Learning from Northern Ireland
Throughout the current debate about faith schools and the Conservatives’ determination to muck about with our education system so that we have more “academies” run as faith-based independent schools at public expense, the example of Northern Ireland has been conveniently ignored. One of the main reasons why the Troubles lasted so long was because of religious segregation. Those of different faiths or no faith were largely invisible. Several generations of children went to segregated schools, continuing to demonize each other and never mixing.
The integrated schools movement started in 1981 with the foundation of Lagan College, thanks to the efforts of parents who wanted a better way of life for their children. Read more about it on the website of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, and ask yourselves why so many people in England are determined to move in the opposite direction?
Integrated Education can best be described as the bringing together in one school of pupils, staff and governors, in roughly equal numbers, from Protestant, Catholic, other faith and no faith backgrounds. It is about cultivating every individualÂ´s self-respect and therefore their respect for other people and other cultures. Integrated Education means bringing children up to live as adults in a pluralist society, teaching them to recognize what they hold in common with each and to accept and enjoy any differences.