Teacher training reinforces educational division in Northern Ireland, says new report

10 December, 2020

The way new teachers are trained reinforces educational division in Northern Ireland, a new report from Ulster University has found. Northern Ireland Humanists, which campaigns for a single system of schooling that educates pupils from all backgrounds together, has welcomed the report, which is the latest in a series looking at the problems associated with religiously segregated schools from the University’s UNESCO Centre for Education.

At present, there are four institutions in Northern Ireland providing teacher training courses: Stranmillis University College, St Mary’s University College, Queen’s University, and Ulster University. All four are theoretically open to trainee teachers from any background. However, in practice, the report says ‘the composition of the student bodies at the two University Colleges still strongly reflects the religious divide… it is widely acknowledged that St Mary’s does, in effect, prepare teachers for working in the Catholic Maintained sector whilst Stranmillis prepares students for employment in Controlled [i.e. largely Protestant] sector schools’.

In the two universities, it is more mixed, and it might therefore be assumed there would be more community crossover. But even here, interviews with trainees suggest that the student body maintains ‘a social and spatial division with its roots in community identity’. What’s more, ‘the data gathered in the interviews showed that few teachers actively sought, were offered or availed of opportunities to venture from the community consistent path during periods of teaching practice.’

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented: 

‘This report provides yet further evidence that segregation is baked into Northern Ireland’s education system from start to finish. From pre-school right the way through to university, communities are divided. The teachers that are trained by these institutions tend only to secure jobs in schools that cater solely or primarily for pupils from the same background, thus repeating the cycle of separation.

‘We urge the Northern Ireland Government to take up the recommendations of this report and conduct a radical review and restructure of teacher training. We urge it to radically restructure the whole education system so that all children, regardless of background, are educated together by teachers with a diverse range of religions and beliefs.’


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd.sleator@humanists.uk or 02890 029946

Read the full report.

Read our most recent article on the DUP MLA who says all schools should be integrated.

Read our article on how Northern Ireland pre-schools are ‘highly segregated’ by denomination.

Read our article on how segregation and religious bias in education poses a major threat to children’s rights in Northern Ireland.

Read more about our work on schools and education.

Read more about our work on faith schools. 

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