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Northern Ireland Humanists calls for integrated education to be top human rights priority

Northern Ireland Humanists has called on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to prioritise integrated education in its strategic plan for the next three years.

At present, most children from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds are educated apart from one another. Northern Ireland Humanists advocates for schools to educate children from different religious and belief backgrounds together and has long campaigned for a single system of education. Integrated education seeks to address the harms caused by segregation and there is a wealth of robust evidence to suggest that positive contact of the kind that happens in schools with diverse intakes is pivotal to community cohesion. Perhaps because of the positive contribution they make to social cohesion, integrated schools are popular amongst parents. A 2018 poll showed that 67% of parents would support their child’s school becoming integrated. Previous research also suggests that 91% think these schools are ‘important for promoting a shared and better future’.

Northern Ireland Humanists welcomed the Commission’s recent response to the consultation on the Integrated Education Bill which included widening of the definition of integrated education to recognise both religious and non-religious beliefs and called for the Commission to work to make sure the Bill’s wording to promote and increase integrated education provision is not weakened.

Northern Ireland Humanists also highlighted several other human rights issues that the Commission should immediately address including the repeal of the blasphemy laws, the failure of the Department for Health to commission abortion services, and the lack of pastoral care services for non-religious people in health and social care trusts and in the prison service.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator said:

‘In order to move forward and for the next generation to grow up in a society that respects human rights and dignity, it is essential that they are given the opportunity to have an integrated education. Therefore, we call upon the Human Rights Commission to do all within its power to ensure that the number of integrated schools and pupils attending them increases in the next three years. Integrated education is popular with parents and there is substantial evidence that it helps to break down the social, religious, and sectarian barriers that for so long have blighted our communities.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd@humanists.uk or phone 07918 975795.

Read our response to the consultation.

Read the Integrated Education Bill.

Read our previous article on the Integrated Education Bill.

Read our report on the first Northern Ireland Catholic school to become integrated.

Humanism and the curriculum – what teachers in Northern Ireland need to know.

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