Catholic school seeks to become the first in Northern Ireland to turn into an integrated school

July 13, 2019

Seaview Primary School in the village of Glenarm in County Antrim is seeking to become the first Catholic school in Northern Ireland to transfer into becoming an integrated school. The proposal follows a survey of parents at the end of June which revealed that 95% of respondents supported the idea. The school, which suffers from being undersubscribed, will now draw up a formal application to become an integrated school for its local education authority and the Northern Irish Department of Education, for their approval.

Northern Ireland’s school system has long been segregated on sectarian lines and criticised for helping create conditions whereby intercultural tension and mistrust are sustained. Integrated schools seek to bring together those from different religious and non-religious backgrounds. Although the vast majority of children in Northern Ireland still attend a Catholic or notionally Protestant school, the integrated sector has steadily grown over recent years and now educates 7% of the province’s school pupils.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘Hard learned lessons in Northern Ireland about the perils of segregation and the contribution towards social cohesion from mixing in the school system must not be ignored in Britain. It is a great irony that the key justification made for letting state funded faith schools religiously select who they educate is that it boosts parental choice, when the large majority of parents do not want schools to operate discriminatory and segregatory admission policies. The growth of the integrated sector in Northern Ireland is a further testament to this and, though faith schools can and should operate inclusively, the rise in the number of its integrated schools should be welcomed.’

In 2016 the Accord Coalition commissioned an opinion poll conducted by Populus which found 72.2% of the public agreed that ‘state funded schools, including state funded faith schools, should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy’. 14.8% of respondents disagreed, meaning faith discrimination was opposed by a ratio of almost five to one.  A large majority of adherents of all major world faiths and of England and Wales’ largest Christian denominations were all found to oppose such faith discrimination.

Back in April David Gillett, the former Bishop of Bolton, became Accord’s latest Distinguished Supporter. Explaining his decision to join he said:

‘For several years I worked in a reconciliation centre in Northern Ireland and saw there the enormous problems of segregated sectarian education. It fired in me the passion for full and free participation in education for all children and young people without testing or distinction.’

‘I believe that the future health of our society in the whole of the UK depends on an education system in which our schools fully reflect the diversity of the communities in which they are placed. Our government and society as a whole has a duty to our children and young people to provide schools that are open and welcoming to all without distinction of religion, ethnicity, class, social standing, or sexual orientation.’

2 Responses to Catholic school seeks to become the first in Northern Ireland to turn into an integrated school

  1. Mr Barry Corr on July 14, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Dear Accord,
    Many thanks for your article on our school’s journey towards becoming an integrated primary
    school and the first Catholic school to do so.
    We have been overwhelmed by the positive responses we have received regarding our decision; none more so than the dramatic increase in enrolment over a short period of time. We’re a small village school and our numbers
    rose from 42 pupils in June to over 65 starting in September. This trend is forecasted to increase in the forthcoming years.
    The integrated decision really suits Glenarm and the surrounding area where we have Protestant and Catholic families living side by side; ‘mixed’ marriages are the norm, our staff is 50:50 Catholic/Protestant and in September we expect our pupil population to approach that norm.
    We are so excited about what the future holds for Seaview, Glenarm and Northern Ireland.
    Mr Barry Corr

    • Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education on July 16, 2019 at 2:31 pm

      Great to hear the positive response you have been receiving and of the expected increase in your roll. Thank you for the inspiration you are providing to others. Keep being awesome

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