Parental choice of primary and post-primary schools: myth or reality

The latest paper in the Ulster University series looking at the NI education system examines the extent to which parents in Northern Ireland have a choice of different school types for their children by analysing the location of domestic properties and where schools are situated.

Little has been written about choices of secondary schools after age 11 in Northern Ireland, as the focus has been instead on academic selection, and there appears to have been even less research into what schools are available to parents (and learners) at primary level. The main school types, particularly Controlled (state but effectively Protestant) and Catholic Maintained schools, are within easy reach of the majority of the population, but other school types, notably Integrated schools, are much less accessible.

Also, even where some schools are within an easy commuting distance from households, they may be inaccessible to some pupils as a result of being over-subscribed. There are other sectors, particularly the Irish Medium sector, where provision may be lagging behind local demand, but this paper focuses on the difficulty that many households across Northern Ireland have in accessing Integrated education, despite a consistently expressed desire and support from most people in Northern Ireland for Integrated schools to be available to all.

Parental choice of primary and post-primary schools: myth or realityThe authors of “Parental choice of primary and post-primary schools: myth or reality?” conclude: “Households in larger settlements unsurprisingly have greater access to a broader range of schools, and this extends to a lesser degree to Integrated schools also. However, the smaller the settlement, the less likelihood there is of an Integrated school being accessible to a household. In small villages, access to Integrated schools is very limited even when other schools are accessible. For many, especially in smaller settlements, access to Integrated education is very restricted and, in many cases, entirely impractical because attendance would require a long and time-consuming journey each school day.

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The UU School of Education has received funding from the IEF, the UNESCO Centre, The Community Foundation NI and The Ireland Funds to support publication of the research.