67% of people in Northern Ireland want integrated schools to be ‘main model’

9 July, 2024

A new poll of people in Northern Ireland by LucidTalk has found that 67% of people want integrated education – a school system that brings pupils and staff together regardless of their religious background – to be ‘the main model’ for the  education system. Northern Ireland Humanists has welcomed the finding.

The survey, which was commissioned by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF). The results of this poll are consistent with a previous 2018 survey which found that two-thirds of parents supported their child’s school becoming integrated.

Further findings include:

  • 70% also said they want ‘all schools, regardless of type or aim to have a religious and cultural mix of pupils, teachers and governors’.
  • Only 34% of parents thought that it was important to them to have ‘a school which reflects a particular single faith or cultural background’, with 100% instead opting for ‘good educational standards’, 91% for distance, 94% for ‘good, well-maintained facilities’, and most pertinently, 72% opting for ‘a school which is openly welcoming of all sections of the community and to all faiths’. Just 10% disagreed with this last statement.
  • 63% of all adults also said they would support their child’s or their local school becoming integrated.
  • 62% want the Department of Education to ‘pro-actively support the amalgamation of schools from different sectors’. In 2022 the Integrated Education Act, which requires the Northern Ireland Executive to aim to meet demand for places in integrated schools, became law.
  • And 77% want to integrate the currently segregated initial teacher education system.

At present, most children from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds are educated separately. As a result, they miss out on the benefits of mixing with young people from other communities, of having a broader religious education curriculum, and building inter-community links. Northern Ireland Humanists has long advocated a single system of education, and campaigns for a fully inclusive education system free from religious discrimination.

Just 7% of schools in Northern Ireland are integrated. The poll also asked people why they think this is. 52% blamed the churches, and 47% the political parties.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘Integrated education provides children and young people with the opportunity to mix and meet with young people from other communities, and this can break down existing community divisions.

‘There was a clear pledge “to facilitate and encourage integrated education” in the Good Friday Agreement. That was over 25 years ago, and yet we still see a tiny fraction of the schooling system as integrated. This poll shows again what we already know, parents want integration. The question is, when will they get it?’

Northern Ireland Humanists will be writing to the Education Minister about the poll, encouraging the Department of Education to take heed of its findings.


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

Read more about our work on schools and education

See the full report by IEF and LucidTalk.

Read our response to the 2022 Integrated Education Bill

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 over 120,000 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.