Despite a [slightly] increased Catholic population, parents are walking away from segregated ed…

So, is this the real problem underlying the CCMS’s recent broadside against integrated education…

In 1981, there were 28 pupils in integrated education.

By 2000/2001, that figure had rocketed to 13,847.

  • A decade later, integrated schools were home to 20,535 pupils.
  • In the 2013/2014 school year, there were 21,206 pupils in integrated schools.
  • That means, between the turn of the millennium and June this year, integrated education increased its pupil numbers by 53%.

In comparison:

  • In 2000/2001, the Catholic maintained sector had 123,750 pupils.
  • A decade later, that figure had spiralled to 112,686.
  • In the 2013/2014 school year, that number was 114,222.

That means, between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014, the percentage of pupils attending Catholic maintained schools plummeted by 7.7%.

, , , ,

  • Dan


  • Niall Chapman

    Are there any Gaelscoils that are not Catholic maintained schools? Just wondering as I’m sure there are many Nationalists (and possibly some unionists too) who have no interest in religion but would want their child to learn Irish

  • Brian O’Neill

    The really interesting fact is in a lot of schools we are now integrated in all but name. Methody is meant to be at least 25% catholic, same with BRA.

    Dominican College in Portstewart supposedly is now 50/50 with a protestant headmaster. I was talking with a catholic mother who sends her son to Friends School is Lisburn. She is delighted with Friends, thinks it’s a great school.

    Off course the issue is it is not true integration, some of the state schools still keep their ‘traditions’ like playing God save the Queen at prize giving. And the catholic schools have their fair share of masses. But the middle classes are voting with their feet, they want to send their
    kids to good schools and they could not care less what allegience they

    The real question is when will we recongise the farce of maintaining two seperate education systems. It these times of economic difficultly we can save a fortune by merging schools and resources.

    Any other examples of schools changing? Please let us know in the comments.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Interesting question. Pretty sure Gaelscoilsare not counted as catholic schools, they are independent. Can anyone clarify?

  • Bryan Magee

    “Just 0.9% of pupils in 452 Catholic maintained primary and post-primary
    schools are Protestants. It is the least integrated sector in our
    education system”

    I think that this article is good, but (I think) is written from an Integrated Education (NICIE) perspective. So it may not point out that there has been a rather rapid rise in the number of Catholic children attending non-denominational schools which are not part of the fomally integrated sector run by NICIE. In particular, state and voluntary schools in the non-denominational post-primary sector have seen quite a rise in the number of Catholic children attending in recent years. The rise continues with no signs yet of slowing down.

    The formal integrated education sector makes a good contribution, and has been growing, but I think that a lot of integration is now starting to be achieved via a better mix of religions at the non-denominational schools.

  • NMS

    Many Gaelscoileanna in Ireland are under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta ( This organisation does not function in UKNI. Other Gaelscoileanna in Ireland belong to other trusts such as ERST and many are also State controlled through Education Boards.

    Looking at the list of UKNI Gaelscoileanna on the site of Gaelscoileanna, most do not seem to be Catholic.

  • Bryan Magee

    Yes, in terms of the increase in the diversity of intake in recent years I have been monitoring this and its quite widespread among the non-denominational schools. (See my separate post, just posted ).

  • NMS

    Mick, Is this an example of lies, damn lies & statistics? What was the total number of children at school, the numbers in “Protestant” schools, fee paying etc.? Picking two headings and producing figures for just those headings is sloppy.

  • NMS

    Bryan, the same broad trends are visible this side of the Border at national school level. C of I schools, Gaelscoileanna etc., together with more middle class Catholic schools are gaining. The “Educate Together” schools have also done reasonably well, particularly with the former Minister for Education giving them their pick and discriminating against other Trusts.

    However with the number of primary school students beginning to fall from 2015 or 2016, the position will become much more competitive. Numbers are already falling in a large number of counties.

    However I would suggest that there are a number of drivers, in particular class and standards. Large “take everyone” primary schools are losing out to niche schools, who perhaps attract a “better class” of parent.

    I speak as Chairman of a school board in Dublin and find that such issues are core to the choices made by parents. Would I be correct that the same trends are to be seen in UKNI?

  • Niall Chapman

    I wish I’d had the chance to go to one, St Mary’s C.B.G.S is a great school but the shite we had to listen to about Edmund Rice and having to study Religion was a pain in the hole

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think as the CCMS scheme to scrap Grammars will see the numbers attending Voluntary Grammars, controlled and Integrated schools increase in coming years as it is implemented across the country.

  • Bryan Magee

    Yes I think so. I’ve always thought that people in NI can look South to figure out some trends.

    The Integrated Sector is an example of a niche product that attracts parents who seek something more special than a “standard” school. So too do the Grammar Schools in NI, who in many cases offer something special.

    In fact, when SF abolished the official “governmental” tests for grammar school entry, and these were replaced by privately-run tests, this facilitated investment in grammar school brand identity – you see a lot of advertising in the newspapers for when and where to take the test as well as brand reinforcements encouraging people to choose these schools. I conjecture that some of the rise in the Catholic applicants is that they are taking these tests and going to the best school they can get into regardless of whether its non-denominational.

    A trend that I expect (though perhaps not for 10 years) in NI is also for protestants to start choosing Catholic-denomination schools. This already happens in two specific cases, one of which Brian O’Neill mentions , and its entirely possible in future more such schools can attract if they are academically strong and have a good reputation, and allow non-Catholic people the chance to opt out of aspects of the education (such as Catholic religious instruction).

  • Brian O’Neill

    You mean ‘Blessed’ Edmund Rice? 😉 St Marys had an irish stream did not not? Also I think the irish schools teach religion as well.

  • Niall Chapman

    They’ve got an Irish stream for pupils who join from the Bunscoil who are fast tracked through Gaeilge G.C.S.E’s etc, as well as the option to study Irish from 1st year, so what I really wish was that my parents had put me in the Bunscoil to start with but sure, maybe in the next life if I’m wrong about the whole religion thing.
    Since the Irish schools also teach Religion is it on the basis of “This is the word of the Lord, thats how it is, and that’s that” like in the schools I attended, or are they on the basis of “This is what some people believe” ?

  • barnshee

    “Looking at the list of UKNI Gaelscoileanna on the site of Gaelscoileanna, most do not seem to be Catholic.”

    What planet are you on -look at the teachers- look at the pupil intake — look at where they are situated “most do not seem to be Catholic”.? you could have fooled me

    Since most prods (tho unwilling to admit it in public) are in the Gregory Campbell camp on the Irish Language the chances of prods attending “Gaelscoileanna”to put it politely remote.

  • barnshee

    I suggest you round up all the prod pupils in the ROI -given their number (1%?) of the Pop (and mostly in the Dublin area ?) they can all probably be contained in one School -out of the way somewhere -hardly an issue

  • barnshee

    ” This already happens in two specific cases, one of which Brian O’Neill mentions”

    The schools operate in unique environments and are in no way a blueprint

    The proximity of universities has an influence with non Irish parents opting for a convenient local school
    South Belfast is the classic example whilst Portstewart is a dormitory town for Coleraine (and further) and is heavily “middle class” other than the gombeen men and gobshites who infest the place at the weekends

    T he prospect of a “grammar school education” tends to”trump” religion

  • NMS

    Barnshee, they have not listed their denomination as Catholic. Gaelcholáiste Feirste states that it is multi denominational.

  • NMS

    Barnshee, you forget the “New Protestants” from Africa & Eastern Europe. I think the native CofI population is 3-4% but much larger in many areas such as South Dublin, East Donegal etc. Many children of mixed marriages are also brought up as Protestants. Foreign births are between 20-25% of total births.

  • NMS

    Mr. C, I chair the Board of Management of an ERST Irish language school with pupils including Mormon and Muslim pupils. We also have lots of nothings too. Schools have changed, I hope!

    Had all CB schools correctly followed the teachings of Edmund Rice in the past, much of the problems would not have happened.

    It is clearly a Catholic school, which respects all religions and those of none. I can think of one ERST school in Dublin where the main religion is Islam.

  • Niall Chapman

    To be fair St Mary’s C.B.G.S was not prejudiced in any way when I went there, I think there were even a few pupils whose parents had asked that their children not have to attend R.E. and there was no problem with it

  • NMS

    Yes, it is very noticeable in the Dublin area where many better off parents opt for private schools at second level. In some cases the Prods are now in a minority.

    I remember the brother of a friend who taught in a CofI national school, complaining about rich lapsed Catholics clogging up his school.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Are there any Protestants in Eastern Europe?

  • carl marks

    I posted this originally on the thread;

    Reducing Duplication Within the Education System?

    carl marks • 3 months ago

    Both my Daughters are through the whole school thing, we live halfway between Ballymena and Magherafelt, both on passing the 11+ opted for St Mary’s M/felt (we are a mixed marriage, but allowed the girls to make up their own minds they define themselves as Presbyfenians) the eldest thrived at the Convent (without accepting the religious ethos but willing to sit quietly during the faith bits) and is starting her masters this year, the youngest was too much of a free spirit and clashed antlers with the RE teacher she transferred to Slemish in Ballymena she is now on her gap year and will start a degree in Astrophysics next year.

    Both systems served my family well but IMHO Slemish was the better school, less tradition and a more flexible approach to the individual pupils needs.
    Good leadership and good staff have built a school that the kids have pride in.

    I suppose my point is that while I recognize that the catholic church has produced great schools it is time to pull the whole god thing out of the system, as to duplication it is ridiculous that that expensive resources which may be underused (very few teachers are underused) in one school is copied in another school and underused there.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I note that the percentage of the decline, 7.7%, is the same as the percentage of the Alliance vote. Do you think this is significant?

  • Bryan Magee

    For such a new school Slemish seems to have already a good name in the Mid Antrim area, I have heard that it has a very good headmaster and that the teachers are generally good, and that it gets good results.

  • carl marks

    All true, Dr Mc Hugh is a great Headmaster and the staff are a very committed bunch.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    There were before Hitler! Marshall Józef Klemens Piłsudski was one for starters, descended from Scots Jacobite exiles on his mother’s side.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    That’s my experience, certainly!

  • That would be five systems: Controlled, Maintained, Integrated, Irish Medium and even a Private Public one that doesn’t clearly fit in any of the others.

  • Lutheran in Eastern Germany, and quite a large reformed population in Hungary and Northern Romania? Plus, there is the substantial Orthodox population in Eastern Europe.

  • More broadly there is a decline in overall numbers, which makes a real battle for every pupil – lapsing into public spats between ‘Catholic schools such as the one between Loretto and Limavady. That is having an impact too on ‘selection’ as some schools need to take any pupil they can get to keep numbers up. This is probably the case across all sectors. Does question why spending remains ring-fenced, when an overall rethinking needs to be done on what provision is needed overall, and how to best manage limited public resources – and five systems does not assist in that sort of reorganisation.

  • Old Mortality


    “A trend that I expect (though perhaps not for 10 years) in NI is also for protestants to start choosing Catholic-denomination schools. This already happens in two specific cases.”

    I suspect these schools are also not making Irish compulsory, if they offer it at all, and are not too bothered about encouraging ‘our national games’ either. I think most non-Catholic parents are less concerned with ‘the Catholic ethos’ than the Irish one which is probably the stronger of the two.

  • Stan McGlone

    I attended an integrated school and I believe it helped me greatly with getting past the sectarian attitudes of my childhood friends who went to a segregated school. After leaving school and going on to University I felt more comfortable with various backgrounds of other students. My school years were very interesting, we took Irish language classes, played rugby and GAA sports and learnt Irish and British history. Now being older I find myself in a mixed marriage. I am all for integrated education and find it pathetic that we still waste money on treating students as non equals.

  • Paddy Reilly

    That is the answer I wanted. For Protestant read Orthodox. Though obviously there are a lot of Atheists in former Communist countries.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I doubt though that he is in the Dublin school system

  • Bryan Magee

    Yes, you’re absolutely right on the first point as a matter of fact: the two Catholic schools that attract significant non-Catholic children do not make Irish compulsory, it’s optional.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Oh dear, where to start.

    Let’s deal with the facts.

    There is no sector in our education system which enjoys a reputation for
    academic excellence quite like the Catholic sector. At primary level and
    post-primary (both non-grammar and grammar), Catholic schools are in a
    league of their own when it comes to not just academic qualifications
    obtained but also consistency of performance as judged in a qualitative
    sense by those tasked with so doing, namely the Education and Training
    Inspectorate (ETI.)

    If you don’t believe me, then do what I have already done and analyse the inspection report history of all primary schools over the past four years. Then take a look at the annual academic league tables produced by this journalist’s paper and the Irish
    News. The evidence is overwhelming.

    Therefore, the idea that CCMS is somehow under pressure, or that catholics are walking away from Catholic education, is ridiculous and would not be entertained as a
    notion by any credible observer.

    This is a deliciously rich case of using statistics in a ‘spin’ manner to articulate a narrative which, when exposed to the full facts at hand, loses its credibility very
    quickly. More disturbingly, the journalist appears to have made glaring
    mistakes during the course of producing this article.

    Take this bizarre statement:
    “Last year, there were 74,252 pupils in Catholic maintained primary
    schools, but by secondary level that figure had almost halved to 39,970.”

    Thereare indeed 39,970 pupils in Catholic Maintained secondary schools. But
    the journalist omits to inform readers that there are also 27,262 pupils
    in Catholic Grammar schools, a statistic which destroys the narrative
    implied that almost half of Catholics leaving primary school are going
    to non-Catholic schools.

    In truth, there are 18,000 less pupils in Controlled schools now than was the case in 2000/01 and 6,000 fewer in Catholic schools precisely because there are fewer school age kids than was the case. Yes, the overall proportion of pupils may be more
    Catholic than was previously the case, but that has had a more
    interesting consequence in another sense than the one suggested by the

    One of the side effects of Catholic grammars developing the strongest reputation due to academic performances, combined with the rising percentage of Catholics amongst the pupil cohort, is the raising of the threshold to obtain access to a Catholic
    grammar school. In contrast, the bar is generally set lower for those
    seeking to gain access to non-Catholic grammars due to the smaller
    numbers of non-Catholics (ie Protestants) amongst the overall percentage
    of the pupil cohort.

    Consequently, you have the scenario which now exists of Catholic parents of P7 pupils hedging their bets and putting their children in for the four weeks of Saturday tests,
    commencing this Saturday, in the hope that their child will succeed in
    gaining access to a grammar, regardless of sectoral background.

    InLisburn for instance, this generally means many Catholic kids knocked back
    from Rathmore taking up a place in Friends, Wallace or Hunter House. In
    north Belfast, it means those knocked back from St Malachy’s (including
    many B1 pupils last year) having BRA to fall back upon.

    It’s classic Catholic pragmatism at work. Bottom line: A good parent will do whatever they feel is best for their child.

    A further irony worthy of note: the higher Catholic grammar threshold (in
    general, for there are notable exceptions) is directly linked to the
    bunching up of the Catholic grammars at the top of the annual league
    tables. Conversely, the fact that most ‘Protestant’ grammars enrol from a
    broader academic attainment profile has the opposite effect of ensuring
    they can’t keep pace with the Catholic Grammars when assessed using the
    crude measure of the % of pupils achieving 3+ A*-C A Level grades.

    Funny old world eh….

  • Croiteir

    I agree – it is time we treated all students as equals and stop the state discrimination against non integratedschools

  • Zig70

    With the focus on religious integration and not cultural it still smells a bit like assimilation rather than integration. Why isn’t there the same focus on integrating housing? Surely you need an action plan for both or is it just for the posh kids?

  • mickfealty

    Thanks Chris. Always good to get a robust challenge in.

    Can I just say: Four. Weeks. Of. Selection. Tests? If that’s not a testimony to a failure to effectively reform I don’t know what is. There’s a moral panic amongst the middle class over school choice I don’t remember from my day.

    My direct experience is limited and probably unrepresentative. But more of the ‘kids’ I went to school with are getting their kids into Grammar, and there’s a lot less stigma to going outside the Catholic system to achieve that.

    I know of one mixed family whose three sons went in birth order: Sullivan (5th last year); Our Lady and St Pats (3rd); Campbell.

    In the 70s some Catholic parents were sending their kids to Sullivan, but most who passed went to St Pats, or St Malachis. My old Catholic secondary is now effectively integrated.

    CCMS does have a markedly better performance at all levels. That’s in part because they are a specialist educational management organisation. Controlled schools, not so much.

    It was one of the hoped for aims of the Learning and Skills Council that they could provide some of the support for all schools that CCMS does currently for the Catholic sector.

    However mixing is happening. I think Newtown Emerson was the first to point out several years ago that Catholic parents are roaming like they’ve never done before.

    Short of another prolonged period of civic unrest I don’t see that being reversed.

    Meanwhile, axes are going to fall sooner or later. Dwindling resources means competition between sectors. It’s not hard to detect the panic.

  • Superfluous

    Has anyone stopped to ask if the integrated sector actually produce the goods, in terms of educational achievement?

    I ask because my kids were attending an integrated school outside Belfast for 3 years before I pulled them and took them offshore (for my job outside NI) – and long story short I’m now not very happy with that integrated school (after comparisons with the current school). If I was to move back I’d seriously consider one of the Catholic schools I know well – not because I want my kids learning about Christianity, but because I know it has a very good reputation for educational achievement…

    And now I’m thinking that may be the key in driving integrated schools… they need a ‘word of mouth’ reputation for actually being better at what they do…

  • SeaanUiNeill

    No he’s in St. Leonard’s Crypt in Kraków’s Wawel Cathedral, but perhaps a few of his co-religionists are in the Dublin school system!

    Seriously, there are still sizable German monorities in Poland (about 150,000, I think) mostly living in Western Silesia, which was German before 1945. Although most are Catholic many of the others are Protestant members of Evangelical-Augsburg Church. I have no figures as to how many have moved to Dublin.

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: One of the side effects of Catholic grammars developing the strongest reputation due to academic performances, combined with the rising percentage of Catholics amongst the pupil cohort, is the raising of the threshold to obtain access to a Catholic grammar school.
    So, on its way to becoming non-selective, the maintained sector is temporarily becoming more and more intensely selective…
    What happens next?

  • Bryan Magee

    The Catholic grammars are being phased out, so in the longer term this will not be an issue – by definition they will not be selecting on academic criteria.

  • NMS

    There is a very large Latvian population in Ireland, many of whom are Lutheran. while they are is a much smaller Estonian population, they too are Lutheran. Yes, there are lots of Black Prods out East!

  • Siún Carden

    I can only speak for the integrated schools I went to, but I’ve found that the sole focus on religion comes from outside commentators, and people within the integrated education movement are just as (in some cases more) concerned about the socially regressive effects of the 11+ as they are about sectarianism. The religion thing is the headline-grabber, but posh kids going to school with the decidedly un-posh is more of a challenge for a lot of people. That’s one of the many ways in which even a sizeable minority of Catholics going to a state school does not make it integrated.

    Interesting point about housing. Integrated schools were built (sometimes very literally) by small groups of parents. Could there be similar movements among tenants? Serious obstacles but anything’s possible…

  • Robin Keogh

    The Issue around Catholic control of schools is not restricted to the six counties, it also has been debated haevily in the South with the Labour party in particular favouring a disentanglement. In so far as integrated education in the North is seen as a necessary measure to try break down divisions in society, it is seen in the South as a measure necessarry to make southern schools appear more inclusive given the sharp rise in the population of minority groups such as Muslims etc. In other words the churces control is coming under pressure from both jursidictions albiet for somewhat different reasons. However what needs to be taken into consideration and given high priority here is what the parents of children want. There has to be an opportunity for parents to decide whther or not they want their children educated under a religious ethos, the choice should be there in as much as parents can choose to send their kids to schools that have a deliberate focus on sport, acadamia or trade skills etc. Ideally it would be pretty cool if all schools could offer all things to all pupils, but that is unlikely to occur anytime soon. It is not enough to argue that religious instruction shoud be kept at home and left for parents to apply. In society where large potions of the population claim to be adherents to a faith which is organised under an institution, it is not at all unreasonable to expect that the education system should in some way reflect that demographic.

  • barnshee

    yea –and the Orange Order promotes freedom of religion

  • Bryan Magee

    Catholic schools in time could be for those parents who seek devout religious instruction for their offspring

  • Robin Keogh

    Very well written and easy to understand. Slugger can be quite “creative” with facts and figures so its good to have someone like yourself 😉

  • Robin Keogh


  • Reader

    Big Yellow Crane: will appear better even if the value add of the whole sector is exactly the same as the Controlled or integrated sectors.
    “Value Add” – that’s the term that was missing. Not only can “Value Add” be computed for single schools (and I think that Chris is rightly proud of the achievements of his own school, for instance), but also a community measure comparable with value add can be derived for entire communities by looking at educational outcomes.
    But I seem to recall that Chris has previously suggested that outcomes are broadly similar between communities – a disappointing result from a maintained sector that is bursting with excellence.

  • Séamus

    Most Irish-medium schools are not Catholic-maintained and fall under the auspices of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta.

    In the context of the above article, in 2000/01 there were 1,202 pupils in Irish-medium education (excluding Irish-medium nurseries/pre-schools). In 2012/13 it had more than tripled to 4,102.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Yes it seems to me that Alliance’s vaunted anti-sectarianism merely leads to the creation of an extra sect.

  • Paddy Reilly

    If you are pursuing the self-interest of your sect–“the Coloureds”–then you are not anti-sectarian.

  • NMS

    Barnshee The organisation involved is Iontaobhas na Gaeilge. It seems very broad based to me and certainly not a Catholic organisation.

  • Paddy Reilly

    An interesting, and no doubt true analysis. But what intrigues me is why a representative of Sinn Féin should feel the need to defend an institution run by the Catholic Church. Is there a connection between the two, or are you just voicing a personal opinion?

  • mickfealty

    Columbanus in Bangor BYC. Catholic parents in Holywood are relatively spoilt for choice these days, and I suspect many Protestant parents like the access to a school which is up near the middle of the NI field despite its high school status.