The first Catholic school in Northern Ireland to become integrated will open to pupils tomorrow. Northern Ireland Humanists has long campaigned for children from different religious and non-religious backgrounds to be educated together. It called the news ‘a victory for inclusive education’.
Seaview Primary School in Glenarm was granted permission to transition from Catholic to integrated status by the former Education Minister, Peter Weir, in March this year. The move was instigated by parents who were concerned about falling pupil numbers. In 2019, principal Barry Corr said the change ‘made sense’ given the mix of families at the school and in the wider community. The number of pupils attending the school has reportedly doubled since the plan to integrate was announced three years ago.
Most schools in Northern Ireland tend to be highly segregated along religious lines. But integrated schools work to balance the proportion of pupils from each community background they admit. At present, they aim at 40% Catholic, 40% Protestant, and 20% other. As a result, they are increasingly popular with parents, particularly those who are non-religious or from minority religious groups. A recent poll showed that 67% of parents would support their child’s school becoming integrated. However, only 7% of schools have integrated status, with a report from Ulster University finding that integrated education is an ‘illusory’ choice for many families.
Earlier this year, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong tabled a Private Members’ Bill that, if it becomes law, will require the Executive to promote integrated education. It will also introduce a legal presumption that all new schools will have integrated status. The Bill recently passed its second stage in the Assembly. However, during the debate ahead of that vote, Ms Armstrong said ‘Nothing in the Bill takes away from the Christian basis of all schools in Northern Ireland.’ This means that, despite admitting pupils from non-religious and minority faith backgrounds, the ethos would not be fully inclusive of their diverse beliefs.
Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:
‘The transformation of Seaview Primary from a Catholic school to an integrated school is a real victory for inclusive education. The fact that pupil numbers have doubled following the announcement shows that most parents prefer to have their children educated alongside others from a variety of different backgrounds, rather than in religiously segregated classes.’
For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07918 975795.
Read our latest article on the Integrated Education Bill passing its second stage in the Assembly.
Read our recent article on why integrated schools are an illusory choice for many families in Northern Ireland.
Read our article on the DUP MLA who says all schools should be integrated.
Read more about our work on schools and education.
Read more about our work on faith schools.
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