The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is delighted to be taking part in the 2020 Good Relations Week by organising an online event as well as providing this snapshot of integrated education as part of the Good Relations Week online archive.
Integrated education plays an important role in building peace in our society and in creating a united community by bringing together pupils from all backgrounds in the same classroom every day, encouraging respect and understanding for difference as well as celebrating the diversity within our society.
Campaigning for integrated education began in the 1970s through the All Children Together parents’ group and the first integrated school was Lagan College which was set up by parents in 1981. The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) was set up in 1987 to coordinate and support integrated education and the IEF was set up in 1992 to financially support and promote integrated education. Since then we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of integrated schools and the proportion of pupils who have the opportunity to take part in integrated education. There are now 65 integrated schools, educating approximately 7% of all pupils in NI.
No integrated school has been established by the Department of Education; every integrated school has been established by committed and pioneering local parents or after a campaign for an existing school to become integrated through an official process termed “transformation”.
This is despite legislation being introduced in 1989 that puts a duty on the Department of Education to “encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education” and that integrated education was highlighted as part of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement:
“An essential aspect of the reconciliation process is the promotion of a culture of tolerance at every level of society, including initiatives to facilitate and encourage integrated education and mixed housing.”
Some of the journey of the IEF and the broader integrated education movement is highlighted in the IEF’s 20th Anniversary booklet, with a foreword by Senator George Mitchell. You can also read some of the personal reflections on the journey here.
While approximately 7% of pupils currently attend integrated schools, 67% of respondents in a recent poll confirmed that they would support their child’s school becoming integrated and 69% of respondents in a different poll agreed that all schools in Northern Ireland should be integrated. In other words, there is a clear need for the supply of integrated school places to increase so that the demand from parents is met.
Another 8 schools have recently held successful parental ballots in favour of the schools transforming to integrated status. Clearly many parents, schools and communities view integrated education as an important part in ensuring a peaceful and cohesive future for our society.
Our Integrate My School website as well as the Department of Education’s Integration Works guidance document provide more detail on how schools can become integrated through the legal process called transformation.