Despite the growth of integrated education, most schools remain segregated..

If you thought things were changing since the peace process began in the education system, then think again. Kathryn Torney compares the aspiration of the First Minister, with the record of all devolved administrations:

When Peter Robinson described Northern Ireland’s segregated education system as “a benign form of apartheid” in a speech in October 2010, it was a remark that had the potential to be a major turning point for integrated schooling in Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader said: “If one were to suggest that Protestants and Catholics would be educated at separate universities it would be manifestly absurd; yet we continue to tolerate the idea that at primary and secondary level our children are educated separately.

The problem with such statements is that they just wishfully defy anything approaching reality. As Torney notes we still live in a disintegrated society (I really recommend playing around with The Detail’s interactive map. Just try finding a school in Belfast where the minority figure is more than ten pupils):

In July 2012, secretary of state Owen Paterson said that over 90 per cent of public housing in Northern Ireland was segregated. This means thousands of children are continuing to both live and learn with only others of the same religious background.

Prof Tony Gallagher is pro-vice chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast and former head of the university’s school of education. He said: “These new figures suggest that our schools remain strongly differentiated on the basis of religion, with only limited evidence of any change between 1997/8 and 2011/2.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of pupils in integrated schools over that period but the overall proportion in that sector remains low. It is likely most young people will continue to be educated in schools where the majority of their peers are from the same religious community.”

But here’s the interesting thing. Which schools are going integrated fastest? The large voluntary Grammars. Belfast Royal Academy has a healthy and substantial population of Catholic students:

Total pupil enrolment: 1421
Number of Protestant pupils: 800
Number of Catholic pupils: 358
Number of ‘other’ pupils: 263

As does Methody:

Total pupil enrolment: 1783
Number of Protestant pupils: 840
Number of Catholic pupils: 376
Number of ‘other’ pupils: 567

The ninety per cent figure applies to public housing, and those are the areas where people have less socio economic choices. It’s also where, the education failure of the Northern Irish system is most in evidence.

  • GoldenFleece

    Interesting that the secular grammar schools are intergrating the fastest.

    More Catholic parents want their children educated in a secular rather than a catholic environment?

  • Mick Fealty

    Hard to say. I suspect there’s a market effect going on here. Which means it is probably the perceived quality of education they are after.

    There are 131 Catholics in Sullivan Upper today. Thirty five years ago I could have named every one of them without having to use my toes.

    Last time I looked it took only A passes. St Pats, my old haunt took B students, whilst Campbell takes anyone for a price (and attracts 66).

  • derrydave

    I know it is probably generalising, but I’d say there’s a lot less to fear in sending your kids to a middle-class dominated grammer school where they will be part of a minority rather than the local comp where the same situation exists.
    I have to say if I ever moved back to NI I wouldn’t be averse to sending my kids to either Belfast Royal Academy or Methody. A local Comprehensive dominated by the ‘other tribe’ however – no chance. The lack of integration in those schools outside of the grammers is of course also driven greatly by location and the lack of integration in housing in the local area.

  • GoldenFleece

    Take a look at the primary schools in North and West Belfast. Yikes. Complete and utter segregation.

  • Peter Robinson talking about ‘benign apartheid is proof he is an irony-free zone. He makes no adverse reference to the malign apartheid which unionists contrived in the wards in Derry for decades, by which four large wards for catholics and eight other small wards for the waterside and central area. Nice bit of selective example preference.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    There’s a big difference between a school that has a few more pupils of the other religion than it used to and a school with an actual integrated ethos. Good to see both, but it’s not the same thing at all – especially when we’re talking about selective or fee-paying grammars. There’s nothing ‘integrated’ about that (and there’s nothing ‘comprehensive’ about a secondary modern with a grammar down the road).

  • BarneyT

    Newry City is a fine example of educational segregation both on sex and religion.

    2 Catholic girl grammars
    2 Catholic Boy grammars
    1 Catholic boys comprehensive
    1 Catholic girls comprehensive
    1 Mixed sex comprehensive (out the road in Bessbrook)…which is Catholic (perhaps by attendance rather that ethos?)
    1 Controlled Comprehensive mixed sex school which is regarded as Protestant (used to be a grammar until 1967)

    However leaving aside the integration of sex, the segregation in the town palpable.

    Newry High I believe is the only school in Newry that can cater for the Protestant community. It also has a reasonable Catholic percentage although nothing like the level of integration you quoted above. Whilst I believe there is nothing stopping Protestants attending the other schools, there are other barriers such as location (hence safety) and “in your face” icons of the Catholic faith that greet you at the doors. Certainly the four grammar schools have a strong catholic ethos.

    If I take Newry High, it is considered to be a failing school, perhaps through mismanagement, but also catchment. I understand that the community that would ordinarily happily send their children to Newry High now have to trek to Banbridge to secure a better standard for their children. It is also possible that Newry Protestants are heading further north and depleting the numbers through migration.

    Although it may have changed over the years, Newry High does not offer anything culturally that can be considered to be Irish. The main sport is hockey. They refused to allow for a soccer team fearing it will serve to the detriment of their hockey. They dabbled with Rugby now and again and are quite strong in athletics. They don’t offer any Gaelic sports nor do they provide Irish as a language offering. They also only engage ministers from the Methodist, Presbyterian and Church of Ireland to fulfil their religious needs so they do not make an effort to represent their Catholic students.

    Whilst Newry high perhaps represents the best example of an integrated school, it is not an integrated school by any means. It is a protestant school, just as much as the grammars are catholic.
    Catholics attending Newry High have to cast off any notions of Irishness and embrace the British ethos and culture that is offered, or noticeable stand outside of it. That is unacceptable.
    Equally if a progressive protestant is prepared to send their child to one of the Catholics schools (very strong Grammars) they will have to expose their children to an Irish orientated school (not necessarily out of place in Ireland) but with all the trappings of Catholicism. Sporting wise they can avail of non-Irish sports such as Soccer and Rugby.
    Newry High is the only school in Newry that is under threat, perhaps even of closure. Perhaps demographics are affecting the numbers. In the 70’\80s, Newry high school sat at the heart of a protestant community, but that has changed. With the abundance of Catholic schools, Newry High is seldom considered by that community.

    The school in my view has an opportunity to reinvent itself and launch as an integrated areligious school, if not for their survival but to offer the immediate mixed (but clearly segregated community) something different. However they are governed by old school conservatives who would sooner look towards past glories rather than think about “the now” and what exactly is on offer to Protestants in a 90% catholic town.

    I have focused on Newry High, as they have an attendance and a need that would justify integrated status. It would put them back on the map for the right reasons and serve both sides of the community who both want great education for their children, but are non-plused by the religious angle. A failing Newry high would only serve to promote educational and social segregation.

  • BluesJazz


    What is a ‘grammer’ school?

    The biggest college in NI is Belfast Met which is completely integrated.

  • Framer

    The fair employment law should be changed to cover the appointment of teachers. Only equal opportunity will allow the benefits of diversity to flow.

  • Reader

    GoldenFleece: Interesting that the secular grammar schools are intergrating the fastest.
    Then have a look at St Malachy’s PS in Bangor. Its mixed intake benefits from being close to an estate and an unpopular school. (I deleted most of the adjectives from that previous sentence…)

  • wild turkey

    ‘I suspect there’s a market effect going on here. Which means it is probably the perceived quality of education they are after.’

    nail on head mick.
    jr turkey goes to BRA. it is local. it is integrated; religion, gender, nationality/ethnicity, in everything but name. it is also an excellent school, perceived or actual.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    I heard on the radio yesterday of a Gaelscoil in Derry which has just received funding for a new school and whose children are 40% Protestant.

  • derrydave

    Bluesjazz – unfortunately that’s the second time I’ve done that on Slugger. Personally I think it says more about St Columbs than it does about me 🙂 It also of course outs certain pedantic pricks on here 🙂 Give yerself a pat on the back !

  • Our Lady of Lourdes High School, Ballymoney appears to be missing from the map.

  • socaire

    Like a lot of things in the North,derrydave, if you were allowed to continue uncorrected then you might think you were actually correct. :=)

  • Politico68

    Just look at the religious breakdown ward by ward in NI, u seriously expect educational integration to occur when adults are not even willing to live side by side. Unionists wont share power in councils where they have a majority while nationalists do. There is an altogether unhealthy attitude pervading these type of threads and it has nothing to do with fairness, equality or integration. You can look down your nosses at people with religious preferences as much as you like but all u manage to achieve is a different type of sectarianism. Be it economic or social, humans have a primordial urge to associate with those that are of a similar ethnic or cultural background, its about as normal as taking a shite in the mornings. Children require an education and parents have every right to expect their kids to be educated within the realm of their own specific requirements. This does not make them sectarian, u cant assume that just because a parent wants their child to be educated within a certain religious ethos, they are therefore poisoning the chances of realising an equal and just society for the future, if u do, then u are just promoting another form of division. Get over it. Accept the rights of people to live and behave within the remit of their specific cultural loyalties, then u have some chance of creating a society where religion and political affiliation is irrelevant.

  • BluesJazz

    Is it possible to be a sectarian atheist? To just accept scientific reasoning and leave the superstition behind?

    Only the FE sector is truly free of bias. Belfast Metropolitan College has over 7000 students, the majority of whom are agnostic (at best). It has a wide range of economic and social backgrounds. Why can all schools not operate on its secular ethos?

    The state has no business giving taxpayers money to schools that promote medieval superstition-religion- of any sort.

  • Politico68

    BlueJazz; if all the taxpayers were either athiest or agnostic or you would have a point. But they are not so u dont.

  • UserAinm


    While I want, as a fellow non believer, to agree with you here Politico has a fair point. The theists are as entitled to their share as us, in line with their numbers/demand. We aim for a day that the balance shifts, then more money can go to promote secularism if that is what the majority wants. In the meantime, if we have kids, and I do, we resist tribal bonds and send them to integrated schools (there are no secular primaries in Belfast as far as I could tell still!!). And promote in them a healthy scepticism, the rest is up to them and us as parental educators and we have to trust in a more secular generation coming after us, maybe after them. The shift has never been as great, religions are weaker than ever before, both here and across the water, in the demographics that are important. Like a huge old steamer changing course is slow but the wheel has been turned. Atheists etc have to put their money where their mouth is and break family traditions to effect real social change by sending kids to integrated schools. I’m looking at you ‘catholic atheists’…

  • BluesJazz

    The parents might still be smitten by the sky pixie/magic beans stuff, but the pupils are not. There may be a minority of them still indoctrinated, despite the evidence presented to them in school, but like Userainm projects, they’re following the evidence.
    Of course Catholic (and State) grammars promote some degree of ‘Christian’ beliefs, they’re pretty much seen as indifferent by the brightest.
    It’s the SE English taxpayer who is paying for this, what is wrong with the educational ethos of BMC? Not enough statues of virgins?

  • CoisteBodhar

    I sometimes wonder if some nationalists are reluctant to open up education because of the perception that the catholic schools are out performing the state schools. And equally are unionists eager to see the division of education ending for fear of their communties falling behind.
    I would say there is a definite unmentioned attitude within nationalism that goes along the lines of it being their turn to be out in front when it comes to jobs, qualifications and education and a (misguided?) perception that unionism only wants the divide to end now because they are falling behind.

    I can’t be the only one to have experienced these or similiar sentiments.

  • Politico68

    Blue Jazz ; Ur obvious resentment destroys the intelligence of your argument

  • derrydave

    I think there is an element of that Coiste, however I would say it is more pro the Catholic sector rather than anti the state sector – to a certain extent I suppose people are protective of the catholic sector based more on the work that has gone in to making it a success over the years, rather than for any particular religious reasons. People are very proud of certain schools for example my old school St Columbs, and would be naturally reluctant to agree to changes which could (potentially) affect the quality of education provided.

  • UserAinm


    I’m going to agree with you here. As an ex Catholic, I hadn’t ever thought that my kids would go to anything other than Catholic schools. They were ‘better’ schools as far as I could tell. And I’m still confident that as things stand in North Belfast that the selection is weighed in favour of Catholic schools being ‘better’, I should declare that I was a student of this same system.

    However, I am married to one from the ‘other side’ so I had to face this head on. Integrated education isn’t where it should be, and neither of us were prepared to force on our kids a religion, but in the school my kids attend change is afoot, it can only get better through numbers. As far as how good a school it is, it’s early days and they are primary school age, there is no guarantee that the perfect school will exist when they move on but between now and then I don’t, and wouldn’t, abdicate all the teaching to the school anyway. Explaining atheism is a responsibility that so called integrated schools shirk in my experience so far, but that’s up to us. We are breaking new ground. If you make the effort with your children to be involved in and support them with their education then the school that they attend, or the quality thereof can be secondary.

    I wonder sometimes, if one were to win big on the Euromillions and had a spare £100 million, could one set up and would there be a demand for a truly secular primary and secondary school?

  • Politico68

    CoisteBodhar ; I dunno. I only know that religion has indeed taken a back seat in terms of the growth of secularisation. Prod and Cats are no more devoted to the tenets of their faith than paisley likes Gay Porn. (Paisley Snr I mean, Jnr could be a different matter) The issue here is that religious background is so intrinsically connected to cultural and political loyalties that it makes it impossible to seperate the issues. If all schools were state schools and all religious symbols and ethos’ were abandoned, and every school was legally declared integrated; there is no evidence to suggest that parents would automatically send their kids to any scholl other than the one they felt had a larger proportion of their own `people` in it.

  • BluesJazz


    So is BMC a Cat or Prod school?

    In so called ‘mixed’ marriages or cohabitants they go to the nearest grammar.
    Secondary schools are seen as Twinbrook or Rathcoole.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    ‘Personally I think it says more about St Columbs than it does about me.’

    DD, as a past pupil of St. Columb’s I don’t hesitate to take issue with that remark!

  • derrydave

    Only joking of course Charlie – St Columbs is an excellent school of course, and in my experience it’s past pupils are some of the finest individuals to ever grace Derry society ! Ahem….;-)
    Though I do believe that Mrs D’arcy must take some responsibility for my occasional poor spelling and grammar !

  • BluesJazz

    Shouldn’t that be Mrs D’Arcy? Also you missed a comma after experience . No need for the apostrophe in ‘it’s past pupils’ . And St Columb’s needs an apostrophe. Also a comma after experience, no apostrophe for its *sigh*: I could go on…
    But I went to a *grammar* school, (Down High) and we were schooled that correct use of language was proper rather than pedantic.
    Just for the record..

  • Politico68

    Blue Jazz, I live in Dublin so I have absolutely no idea what BMC stands for, where it is or what the religious make up of it is. All I know for sure is that if you want to go to heaven u HAVE to be a Catholic.

  • UserAinm


    One of the problems that stem from correcting the grammar of others is that it leaves one’s own prose open to scrutiny. It would, of course, be petty to draw attention to inconsistent spacing after commas, missing commas, or a cavalier attitude to sentence structure.

  • derrydave

    Well done Bluesjazz – maybe I should rephrase – ‘I do believe Mrs D’Arcey must take some responsibility for my frequent poor spelling and grammar’ 🙂
    I do hope you have put your excellent education to good use Bluesjazz – it would only be proper for an arse like you to enter the teaching profession so as to be able to correct ones underlings whilst raising ones eyes to the skys and sighing audibly on a daily basis ! I can only imagine ones frustration at the frequent bad spelling and grammar that one has to put up with *sigh*. Hahahaha, you prat ! 🙂

  • derrydave

    PS Bluesjazz – In St Columbs we were taught to work hard, do your best in life, and achieve all that you can – I’m doing ok on that front thank you very much, though I frequently wonder how much further I could have gone had I not missed that class (or was it year) on the correct use of language 🙂 Am sure Down High’s schooling of you in the correct use of language has propelled you to a life that I could only dream of – as is only proper of course !

  • oakleaf

    Hazelwood is a great Integrated school where pupils want to learn!!!

    Also didn’t the Shoukri brothers not go to this school which proves its not about what school you go but how you are raised how you turn out.

  • Hopping The Border

    The integration issue hasn’t really concerned religion for a long time.

    As someone pointed out previously, it is the cultural and political links that generally comes with one being nominally of either cult here that is the real issue.

    Does anyone seriously believe that were everyone to be educated in state schools from Monday on it would have no adverse impact on how history is taught, or how Irish sports and culture are promoted?

    I was once speaking to a Bangor Grammar educated friend, who revealed he was astounded at the reverence Wolfe Tone was afforded on a Dublin City Sightseeing Tour because according to the history he was taught at school, Tone was nothing more than a terrorist.

    Furthermore, as with everything Peter says these days, you simply can’t trust him – he proclaims he wants to attract Catholics to the DUP and then engages in the shenanigans that went on during the summer.

    As for the living apart problem, frankly, why would anyone from the CNR side want to live in an area that is going to be plastered in blue white and red flags for 5/6 months of the year and have marches promoting the supremacy of another religion over theirs several times a year pass by their doors?

    The yearly collective need of some in the PUL side of the community to reinforce how British “we all” are is the single biggest obstacle to integrated living in this region.

  • ayeYerMa

    Hoppingtheborder, I frequently hear this nonsense view about how different history lessons would be advocated on political forums, but it seems it mainly comes from people who haven’t seen the history syllabus in years, don’t realise that it is already the same (though IMO has far too much myopic Irish content) Any differences would come down to good individual teachers vs. bad. I happen to know a couple of history teachers, each from the different sectors who meet regularly to share notes and resource material – good teachers from all over should already be doing this.

    Anyway, shouldn’t a greater variety of understanding differing historical perspectives not improve things? The problem with many Irish Nationalist posters on forums like this is that they think that they “understand history” after memorising Gerry’s Big Bumper Provo Guide to Irish History and then mock anyone who is unaware of such so-called “facts” — more points of view are surely a solution all-round. In fact, probably more balance would be given in schools by ending the discrimination against Protestant teachers trying to gain employment in Catholic schools.

    Regarding your diatribe on parades and Peter Robinson, clearly you don’t seem to see freedom of expression as a value worth defending, even in an era where freedom of speech and expression seem to be coming under increasing attack.

  • Hopping The Border

    If I call your view “nonsense” also will that make my argument good too?

    Of course the historical facts are going to be the same, it is the way in which they are presented which determines how they are understood, similar to the “one man terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter ” idea.

    I entirely agree different perspectives should be presented and that the discriminatory ban should be lifted – the concern is that in State education one is hardly likely to find any sort of viewpoint which provides a positive view of those attacking the State, irrespective of its ideology or morals.

    “Regarding your diatribe on parades and Peter Robinson, clearly you don’t seem to see freedom of expression as a value worth defending”

    Freedom of expression is not absolute and those using it should do so with appropriate care and responsibility, for if they abuse it they do more long term harm to it than any advocate of its restriction.

    I note you did not address my points on the already proven (in at least once instance) unwillingness to accommodate Irish culture and sport and the flags/mark our territory point.

    The fact remains – The yearly collective need of some in the PUL side of the community to reinforce how British “we all” are is the single biggest obstacle to integrated living in this region.

  • caseydog

    I don’t understand how BarneyT can describe the non-grammar schools in Newry as ‘comprehensive’. The grammars cream off the generally more able children, leaving the other schools with a skewed intake. They could not possibly be described as comprehensive schools. Comprehensive schools cannot coexist with grammar schools.

  • Submariner

    “Hazelwood is a great Integrated school where pupils want to learn!!!”

    Oakleaf not sure your correct just by going on the published league tables for both GCSE and A level results Hazelwood is pretty far down the list.

  • caseydog

    Peter Robiinson’s version of integrated education is the more able Catholics and Protestants being educated together in one grammar school, and the less able Catholic and Protestant children educated together in the same High School. In his version of integration we keep the 11+ to sort them out into the grammar and High School.

    Surely this is a ‘benign form of apartheid’?

  • BluesJazz

    BMC is Belfast Metropolitan College. A state school. It is entirely integrated and, as far as I know, teaches History in a fairly neutral matter. At GCE A Level anyway. I dont know if it acknowledges Irish cultural values or sports but it does teach Irish at all levels and has GAA teams.

    There are no statues or flags or any religious assembly.

    As the biggest school in the province run by the state, I’ve never heard any cries of discrimitory practices.

    Maybe all schools should follow its example?


    Life is good.

  • galloglaigh

    I went to St. Joe’s. My education was good enough to see me through life. You College boy’s (the Derry wans here know what that means) might have had good grounding, we got a good kicking from Mr.Friel. You’ve probably heard of him!


    Would you mind if I correct your last post? Maybe you should also have gone to St. Joe’s as you’ve missed an English class or two at Down High.

    BMC is Belfast Metropolitan College. A state school. It is entirely integrated and, as far as I know, [the history teachers] (*schools don’t teach, teachers do) teach (small h) history in a fairly neutral manner (*not matter) . At GCE A Level anyway. I dont know if [they] (*as opposed to it) acknowledge Irish cultural values or sports but Irish [is taught] at all levels and [they have] GAA teams… I’ve never heard any cries of [discriminatory practices] (*as opposed to discrimitory).

    Any time you need any help, just ask the teacher 🙂

  • derrydave

    hahahaha – suck it up BJ ! Cheers Gallo – off to bed with a smile on my face 🙂

  • galloglaigh

    You’re welcome derrydave. Enjoy your sleep!

  • Chris Donnelly

    A couple of things on this.

    Not entirely accurate to identify the voluntary grammars as unique in growing integrated the fastest.

    St Columbanus’ in North Down, a catholic secondary school, has only 256 catholics amongst its 597 total enrolment, whilst both of the catholic primary schools on the lower East Antrim loughshore area, St James PS (Whiteabbey) and St Nicholas (Carrick) have substantial numbers of non-catholics amongst enrolments (36 of 143 and 110 of 305.)

    Mick is on safer ground when suggesting that the perceived quality of education on offer is the determining factor, and those of us involved in education at the upper end of KS2 will know from speaking with parents year to year how central this factor is in helping make choices.

    In south Antrim, it used to be the case that catholic parents would send their children to Crumlin HS if they failed to gain access to a catholic grammar in Belfast. However, once the reputation of the High School began to slide, more and more parents opted to send their kids ‘down the road’ to Belfast’s catholic secondary schools (or to St Patrick’s Lisburn.) This has only increased since the very poor and very public inspection report for the school, which in spite of altering its status to that of an Integrated school, is now in real danger of being closed in the short/ medium term due to loss of numbers.

    In north Belfast, the fact that St Malachy’s has become more difficult to gain entry to in recent years has meant more and more catholic parents opting to choose BRA once the results come out (the latter having a much lower entry threshold.)

    Of course, the ‘cultural’ identity of schools will remain the largest obstacle for many when choosing which school is for their child, but not for all. Indeed, I know of a voluntary grammar which experienced a number of flare ups- including class walkouts- earlier in this term due to disagreements between some pupils and staff over how the Ulster Covenant commemorations were dealt with in the school. That type of scenario is to be expected in the event of increasing integration- indeed, one catholic primary school I know of long ago altered its religious education programme due to the high numbers of protestant pupils amongst its enrolment.

    Such practical difficulties and solutions are to be expected in the slowly changing world that is our school system.

    I’ll leave with one more aside. I spent a good twenty minutes chatting with a former neighbour whose son is now in one of the aforementioned voluntary grammars. She commented how the lad was having to get used to giving up gaelic football and learning rugby, as well as taking on Latin in Year 8 (personally a big fan of teaching Latin and Greek derivatives to enhance kids’ vocabularies, not too sure about still teaching the language though.)

    I know that personal friends of mine had previously been involved in the parent association of this school, having sent two of their kids there. They loved the education their kids received in the school, but were quite disappointed at the short shrift they received when requesting that the school introduce Irish language classes (both are fluent speakers.)

    In spite of this, their third child sat the second AQE test in said school this afternoon.

    When all is said and done, most parents will put the perceived educational benefits of their child before all else.

    And who can criticise them for that?

  • Politico68

    ‘The fact remains – The yearly collective need of some in the PUL side of the community to reinforce how British “we all” are is the single biggest obstacle to integrated living in this region.’

    This is a very interesting point and as somebody who is studying ethnic conflict and the social divisions that linger it has certainly transformed the quality of my current paper on the topic so thank you.

    The reluctance of protestants to send their kids to Catholic schools on the basis that their is an abundance of ‘in your face’ Catholic symbols (as pointed out by previous posters) relates to the above quoted position. If this is a ligitimate argument then it follows that the hope of achieving a more integrated society could be far more remote than previously thought. As nationalists are unlikely to want to live in an area saturated with Unionist symbols of Britishness and Orangism, so to are Unionists unlikely to want to live in areas sporting the equivilant Nationalist images and behaviour. The right of Uionists to identify as British cannot reasonably be challenged in as much as the same applies to Nationalists to regard themselves as Irish. If we accept this then maybe we are trying to achieve integration from the wrong end of the social divide. Rather than the onus being on Education to provide a springboard for future generations to integrate community wide, would it not make more sense to first develop a process whereby society at large regardless of stratified position could become comfortable in their ethnic Identity without fear of domination or cultural erosion. With the converging demographics and the consolidation of good relations between Britain and Ireland, is it time to consider NI indentity in terms of joint priority under a co-responsible British/ Irish political framework. If Northern Ireland exists as part of the UK and also as a part of a UI with international recognition as such, could that form the basis of progressive community integration at all levels?

  • BluesJazz

    Touche gallo

    To the topic, Peter Robinson (and his wife) went to what is now BMC, which I would guess is now predominantly catholic background. Though what was then Castlereagh College would not have been.

    Obviously the FE colleges are post 16 only and have a more informal approach to teaching. But they are certainly not monocultural, surely the way forward.

    As an aside, is it normal for some state schools (I wont name them) to fly the Union flag? And why are Catholic schools exempt from fair employment legislation?

    Re: the post above about Latin. It’s compulsory up to year 10 in Assumption GS, Ballynahinch.

  • BluesJazz

    All schools in NI (FE colleges and Protestant church schools excepted) follow a common curriculum. They also all take British* examinations. From KS3 to GCSE and AS/A2 levels. Though Michael Gove is now driving a coach and horses through this. Some Catholic schools take examinations with English and Welsh exam boards.
    But the GCSE has now lost all credibility and reform of A level is to follow asap.

    *does not include Scotland

  • Chris Donnelly

    I believe there are a number of schools where Latin is still taught. I wasn’t suggesting it was exclusive to voluntary grammars.

  • oakleaf

    Yeah Chris St James PS in Whiteabbey has a good reputation for education unlike the nearby state school. It also its fair share if ethnic minorities.

    Regarding Methody it gets a large catholic intake due to Rathmore being seriously over subscribed.

    It certainly makes the upcoming census results more interesting.

  • Zig70

    The adults can’t begin to sort out the tribal situation. We have a political system that reinforces the tribal culture but expect 12yrs to come through like shining doves and sort it out for us. Really?
    Last year my kid did both 11+ exams, this year the next one is only taking the GL. I came away last year with the impression that the British school sector has no intention of catering for us lot. The BMC does teach whatever is in demand including Irish. I know lots of Catholics who would send there kids to either but none the other way.

  • Red Lion

    Stranmillis PS 450 approx pupils pretty much split 3 ways between Protestant, Catholic and Other. I know Cairnshill has a high degree of mixing also.

    Its been mentioned that some Catholic schools have significant numbers of protestants going to them – is allowance made for their religious background in the teaching and/or practise of religion at RC schools? I ask as a genuine question as am aware of unsavory incidents/ways of doing things by the ‘religious instructors’ at certain Catholic schools which have been at best uncomfortable for a protestant child and basically an ‘other’child.

  • BluesJazz

    Red lion
    Check out Dominican College Portstewart, 50:50 approx.

    Protestant principal!

    Zig 70
    Are you not worried that BMC is a religious free zone? They might even find atheist friends, God forbid.

    When you look at the number of ‘others’ let’s face it they are people of no religion, markedly increasing.
    Mostly ex prods but how many ‘catholics’ believe anymore?

    Everyone in NI does British* exams and (in grammars) go to (mostly) British universities. Non grammar pupils, if they’re capable end up in FE colleges.

    All of them, except a few going to Russell group universities (QUB doesn’t really count) face bleak futures. That’s a fact.

  • Mick Fealty

    Great thread guys.. Having the map with all that rich data is very useful… I note Strabane Grammar is not included either Nev.

    Some of this feeds into the #belfast2020 threads it seems to me… It also seems that we have inherited a peculiarly British trait for trying to get education to solve some society’s more intractable problems.

    I have some concerns too that certain school traits are seen as positive and others not. Royal and Prior in Raphoe for instance has a mixed school population, yet hockey is the school’s obsession.

    Yet the converse is that Protestants in Donegal are more frequently found playing in GAA than any county in the wee six. Newry High I suspect is just in the grip of a demographic squeeze.

    In less stressed circumstances they would likely have little difficulty opening doors to Catholics, like St Malachy’s and St Columbanus in Bangor have to Protestants and others without huge compromise in the schools basis culture/ethos.

  • “yet hockey is the school’s obsession.”

    And why not, Mick? 🙂 It’s a great game for small schools – you only need 11 players. I played hockey for Bushmills Grammar School, a tiny co-ed school – annual intake was about 20 pupils.

    We were mad about hockey. It wasn’t unusual for the school to have one or two players in the Ulster and Irish school sides – some of our top players would have played for the school in the morning and for Portrush in the adult game in the afternoon. I helped make up the numbers 🙂

    One of the highlights of the season was the senior girls v junior boys match; the girls took no prisoners 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, Kathryn tells me on Twitter Strabane Grammar has amalgamated with the Academy.

  • “Having the map with all that rich data is very useful”

    I posted a link to the map on my Facebook page and an early response was: Ms P “Very interesting. Has much changed?”

    The query reminded me of a recent conservation I had with a friend who is caught up in secondary school proposals for the Coleraine area, a conversation that led to a short browse on the internet for background information.

    Have a look at the brave new world, Ms P:

    “Education Minister John O’Dowd said the plans published on Thursday marked “the first step in transforming education provision here”.

    “The plans map out the issues affecting education in local areas, both now and in the future, and put forward proposals to meet these challenges,” he said.

    “The draft plans will raise many questions; however I would encourage everyone to think about the needs of our children both now and in the future as opposed to the needs of individual institutions.” BBC source

    When you look more closely, you’ll see that the Minister’s statement has been disregarded by the institutions. Unsurprisingly, CCMS and NEELB are working on their own area plans for Coleraine district; CCMS for the Catholic sector and NEELB for the state and integrated sectors. Also, unsurprisingly, it seems that this departure from the directive is attracting virtually no attention from the politicians or from the media. So nothing much has changed.

    At primary school level, the two primary schools in Armoy have about 50 pupils each – one Catholic, the other state; one merged integrated school would not be that far over the sustainability threshold. Would their governors contemplate a merger or would they opt to bus the children to a larger school – should such schools have enough spaces?

  • “Check out Dominican College Portstewart, 50:50 approx.

    Protestant principal!”

    BluesJazz, your stats and denomination label lack precision/accuracy. DCP: 53% Catholic, 32% Protestant and 15% Other. The staff is mixed and Bob Cummings, the principal, is a Clerk of Session in a Presbyterian Church who promotes a Dominican ethos in the school. The nuns and the boarders have all now departed so that part of the character of the establishment has disappeared. The presence of the nearby university campus will have played a part in the school’s evolving culture. I was a regular visitor to the convent school in the 70s and 80s and the Mother Superior was an enthusiastic supporter of our JCSS inter-school activities,

  • Chris Donnelly

    Spot on Mick.

    Schools in all sectors do a great job as it is and I genuinely believe the mixture of demographic pressures, coupled with a more relaxed and secure sense of identity, will precipitate gradual change resulting in a more mixed school system in the time ahead.

    I really don’t have a problem with schools specialising in specific sports, but that might just be the Yank in me recognising that such specialism often comes with a competitive ethos which I quite like (coming from a school specialising in Gaelic football, soccer, handball and table tennis, you soon realise it’s often the particular skill sets of individual staff members that dictates sporting culture of a school!)

  • BluesJazz

    ‘Other’ generally means agnostic and mostly from a middle class unionist background. I did say ‘approx’.

    My main point is why do all schools not adopt the same ‘culture’ as the FE Colleges? ie, your’e here to learn, not to be conscripted into a religious/ethnic ethos.

    Germany regards its ‘Technical colleges’ very highly while we appear to see them as low aspirational. Which has the better balanced economy?

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris, our PE sessions often resembled one or two scenes out of Kes… I recall my mate Tony [not his real name] was caught swinging on the crossbar when the opposition scored on the break. The PE master chased him the length of the all weather athletics pitch next door…

  • BluesJazz, folks could be Others on the political as well the religious front in the vicinity of the university. On your main point, the absence of a religious ethos in some educational establishments may be down to a legacy issue ie they were not established by religious bodies.

  • Trust me to stumble on two needles in the haystack! Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Ballymoney and St Joseph’s College in Coleraine are missing from the town maps but appear in the secondary school tick box option. A small glitch in an otherwise excellent map.

  • AndyWilson

    “CCMS and NEELB are working on their own area plans for Coleraine district; CCMS for the Catholic sector and NEELB for the state and integrated sectors.”

    Nevin puts his finger on the real issue surrounding this current ‘Area Planning’ issue. Its piecemeal and too late.

    All the rhetoric from the Department and the Minister about sharing and working collaboratively across the sectors is just that- rthetoric.

    The Education and Library Boards have just had a public consultation exercise. But their work has been completely usurped by the fact that one sector- the Catholic Maintained sector has already gone ahead and rationalised their own sector independently.

    In my area- Larne this has involved the closure of a secondary school and the bussing of 7 loads of school children 18 miles down the coast every day to an amalgamated RC Grammar/ secondary site at Garron Tower. The education board expressed concerns when this occurred 2 years ago, but they were powerless to prevent it (and ironically they pay for the public transport).

    A process of shared classes between St Comgalls and Larne High School had been accelerating over the past 10 years, and overnight this stopped. If this process had been allowed to develop naturally, then non selective post primary education available to all denominations would have been sustainable into the future in the town. A shameful wasted opportunity.

    Now the only options on the table are the status quo or the amalgation of the Voluntary Grammar and Controlled Secondary schools.

  • “All the rhetoric from the Department and the Minister about sharing and working collaboratively across the sectors is just that- rthetoric.”

    Andy, it would be interesting to see whether or not an MLA from the Alliance Party or the Green Party would put down a question to the Education minister along the lines: “Will you insist on the EELBs and CCMS producing a single plan for each area in line with departmental guidelines?”

  • Neil

    A couple of minor hairs in the old ointment here, first the CCMS generously provides many, many millions of pounds worth of property, rent free, annually. That’s one ace in their hole. Second is the fact that the right to educate your child in the denomination of choice is enshrined in European law. Finally, a lot of Catholics are quite happy that their kids being educated as Catholics has the spin off benefit of the children attending the highest quality schools (generally speaking) and the ones with the highest achievement.

    I can imagine the happy people of Ballymena for example, deciding to do away with Saint Louis/Garron Tower and sending the kids to Dunclug High or St. Pat’s. Or St. Alouicious if you live near the coast, locally known as the DA (can you guess) until those unhappy pupils got packed off to Garron Tower to be subjected to a high quality education.

  • Neil, St Aloysius’ High was transformed to St Aloysius’ College before it was decommissioned. The parental choice you refer to was simply ignored in Larne. This self-imposed apartheid is funded mainly out of the public purse; the needs of children and their parents play second fiddle to dogma.

  • I’ve just received a tweet from Kathryn Torney to say that the map glitch has been resolved. Schools with the same post code hid behind one another!

  • oakleaf

    Blue Jazz although your correct about ‘Other’ being mainly secular there is a growing trend in the youngest pupil bracket of other religions. St Malachys in the Markets and Holy Rosary in Sunnyside attracting Muslim students along with faiths.

  • PaddyReilly

    One positive point that has been ignored so far is that tertiary education is wholly integrated, except for teacher training colleges, which probably count as quaternary. In the US this is not the case. Think of Bob Jones University, Loyola, etc.

  • BluesJazz


    I’ve being trying to make the point that Belfast Metropolitan College offers a ready made template for integrated education. But despite it being the biggest school in the UK/Ireland, it’s ignored by the system.
    Grammar schools see it as a resit college and others as vocational.
    The fact that it’s completely ‘integrated’ seems to alienate some sectors of education.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Though I do believe that Mrs D’arcy must take some responsibility for my occasional poor spelling and grammar !”

    May God forgive you Dave, Mrs D’Arcy was a lovely lady whose teaching abilities were second to none.

    How she put up with the mindless low-level gobshitery she received from us ignorant yaps year in year out I will never know. Her attention to detail in grammar and vocabulary, as befits a modern language teacher, was second to none.

    Anyway is it just me or is there a disproportionate number of ex-College boys among the regulars on this site? Something about a St Columb’s education turning one into a self-opinionated know-all no doubt.


    No doubt the reason Mr Friel gave you St Joe’s boys a good thrashing was because let’s face it most of ye’s deserved it.

    Furthermore that was no excuse for you lot beating up poor wee College boys outside the Brandywell gate, especially after Christmas when you’d steal the nice Parker pens our grannies had bought us.