17 Aug

IEF webinar as part of Féile an Phobail online now!

The IEF recently hosted a webinar on ‘A vision of how education should be delivered in the 21st century’ as part of the 2021 Féile an Phobail festival.

The webinar was expertly chaired by local Broadcaster, Jim Fitzpatrick and youth panellists were invited from the five main political parties to contribute to the conversation.

We would like to extend our thanks to the youth panellists who joined the conversation and who shared their views so eloquently. These were:

  • SDLP Youth: Chair, Karl W. Duncan
  • Sinn Fein Youth: Ógra Shinn Féin, Chair, Caoimhín McCann
  • Alliance Youth: Cllr Connie Egan
  • UUP Youth: Ben Sharkey


Our thanks also go to Ulster University researchers Dr Matt Milliken and Dr Stephen Roulston who started the event with their presentation of ideas for what our education system could look like in the 21st century and which provided the basis for a really interesting and engaging debate.  They highlighted the great work of current educationalists within our society while also highlighting what aspects of the education system are in need of a review.

While the panellists expressed a range of viewpoints, some key points of agreement could also be identified during the discussions, including:

  • We need reform of the entire system of education
  • What defines success should be redefined and broadened across all levels of the education system, requiring reform from nursery right through to Initial Teacher Training
  • We should move towards a single education system
  • Although it was acknowledged that there are challenges ahead, the panel expressed a sense of hope, ambition and optimism regarding the outcome of the upcoming Independent Review of Education

Comments from the general public during the webinar were generally positive regarding integrated education and strong support was expressed for the upcoming review of our education system.

You can watch the webinar again here: https://youtu.be/QJ9wc1xo_-I

The IEF is planning to host more events and webinars to help inform and encourage conversations regarding our education system and the upcoming Independent Review of Education.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us: jessica@ief.org.uk

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3 Aug

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 94% of APNI voters, 78% of UUP 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.

Raw data as provided by LucidTalk here

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9 Jul

Sir Keir Starmer and Louise Haigh visit Forge Integrated Primary

Forge Integrated Primary School had a very special visit this morning as Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louise Haigh joined Baroness May Blood, Richard Lemon (IEF Chair), Eamon Quinn (NICIE Vice Chair), pupils and staff at their summer scheme.



He praised the work of staff, pupils and parents, saying:

“The teachers, parents and children of Forge Integrated Primary School are helping build the shared future the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement imagined.

We owe it to the younger generations to deliver the promise of peace.”


Baroness May Blood added:

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Sir Keir Starmer and Louise Haigh to Forge Integrated Primary School, one of the first ever integrated primary schools to open in Northern Ireland. Forge is an example of the growing demand for integrated schooling, with enrolments practically doubling in the past seven years. There is real sense of momentum building for greater integration within the community. This year alone four schools have been approved to become integrated as a result of a democratic ballot of their parents. This includes the transformation of the first ever Catholic school and the first ever Nursery school. This is a result of the hard work of many people within the community – parents, schools and supporters. It is my great hope that one day government will finally start to plan for the development of more integrated education.”


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1 Jul

Survey boost for integrated education.

The latest Northern Ireland Life and Times survey is now available, with thanks to all at ARK. This social policy hub publishes the survey every year, with a unique insight to a wide variety of topics across the social spectrum.
We noted with interest that there’s been a significant increase in support for mixed schools, with just under 70% of respondents expressing a preference, compared to 61% in the previous year.
You can access the entire survey at https://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/

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29 Jun

President Higgins’ Praise for IEF.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina welcomed Baroness Blood and  Mr. Paul Caskey of the Integrated Education Fund to Áras an Uachtaráim to discuss not only the Baroness’ work on this issue, but also her contribution to peace and full participation in society for children and parents.

The President and Sabina, lifelong supporters of integrated education, took the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the Integrated Education Fund and to Baroness Blood in particular, as well as discussing plans to move forward in cooperation.

Speaking after the meeting, the President said:

“The work of the Integrated Education Fund, which supports communities and schools who are working to create a shared future based on integrated education for their children, is of the greatest importance in its potential contributions as to how we might realise a peaceful and fulfilling future for all of the children on the island of Ireland.

We remain convinced that the ethos of practical equality that informs the Integrated Education and Educate Together movements is pivotal for our common future. It is one of the most important factors in enabling our children to become independent minded, yet socially informed and responsible, democratic citizens; citizens who are encouraged and enabled to envision the means to a better and fairer society, a shared society where there is room and appreciation for the views, skills and identities of all.”

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16 Jun

IEF’s Paul Caskey honoured in Queen’s Birthday List

We were thrilled to hear that our Head of Campaign, Paul Caskey, was awarded an OBE for services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list on Friday 11th June.

Paul has been with the Integrated Education Fund for over 20 years, developing the fundraising development campaign to help increase the growth of integrated schools in Northern Ireland.

Paul said:

“I am simply overwhelmed by  the kind and generous comments. Thank you all so much. The honour is for the parents, schools and supporters of the Integrated Education Fund and also the wonderful colleagues and people I have had the privilege of working alongside for the past 20 years. Onwards and upwards!”

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