Northern Ireland Humanists has today joined forces with a number of other organisations and education experts to form the Coalition for Inclusive Education. The Coalition’s aim is for all state-funded schools to have an inclusive ethos and be open, welcoming, and fair to pupils, staff, and parents from all backgrounds, regardless of religion or belief.
As well as Northern Ireland Humanists, the other founding members of the Coalition are the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum, Belfast Islamic Centre, the Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality, and Phoenix Law. The Coalition also has a number of leading academics on its steering group.
This evening’s launch event, taking place at Stormont, is hosted by Connie Egan MLA, and guests will hear speeches from Chair of the Coalition Dr Norman Richardson, Honorary Fellow of Stranmillis University College, and Executive Member, NI Inter-Faith Forum; Naomi Green of Belfast Islamic Centre; Lynn Johnston, Development Officer, NICIE; and Dr Matt Milliken, Research Associate, University of Ulster UNESCO Centre.
Education in Northern Ireland is infamously based on historical division. Catholics and Protestants are educated mostly separately in different school systems. Additionally, those of no religion or minority religions are wholly uncatered for in education law. The mission of the Coalition is therefore to abolish this historical division in education and push for an inclusive system, with recognition of each person’s right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief; and within which Religious Education will be taught in a way that is objective, critical, and pluralistic, and inspected in line with other curriculum subjects. In this way it will contribute to the ongoing process of bringing Northern Ireland society together.
The launch coincides with a significant date for education in Northern Ireland: 26 October being the day that the Integrated Education Act comes into force. It is hoped that this Act will lead to more integrated schools opening. Such schools aim to have a mixed intake, taking roughly 40% of their pupils from the Catholic community, 40% from the Protestant community, and 20% from other backgrounds, including the non-religious and minority faiths.
Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:
‘Today marks a great step forward in our push for inclusivity in Northern Ireland schools. I’m delighted both that Northern Ireland Humanists is a founding member of the Coalition for Inclusive Education, and also that so many other people from across the community want to join us. Anybody who shares our values is welcome to join. Let’s keep this momentum going and demonstrate to decision makers that education in Northern Ireland cannot remain so divided any more.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07918 975795.
Read our report on the first Northern Ireland Catholic school to become integrated.
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.
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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.