i hope many seen as being from that group and also the current HMgov if the sect of state is gov view. Clever i think. I hope this is the start of a movement that in 20 or so years will leave us with state funding for secular schools only, i notice lots of posts telling us the problems but few speaking out for or against secular schooling.

  • Off topic?

    I think not. At least not wholly so. Though probably, this being NI, holily so.

    I’ve just been interrupted by the Pert Young Piece of Redfellow Hovel insisting that I address a plea for real integration and tolerance.

    For those who haven’t yet encountered it (and until these last few minutes neither had I), it’s Joel Burns, a City Councilman for District 9 of Fort Worth, Texas. It’s only been up on YouTube for a couple of days. It’s soon to pass a million views, and over 11,000 comments.

    And we thought we have problems about the sectarian divide.

  • Alias

    Well, one British minister agreeing with the views of another British minister, both of whom are promoting British national interests of the state British they serve, will just have to pass a foreign (non-sovereign) nation determining its (irrelevant) national affairs in its own interest given that the state has promoted its puppets for that express purpose.

  • Michael

    Forcing people to to live apart is the same as parents getting to choose a school for their children?

    There should really be an extension to Goodwin’s law for inappropriately invoking SA.

  • “Peter Robinson’s belief in integrated education comes out of the blue.”

    It isnlt out of the blue he gave a major interview in july when he argued for it.

  • alan56

    Surely Robbo’s policy idea should not be dismissed so ‘automatically’ by political rivals. Does this not present all shades of opinion with an opportunity to take a good hard look at the way we educate our children? If anyone is engaging in political stunts it will soon become obvious but that should not be allowed to shut down the debate.

  • qwerty12345

    DC I almost laughed all the way through your response to Glencoppagh. Perhaps you might tell us what personal experience you have of Catholic education. You seem to be overestimating Sinn Fein’s role (if any) in that system. As for the “grievance ethos” you patronisingly refer to, as someone who actually went through a catholic grammar school I can assure you that in the 1980s at least adherence to strong nationalist sentiment was actively discouraged.

    I think youll find that the real fear amongst nationalists is that their culture and history simply wouldnt be taught in shared education, the way it isnt in the state run schools.

    For example I remember a conversation with some friends who had gone to the local state grammar about local history and archaelogical sites in our area. They were suprised to learn that there were sites nearby which predated the pyramids. Now, we learnt about that in school, they didnt. They knew the names of every king of England but didnt know the fields around them.

    Personally I’m all for complete integration but I can understand the worries of some.

    Oh and another thing I didnt realise that a cultures merit was its ability to “perform in a market economy”

  • DC

    Qwerty given that you missed I was replying to Rory it hardly surprises me you miss the other points I raised which were in response to his. I was replying to his sentiments.

    I think youll find that the real fear amongst nationalists is that their culture and history simply wouldnt be taught in shared education, the way it isnt in the state run schools.

    Why do you think that? Are you concerned that certain potent myths might be less so potent if the present experience of sharing history in a classroom with protestant and catholics shows the failures of the past better, rather cultivating the past as something to replicate in the future? I see no reason why Irish history cannot be taught properly in a shared school environment; but perhaps actually too much of it is over simplified at secondary level anyway, history is also taught at length and in detail – proper detail at universities.

    And re the market economy, Irish culture need not be so imbalanced around history and nationalism because after all economics is the main thing underpinning all other projects. Shouldn’t there be more focus on that, if economic capital is at the root of all other capital, political, cultural, etc?

    So you should be more concerned about culture and market economy because emigration is happening in Ireland as a result of it, weakening the nation and indeed its tax base thus its power. Which incidentally is why in Britain academies are taking off and focusing more so business:

    I’m sure the pupils at the above school don’t give a tuppeny damn about potent myths left lying around in certain takes of cultural history!

  • DC

    *rather than cultivating

  • Re-engaged

    Agreed – neither my state primary school or state grammar school had any ‘trappings’ of Britishness, cannot think of one thing in either that would have made us think otherwise indeed any form of sectarianism that did enter the school was dealt with very swiftly!

    Irish history was integrated heavily into the the cirriculum although having some very good historians up to Headmaster level always helped. Potato famine, emnancipation, flight of the Earls, home rule etc… although there was a focus on the 36th Ulster and the Belfast Blitz. Other than the Arab Isreali conflict we never went past 1945!

    One side point – one history teacher during our studies of the Arab Israeli conflict (remember studying this in the late 80’s) predicted a Sinn Fien leadership of NI within our life time and of Jim Kilfedder said you could put a gorrilla in an orange sash and it would get elected in North Down!

  • Lesson 1 …you cannot enforce a system of education. …parents are entitled to consider the form of education that they want for their children

    Lesson 2..for many in the Integrated sector there is little serious effort (Lagan College being an honourable exception)to uphold the ethos and values of both Catholics and Protestants… more a haven for secularists and agnostics, who have no time for religion.

    Lesson 3 Catholics in Northern Ireland did not subsidiise schools and hospitals for generations to be re-assured by sanctimonious and patronising comments from the First Minister.

    Lesson 4 Shared schools means the introduction of GAA ; the removal of poltiical symbols; the separate teaching of religious education and presumably history. In a society so divided that is a pretty tall order.

  • Brian Walker

    Newman and others
    Lesson One- quite right. It can only be voluntary

    Lesson two – Is strong religion what most people want?
    Lesson 3 – the stand-off was a two way street that is now in the past. Move on.

    Lesson 4. I suggest one size fits all is not what this is about. Diversity I suggest is manageable although not on the one campus.

    The history on the syllabus is no problem, quite the reverse. Each side learns about the other, British and Irish history and far afield .

    We can have GAA AND rugby. Wow what a revolution!

    See this flag? That’s what it signifies. And this flag…

    Comment assumes too much rigidity over culture which the IBIS analysis of the Cohesion strategy criticises. It is this rigidity which an integrated approach would be designed to break down.

    We are dealing with education for goodness sake,not Nazi or Soviet- style propaganda.

    The tools for diverse integration are to hand in our sytem of liberal education if people chose to use them

  • Brian

    Thoughtful response…If the aim is more efficient use of scarce resourses then by all means look to come up with new models of cooperation. If the end is to introduce secular , non religious type of eduation then many will opt out of the state sector. There are possible models which could be considered. In Liverpool and Scotland there are examples of Anglican and Catholic schools integrating where diversity is properly respected. My point is that the example of Integrated Education in Northern ireland points to secularism. I basically concur with Benedict’s analysis of moral relativism and seek Newman’s vison in The Idea of a University. Where a state school sees religion as a problem to be solved there is no propect of progress. If there is genuine respect then diversity and cooperation can flourish. That won’t happen if Peter Robinsons tanks are parked on the Bishops lawn in Somerton Road!

  • iluvni

    Robinson most certainly has tackled the real sectarian biggie with this one. Its long overdue too.
    Now, lets see where Nationalists want to go with their talk of a ‘shared future’ .

  • Brian Walker

    in my primary school on Empire Day we all went into the playground and sang Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen.Everybody survived It was a very long time ago..

    In grammar school we covered the syllabus in Irish history and in English did Synge, some Yeats and Portrait of the Artist to no ill effect. We debated with Catholic schools and had the hair of the dog at Croke Park on Sundays after rugby internationals and came through that too..

    Today, I suspect there’s quite a gap between political junkies who are horribly oversensitive about what is misnamed ” culture” and the rest who are both cooler and broader about all this stuff. .

    Thinking ahead rather than back for a change…

    I may return later to a new system of school governance which could bring about choice in an integrated schools system. This wouldn’t mean all schools become uniform. That is impossible and undesirable.

  • Republic of Connaught


    I’m sure nationalists are all for state integrated schools with Protestants – when it’s the Irish state running the schools.

  • iluvni

    That may indeed be the prevailing view. We’ll know soon enough hopefully

  • John East Belfast

    Just as academic selection is really social selection the point is that in NI for the vast majority of parents religious separation is really a form of identity separation.

    For 30 years I have whinced at the academic selection debate because it was tackling the wrong issue from the beginning.

    There is no point in making the same mistake on this one by talking about the wrong motivations..

  • Cynic

    “Robinson most certainly has tackled the real sectarian biggie with this one. Its long overdue too.”

    An attempt to create a sense of progress while actually promoting the rerverse.

    Lets be clear

    The DUP have no interest in this

    SF have no interest in this

    It will be bitterly opposed by Nationalists and fringe loyalists

    It will command no support in the Executive

    It will not happen

    Buts its a useful Aunt Sally for the election as it will herd the core voters of SF and the DUP into their respective sheep pens for the count

  • padraig


    Gosh , absurd,

    Well I never.

    I’d better not disagree then.

  • DC

    the example of Integrated Education in Northern ireland points to secularism

    Religions are catered for in integrated schools – too much of it in my view.

  • padraig

    Catholic schools without the Catholic,


  • padraig

    Isn’t democracy just awful?

  • Alias

    It will happen because it is essential constituent of your shared future (i.e. the engineering of the Northern Irish nation). But it will be gradually phased in with state support for Catholic schools gradually phased out, so evolution rather than revolution.

  • qwerty12345

    DC we have some things to agree on. I dont think it’s impossible to teach Irish history properly to a mixed group of pupils nor do I believe that the repetition of (anyones) national myth gets us anywhere.

    On the last point I’m wondering where you get the idea that that is either the purpose for or outcome from “Catholic” education particularly in regard to the teaching of history or culture, because speaking as someone who went through that system I dont recognise the characterisation.

    Im not in favor of segregated education but I completely understand the fear that people might think that what Robbo is talking about is the “catholic” sector going away and the pupils being absorbed into a state system which allows the Ulster Scots agency to turn up at schools to give “History” plays on the “plantation” of Ulster. And yes thats happening at the moment.

    If they can pull off a classroom in which a Union flag and Tricolor hang, in which the kids are taught that we have more in common than divides us. In which ALL of those national myths are faced head on then itll get my vote. Is this what Robbos talking about? Im really not sure.

  • USA


  • USA

    I am no fan of the Catholic church, but the “Irishness” of those schools is not “cultural baggage”, it’s their culture. To suggest it be removed is at best naive and at worst ethnic cleansing. You have absolutely no chance of removing the “Irish” cultural element of CMS and neither should you.

  • USA

    I thought of the same article. Great magazine btw. I have it delivered to the US every quarter. Archaelogy Ireland is wonderful also.

  • Cynic

    Want to put a £5 on it?

  • It occurred to me in the fastnesses of the night that the main purpose of the schools system, apart from child day-care, is cultural conveyance.

    The essential and unique problem for NI is that everyone seems convinced we have two different cultures to convey.

    So why do not the same principles apply to schooling that we apply to all other forms of conveyance and transport, and vice versa?

    In other words build two separate road systems, two different telephone systems …

  • Mr Brightside

    Is the issue not more about class division? The catholic middle class in Belfast send their kids in droves now to the likes of Methody and BRA.

  • Briso

    and vice versa with the British state

  • Brian Walker

    Your cynicism overwhelms you.You say with total authority

    “The DUP have no interest in this

    SF have no interest in this”

    Why are they saying it then?

    You suggest for electoral reasons – for or against? If for, that means they have an interest, if not, why say it?

    But to be fair, I’m also not clear either why it’s being raised. Peter’s form of integration may amount to little more than integrated planning with all schools accountable to the ESA, with a few closures ( unlikely to be Catholic) on the side.

    Rowing back on full state funding for Catholics schools will not happen.

    And yet there are ways in which greater intregration could happen, based on local choice.

    Mr B, Class division is of course a factor with much of middle class Belfast in favour of creeping integration (and selection?) of secondary schools by parental choice.

  • Spige

    Taking the priests out of education must surely be a good thing.

  • aquifer

    Integrated education would undo the Irish Separatist strategy of creating sectarian cultural and residential communities as potential bases for any future insurrection. This could be the real payoff.

  • Class division is of course a factor with much of middle class Belfast in favour of creeping integration (and selection?) of secondary schools by parental choice.

    Which leaves those below the salt even more mired than ever, without hope of escape from the slough of educational despond.

    I guess that if one earwigged the usual run of classrooms (whether nominal denomination or not), you’d be hard put to spot any sectarian doctrinal or catechistical content. Yes, Mr Walker: Synge, Yeats, the decent end of Joyce, Friel and Famous Seamus are all alike on the syllabus of schools across the entire archipelago. Strange that. I’d even hazard a guess that the Reformation (where it is still taught at all) is dealt with impartially.

    Bias and prejudice, on the whole, don’t come from schooling: they are societal ills.

    What is necessary is to break the social and perceived tiering of schools. The only solution, expounded widely — and once at least to me — by a guru of the old ILEA (Eric Briault? Tim Brighouse?), amounted to “the least number of best ‘good schools’ “.

    The objection to that is “but parents like and want small schools. Yet, offered a successful (which invariably means “academically successful”) school, that is what they choose, irrespective of size.


    The Jewish lad in East London found himself sent to a Catholic secondary school. When he arrived home after his first day, his dad asked how it had gone.

    “They’re really hard at that school, Dad! In the entrance hall, they’ve even got this bloke nailed to the wall.”

  • Glencoppagagh

    Yes but why should he Catholic church be promoting ‘Irish’ schools. Perhaps CCMS should, for the sake of honesty, rebrand itself to CIMS.

  • abucs

    Who decides what ‘caters for’ actually means? the non religious?

  • abucs

    Having on the one hand a belief that the state should be non-religious and on the other that the state should be in control of increasing facets of community and public money – is to obviously argue for a re-engineering of society which pushes religion out of people’s lives in favour of a ‘happily ever after common non religious state identity.’

    Look at Eastern Europe for the results of 50 years of that.

    Look at the mess Britian has experienced in blaming/using religion for integration issues in its state schools. – Subscriptions needed.

    The failed attempt to integrate Christians, Muslims, non religious, Hindus etc in British state schoold by using Religious Education has prompted the Anglican Churches to quietly abandon the idea and go back to faith based Schools.

    Religion counts and it becomes a mess under state control.

    Of course those with strongly emotional non-religious views will heartily agree with the “integrated” suggestions and perhaps the Unionist group will fear what looks to be the growing majority dominance of the Catholic School system – especially 10-15 years down the track and what that MIGHT mean for political union.

    The latter group should work with the Catholic school system, not against it.

  • DC

    Qwerty – I hear what you are saying.

    But there are a lot of draw backs from this multicultural approach in little N Ireland using so much segregation to see its development through.

    It seems there is just too much history and not enough emphasis on other subjects relevant to the survival and development of the populace here and now. Having a pro-business, pro-integration and pro-diversity outlook in NI might stand people here in better stead for the future. The pro-business thing is related to the fact that NI has such a ridiculously high state dependency plus I think people here lack the get up and go, the confidence to go out and make money for themselves. It is a cultural/attitudinal thing. It must change.

    To widen things out but still on topic Interesting comments by Germany’s Angela Merkel on the subject of integration over multi-culturalism:

  • Rory Carr

    Have you considered, Glencoppagh, that it might be because they are situated in the island of Ireand for the purpose of educating Irish children?

  • iluvni

    That was a car crash of an interview for Naomi Long on the Politics Show.

  • DC

    I don’t get it – what use does religion play whenever you go and apply for jobs? I’ve never seen any job descriptions myself which ask for a religious competence?

    Why should the Catholic Church be the main supplier of education given that the task is to educate kids properly so as to interact with a globalised market economy?

    Isn’t it the case that the two dominant religions here have monopolised the provision of education and are near impossible to break down, given the conservative forces at play.

  • John East Belfast

    Yes when asked at the very end something like “could unionists be comfortable in the AP” did she sheepishly reply with

    “I believe there are some ” – LOL !

    The problem the AP has in this Shared Future stuff is they seem to think they are some kind of aloof referee.

    To really articulate in a shared future do you not have to take sides to understand what you are sharing and what you are compromising on in order to gain the respect and trust of the other side ?

  • DC

    Go ahead!

  • DC

    Basically it isn’t secular schooling it is integrated on religious grounds and therefore not secular. As far as I can remember. Could be wrong there may well be the odd secular school in NI but my take on integrated schooling is that it operates a bi-religous ethos.

  • hoboroad

    DUP MP Iris Robinson has launched a scathing attack on integrated education saying it is “founded primarily on sectarianism”.

    Mrs Robinson also said the integrated lobby was discouraging support with the “high handed and arrogant stance perpetually adopted by its public proponents”.

    She added that it thrived off sectarianism and was part of a wider programme of social engineering driven by government.

    Mrs Robinson’s comments were made after government rejected a proposal for a new integrated post-primary school – Rowallane College.

    She said the philosophy of the integrated lobby “consists of nothing else other than self-righteous, pompous claims of reconciliation, no more amazing than claiming they can fit 200 people into the back seat of a Mini”.

    “Far from transcending sectarianism with some stupendous alternative for the provision of education in Northern Ireland, the integrated lobby is an integral part of that sectarian system and feeds off it – without it, it would starve and die,” she added.

    “It is a philosophy founded primarily on sectarianism, as opposed to the delivery of education and is part of a wider programme of social engineering driven by the government and abetted by the holier than thou section of our population.

    “I will, therefore, never act in such a fashion as to further jeopardise the delivery of education to the overwhelming majority of our children, simply to please the politically tainted demands of the tiny minority.”

  • I give up, DC @ 1:50PM.

    A “bi-religious school”? So, apart from Christianity, what’s the other one?

  • DC

    Islam 🙂

  • DC

    I should have said it has a Christian ethos where Protestants and Catholics are educated together and various religious beliefs are supported in the school environment. That better for you, Sir?

  • DC

    Yes but she was mad.

  • Greenflag

    In the Irish Republic the schools are also mostly segregated by denomination. The State supports ‘protestant ‘ national schools and secondary schools . In some areas ‘catholics ‘ attend protestant schools to make up the numbers and my wife taught at a secondary school (catholic ethos) which was attended by protestants with no discomfort other than the indignity of being referred to as the ‘sects’ .These pupils were excused attendance at RC religion classes .

    Ideally for NI and the Republic all State schools should be multi denominational with ‘religion’ classes being left for priests and ministers etc to organise in conjunction with the local school authorities in such a manner as not to upset the main objective of any educational system i.e to educate.

    Those who prefer ‘religious ‘ schools be they RC, Protestant or any other should be prepared to pay the fees that such a system would incur . They could be granted a general tax relief to help them meet the cost of their ‘religiosity ‘ whatever brand it be !

    Mr Robinson can safely propose knowing that he can rely on SF to oppose and vice versa particularly in this sensitive area .

    It’s a game really . They DUP/SF leaders are like the two men in difficulty in the river with the one throwing the other a concrete block to help him swim knowing full well that the concrete block will immediately be returned to the thrower and so on and so on until they both hit the bottom and there they will remain along with the scorpion and frog 😉

  • Curiously enough, if we have to have a denominationally-segregated system, you might well be hinting at the way forward.

    There are, in England, it is no longer de rigueur for the headteacher to be CoE or even protestant. The only appointment where such a restriction applies is likely to be the Head of RE. There are several places where CoE and RC maintained schools share a campus and facilities.

    At the end of my teaching career, having been given a generous “early retirement” package, I filled my days on extended locum placements (thus by-passing the requirements of the Teachers’ Pensions Act by being paid through an agency). Because I have Dublin degrees, I mistaken assumed this might explain why I found myself myself in some demand from a couple of RC schools. When, first time round, I stammered that there should be no confusion about my nominal denomination (something long lost and gone), it was treated as amazing that I might think such a consideration ever mattered.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    What about nearby Ashfield Boys and Belvoir Primary?

  • wee buns

    Very much insane rantings.
    Integrated education should have been integral to the GFA, from the word go, across the board, would have cured a plethora of angst in one stroke.

  • USA

    Thank you Malcolm.

  • USA

    Lol, you really are a cynic.

  • USA

    not mad at all, quite the opposite. The Robinsons both got off Way too light.

  • How does John O’Dowd know that and how do his remarks square with Martin’s?

    They appear to only want integrated education, so long as there’s no Prods about?

  • barnshee

    “Great idea will come to nothing.”
    perhaps not

    The determination of the catholic system should be reflected by the prods.-the situation where the R catholic community carefully exclude prods from teaching posts will hope fully be reciprocated in the “state” sector when the DUPERS rebadge them a “Protestant” —go for the mirror equivalent of the catholic idea require a Protestant ethos– focus teaching on history of the various waves of IRA activity and the unfortunate history of the papacy

    In short adopt the same tactics as the roman catholic community

  • This poster seems to be suggesting that State property is Protestant property.

    Unfortunately, the people in charge of State schools usually behave as though they were Protestant property. Hence, we had a State primary school in Ballykelly with two thirds of its teachers Protestant even though 56% of the pupils were Catholics.

  • Why are you sure that Catholics would support integrated education in Eire?

  • A very interesting observation.

    In 1970 the Unionist Party Annual Conference debated integrated education. Speaking in support of a demand for all schools to be integrated a Mr Ferguson from Enniskillen said “the State is being undermined in one third of its schools. Catholic education means nationalist education”.

    Would integrated education mean Unionist education?