Snapshot of support for education reform

 By Bill White CEO, LucidTalk polling company

Education is a key issue in Northern Ireland (as it is anywhere) and our recent NI-wide opinion poll for the Integrated Education Fund produced some interesting results and showed some key patterns and trends. As you probably know, the main key advantage of polling is that it allows us to get regular snap-shots of public opinion, about not only voting intention, but views on policies, political leaders, and a whole host of topics that can’t be measured in public elections e.g. in this case views regarding education. They also allow us to see how males/females, particular age-groups, and here in NI how our religious groups think about topics and issues – again these can’t be measured just by public elections.

Some key patterns emerged from the  poll findings. For example, we asked a question about nine key education issues, and asked respondents to grade these issues 1 – 5 in terms of importance (from very important to very unimportant). It is noteworthy, that one of these nine issues was ‘Educating children of all communities within one common school system‘, and this overwhelmingly was viewed by everyone, including both Protestants and Catholics as a grade 1 ‘very important’ issue.

A follow-on question covered the religious education curriculum and asked “…should the teaching of religious education in schools be broadened to focus on the teaching of the wider subject area of “Religion, Philosophy and Ethics?”. This produced a result of 70% Yes, with significant support from the 18-24, and 25-44 year-old age-groups. Interestingly there was also high support for this from all urban and rural areas including the west of NI.

Another question asked ‘Would you like to see an independent non-political review of the current NI education system’?, and this produced a result overall of over 60% Yes. Interestingly, younger people and those in the east of NI were more likely to answer “Yes” to this question, but this doesn’t negate the overall results that there is sound support for the proposition of an independent review of the education system from all sectors of NI society.

One issue that Protestants, Catholics, rural, urban, indeed everyone is very united on, is the importance of ‘… that the business community should have a role in helping schools identify skills which could best prepare our young people for the future.” This produced a huge 85% Yes right across the board, showing that parents still view getting their children the right skills for a job, and a good career, as paramount.      

You can read a detailed summary of the research here: IEFAutumn15AttPoll March 16 publish

 Background Information

Polling was carried out by Belfast based polling and market research company LucidTalk, over a period from the 19th October 2015  – 20th November 2015. A  representative sample of 1,094 NI residents, aged 18+, were interviewed. The sample of 1,094 was carefully selected to be demographically representative of NI residents within the targeted geographic area of NI.   Results presented are weighted, were applicable, to match the Northern Ireland (NI) demographics. This demographic analysis ensured the final results represented an accurate view of current opinion within NI. All data results produced are accurate to a margin of error of +/-2.6%, at 95% confidence

The project used a set of questions agreed with the IEF.  All poll questions were agreed to British Polling Council (BPC) professional market research standards, to ensure neutrality and balance.