Independent Review of Education finds overwhelming support for ending religious divides

12 October, 2022

Today sees the publication of the Independent Review of Education’s Interim Report, Excellent Education for All. The report is based on a survey, which has found that, in the eyes of stakeholders, religious segregation in Northern Ireland is the biggest weakness with the current system. Northern Ireland Humanists has welcomed the finding, and has called for the Review’s Final Report to chart a course to a new, more inclusive system.

The Northern Ireland Executive has tasked the Independent Review with considering what a ‘single education system’ would mean for the country and how it might be implemented.

It is clear from the analysis of the survey that the public considers a ‘single education system’ to be one free of historic divisions and religious influence. Indeed, by Northern Ireland Humanists’ analysis, 72 per cent of those who answered the question defined such a system along those lines.

The survey also found that the number one weakness in the system was segregation, and that respondents were uneasy with a definition of ‘good education’ including a reference to ‘spiritual awareness’. As one student put it, ‘I believe religious instruction has no place in education except for a wider conversation on acceptance of, and respect for people’s belief and backgrounds.’

Meanwhile the main Interim Report argued that an ‘excellent education system’ should respect ‘… the reasonable rights of parents to ensure that children are educated in accordance with their religious and philosophical convictions… cultivate critical thinking, resilience, adaptability and the ability to thrive in times of change.’

This duty to respect parents’ and children’s religious and philosophical convictions in education reflects a recent High Court judgment which found that laws requiring all schools in Northern Ireland to provide faith-based Christian religious education (RE) and collective worship breach human rights legislation.

The final report of the Independent Review will be published in 2023.

Northern Ireland Humanists responded to the survey earlier this year. The Coalition for Inclusive Education, of which Northern Ireland Humanists is a founding member, will be launched at an event in Stormont on 26 October.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘We welcome this report and the findings of the survey. They make clear that what the Northern Ireland public want, parents want, teachers want, and schools want, is what we want: a single education system free from religious segregation. The Independent Review must now spell out how that will be brought about.’


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

Read the Independent Review’s Interim Report and survey analysis.

Read our response to the survey.

Read our article on the NI census results.

Read our article about calling for inclusive schools in our response to the Independent Review.

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 religious education & collective worship.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.