Poll: 67% support integrated education in Northern Ireland

Posted: Wed, 10th Jul 2024

NSS calls for urgent action from NI Executive as only 6% of NI schools are integrated despite overwhelming public support

Pupils at Phoenix Integrated Primary School. Image: Integrated Education Fund.

More than two thirds of people in Northern Ireland agree that integrated education should be the main model for education, a poll has revealed.

Sixty-seven per cent of respondents agree integrated schools, which intentionally educate children from Catholic, Protestant and other backgrounds together, should become the norm in NI, the poll found.

Over 90% of pupils in NI attend schools which are effectively segregated along Protestant and Catholic religious lines. The vast majority of schools have very few pupils from the 'other' community, with 30% having no representatives of the 'other' community at all.

The polling also found 63% of parents would support their child's schools becoming an integrated school. A majority (70%) would support all schools, regardless of management type, aiming to have a religious and cultural mix of pupils, teachers and governors.

The poll, which received over 2,300 responses, was held by independent polling company LucidTalk on behalf of the Integrated Education Fund (IEF).

Despite this widespread support for integrated schools, and recent legislation which requires the NI executive to support them, just 6% of schools are integrated and only around 7% of children attend them. In 2021/22, 16% of first preference applications to post-primary integrated schools did not result in admission to that particular school.

NSS: "Ensuring every parent who wants their child to attend an integrated school can do so must be a priority"

The National Secular Society has repeatedly called for greater support for integrated schools. In January it made a submission to the NI Affairs Committee's inquiry on integrated education, highlighting how opposition to integrated education from religious institutions and leaders is a "key reason" for the slow growth of integrated schools.

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "This is just the latest in a series of polls which consistently find most people in Northern Ireland support integrated schools.

"The NI Executive must urgently act on these findings. Integrated schools are key to healing sectarian divisions in NI and bringing families from all religions and none together.

"But there are still many families with no realistic options for integrated education where they live. Ensuring every parent who wants their child to attend an integrated school can do so must be a priority."

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Tags: Faith schools