71% of people in Northern Ireland believe integrated education should be the norm.


A new survey shows that 71% of people in Northern Ireland believe an integrated education should be the norm
 
The LucidTalk NI-wide attitudinal poll also reveals that a further 73% of people here would support their child’s school becoming integrated.

Seventy-one percent of NI people questioned in a new survey by LucidTalk believe integrated education, which sees children of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures educated together, should be our main model of education, an increase of 5% on the last poll conducted in 2013.

The NI-wide survey, collated by Belfast-based independent polling company LucidTalk on behalf of the Integrated Education Fund, polled more than 2000 people from all areas of the community here.

The results come as the NI Executive prepares to launch an Independent Review of the NI Education system as part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement of January 2020. This agreement described the NI education system in its current form as ‘unsustainable’ and pledged to examine the prospects of moving to a single system of education.

The findings of the survey reveal that a clear majority of the NI community, regardless of their political affiliation, are in favour of an integrated education system.

The attitudinal report found that 59% of DUP voters and 72% of Sinn Fein voters believe NI children should be educated together.

It also concluded that almost 79% of people here agree that all schools, regardless of management type, should aim to have a religious and cultural mix of pupils, teachers and governors.

There are currently 68 formally integrated schools and colleges, representing 7.5% of Northern Ireland’s educational settings and encompassing around 25,000 children.  But there is still no government plan for integrated education and its growth is still down to determined campaigners and pioneering parents who must either set up the school themselves or work to transform their school to integrated status.

The findings from the LucidTalk survey are published more than 23 years after a Good Friday agreement pledge promised “to facilitate and encourage integrated education” as an essential element in the process of reconciliation.

In a multiple choice question, Sixty-four percent of those surveyed attribute the slow growth in integrating NI pupils to NI political parties and NI politicians, with the influence of the churches also being ranked highly (64%) as a contributing factor.

The drive empowers parents to express their support for integrated education and encourage existing schools to explore formal integration.

In 2021 there have been four schools that have transformed to integrated status including the first ever Catholic primary school (Seaview Primary School in Glenarm). It joins Brefne Nursery in north Belfast, Carrickfergus Central Primary School and Harding Memorial Primary School in east Belfast in gaining recent Ministerial approval for integrated status. A further two more schools, Glengormley High and Bangor Central Nursery School are awaiting a Ministerial decision.

The results of such democratic ballots held in schools, coupled with the LucidTalk survey, are testament that the appetite for change in the NI education system is strong.
Speaking about the findings of the poll, Jill Caskey, Parental Engagement Campaign Manager, IEF said:

“The findings in this survey highlight the demand for integrated education in Northern Ireland and they should prompt our Executive to actively promote a fully integrated education system for the benefit of our entire society. It should also help inform the new Independent Review of the NI Education system in terms of public opinion on this crucial aspect of our society.

“Although the level of integrated education has continued to grow since the Good Friday Agreement, it is nowhere near the rate it needs to be in order to reflect the demand from parents for more integration.

“There is no government plan for developing more integrated schooling with growth solely dependent on parents, schools and campaigners.
“We are going into an era in NI needs an education system fit for the 21st Century which is fully inclusive. We need to see a dedicated governmental plan to accommodate the demands of our parents and children.”

A summary of the report can be accessed here.
Details of the main questions broken down by region can be accessed here.