Rotary Club of Belfast

Integrated Education in NI

Paul Caskey 08.11.21Integrated Education Fund's Head of Campaign Paul Caskey in a most informative and thought-provoking address to the Club Monday 08 November highlighted the development of Integrated Education provision in NI.

He revealed the origins of Integrated Education in NI noting:

  • since the foundation of NI in 1921 the education system has largely consisted of state controlled schools, mainly attended by Protestant pupils and Catholic maintained schools, almost exclusively attended by Catholics;
  • Lord Londonderry proposed integration in 1923 but this failed as both sides were suspicious of it;
  • a letter from Mrs Cecil Lenihan to the Belfast Telegraph led to the formation in 1974 of the campaigning group All Children Together by parents whose vision was one whereby existing schools could transform to integrated status;
  • however no schools succeeded in transforming and this led directly parents setting up Lagan College in 1981 as the first planned integrated school in NI in a scout hall with 28 pupils;
  • by the end of the 80's 10 schools had opened supported by parental fundraising, trusts and foundations and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) was established as a co-ordinating body for them;
  • in 1991 Brownlow College became the first school to ‘transform’ to become integrated;
  • the Integrated Education Fund was set up in 1982 as an independent body to bridge the financial barriers to setting up schools;
  • this led to a gradual incremental growth of parent-led transformations when a 51% majority was achieved;
  • from 28 children in 1 school in 1981 there are now, representing 7% of the NI school enrolment, over 24,000 children in 65 schools (45 primary and 20 second level - 25 of which were transformed).

He concluded his passionate address by noting he believed that it is the time for change as children who grow up in the same school learn about their differences not to fear them and everybody needs to do more to bring in a different education system for the 21st century. It was followed by a lively Q&A session.

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