Integration and Secular schooling.

Northern Ireland has a long history of division between communities which tend to label themselves unionist or nationalist, and Catholic or Protestant. This has lead to schooling being predominantly segregated along the same lines.

Over the last few days, we have had some positive news.

Firstly, the Integrated Education Fund produced a report called “Young People’s Voices.” This report was then delivered to Stormont, telling our MLAs more had to be done.

The full report is here http://www.ief.org.uk/…/08/Young-Peoples-Voices-report.pdf

Two interesting statistics:

• More than 80% of those questioned agree that an education system bringing children of all faiths and none together in the same schools would be an important step in combating sectarianism.

And

• Out of 1400 people aged 17/18 questioned for the Young Life and Times Survey, the strongest perception of division was by virtue of religious background.

The young people of Northern Ireland have spoken up. Personally, I am proud of them showing up and presenting this information to MLAs.

I also must praise the Integrated Education Fund for the study they have taken the time to do.

But I have to ask, are primary and secondary educational establishments going to stay out of touch, or are they going to incorporate positive changes for a better future?

Well, maybe we can push them into touch with the next bit of good news.

Today, Minister John O’Dowd announced his plans for more integrated education system, saying, “Education has a key role to play” in rebuilding a “strong and vibrant society.”

The Minister for Education set out plans for schools from different divides to share campuses and education facilities, with the collaboration of teachers. This won’t just be an optional enrichment activity, but a core part of learning.

The Atheist Northern Ireland team are keen to congratulate Mr O’Dowd, and would be happy to assist him in any way possible.

Read the full report here.http://www.deni.gov.uk/…/sandchool…/shared_education.htm

Boyd Sleator