Integrated Education has grown from just 28 pupils in one school in 1981 to over 27,000 pupils in 71 Integrated schools across Northern Ireland today.
Since 1992 the IEF has been supporting the growth and development of Integrated Education through grant making, advocacy and engagement with parents, schools and local communities.
Thankfully the majority of parents have consistently supported the idea that children should be educated together.
However despite overwhelming public support, no government in Northern Ireland has ever sought to plan for the creation of Integrated schools – their establishment has always been left to parents and schools alone. This is despite a statutory duty placed on the Department of Education to ‘encourage and facilitate’ Integrated Education which is also included in the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998.
However momentum is building fast as we seek to inform and empower parents and schools on how they can make change happen and then support them on the journey. Our ‘Integrate My School’ campaign is enabling parents and schools to hold a democratic vote on whether to opt for an ‘integrated future’ and the good news is the overwhelming majority are voting ‘yes’. The IEF and NICIE are now working with more schools than ever before who are keen to explore Integrated status.
So at the IEF we urgently need to raise funds to continue this vital work and overcome the financial barriers to growth.
We also need to challenge the very government policies that impede Integrated Education and uphold structural division as the norm.
We yearn for the day our charity will no longer be needed – a time when parental demand for Integrated Education is finally being encouraged and facilitated by government.