The Integrated education movement in Northern Ireland is an attempt to bring together children, parents and teachers from both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions: the aim being to provide a balanced education, while allowing the opportunity to understand and respect all cultural and religious backgrounds. The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), a voluntary organisation, promotes, develops and supports integrated education in Northern Ireland.
The *Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is a financial foundation for the development and growth of integrated education in Northern Ireland in response to parental demand. The IEF seeks to bridge the financial gap between starting integrated schools and securing full government funding and support.
It was established in 1992 with money from EU Structural Funds, the Department of Education NI, the Nuffield Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, as a financial foundation for the development and growth of Integrated Education. The Fund financially supports the establishment of new schools, the growth of existing schools and those schools seeking to become integrated through the transformation process. Funding is generally seed corn and projects are ‘pump primed’ with the objective of eventually securing full government funding and support.
Education in Northern Ireland is highly religiously segregated, with 95% of pupils attending either a maintained (Catholic) school or a controlled school (mostly Protestant, but open to all faiths and none), both funded by the state- by varying amounts. Teaching a balanced view of some subjects (especially history) is difficult in these conditions. The churches in Northern Ireland have not been involved in the development of integrated schools. The schools have been established by the voluntary efforts of parents.
The first integrated school, Lagan College, was established in Belfast in 1981 by the campaigning parent group All Children Together. In 1985, three more integrated schools opened in Belfast offering parents in the city an alternative to the existing segregated schools.
There are currently 62 integrated schools comprising 20 second-level colleges, and 42 primary schools. In addition, there are 19 integrated nursery schools, most of which are linked to primary schools.
Initially, such schools met with considerable opposition from certain local politicians who were angry at an alleged favouritism in funding being shown to them by the Government. They felt the state controlled school system should be regarded as the true model of integration and that only the existence of maintained schools preserved a culture of segregation in Northern Ireland.
Integrated schools are sometimes criticised as being "middle-class" or accused of "social engineering"
Father Denis Faul criticised integrated education, insisting that Catholic parents were required by Canon law to send their children to Catholic schools and also claimed the schools were a "dirty political trick" inspired by the British Government.
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- Lord Baker of Dorking, Daily Hansard, 18 July 2006 : Column 1189 www.parliament.uk, retrieved 22 July 2007
- "Churches and Christian Ethos in Integrated Schools", Macaulay,T 2009
- A difficult subject, John Lloyd, Financial Times, 20 April 2007, retrieved 22 December 2009
- Monsignor Denis Faul, Independent, 22 June 2006
- Monsignor Denis Faul, obituaries, The Daily Telegraph, 22 June 2006
- A man of God who feared none in defence of all, Maurice Hayes, Irish Independent, 25 June 2006
- "Free Presbyterian church slams shared education" The Newsletter 11 January 2014