The Integrated Education Movement has a track record of success, winning changes in law, precedent and practice to lay foundations for the future.
The first success was the 1978 Dunleath Act, which allowed Catholic and Protestant schools to transform to integrated status. Whilst there were no successful transformations at that time, today transformation has been accepted as a way forward and over 35% of all integrated schools have achieved this status through transformation.
Success: Public Opinion
The opinion poll, carried out by Lucid Talk and commissioned by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), reveals that 79% of parents interviewed said they would back a move to transform their child’s school to integrated, while 66% of all people questioned believe integrated schools should be the main model of our education system, (Lucid Talk, 2013).
Success: Lifelong inter-religious contact
Research shows that integrated schooling has a significant and positive social influence on the lives of those who experience it, most notably in terms of fostering cross-community friendships, reducing prejudicial attitudes and promoting a sense of security in religious, racial, or ethnically diverse environments (Stringer, 2009, 2000; Montgomery et al., 2003; McGlynn, 2001; Irwin, 1991).
Other research (Stringer et al., 2009, 2000) has found that the intergroup contact of integrated or mixed schools can influence social attitudes, with pupils adopting more positive positions on key social issues such as politics, religion, identity, mixed marriages and integrated education.
Further studies (for example, McGlynn, 2003; Montgomery et al., 2003) lend support to these findings where cohorts of past pupils felt that integrated education had a significant positive impact on their lives.
From 28 children in 1 school in 1981 to 22,000 children in 65 schools at nursery, primary and second level in 2016.
Success: Public and Political Support
There is a commitment to the provision of integrated education in Section 13 of the Good Friday Agreement. In addition, integrated education has supporters within most of Northern Ireland’s political parties.
Success: Recurrent Funding
By proving demand and viability, the integrated schools have won state funding of recurrent costs for new schools provided certain stringent viability criteria are met.
Success: Viability Criteria
Over the years the Department of Education’s criteria for supporting integrated schools, especially as regards the minimum number of enrolments, have fluctuated but we are very pleased to say that successful campaigning has meant that in the year 2000 the criteria were reduced for integrated primary schools and in 2001 for integrated second level schools. The required Year One intake for integrated primary schools has been reduced from 25 to 15 in cities (Belfast and Derry) and 12 in rural areas. The required Year Eight (Form One) intake for integrated second level schools has been reduced from 80 to 50. Religious balance is also required – in the first year 10% of enrolments must be from the minority religion, working toward an overall balance in the school of 30% from the minority. In addition, new schools must have secured a suitable site.
Partial Success: Capital Funding
Government funding of capital costs may now be obtained after 3 to 4 years provided that growth, balance and long term viability criteria are met. These criteria are not applied to approved new Catholic or state schools, and they mean that the IEF must continue to help parents to cover capital costs in the first few years.