Schools with diverse intake help break down barriers

Morning View
Morning View

People from outside Northern Ireland often hear about the division that is symbolised by Protestant and Catholic schools.

They also often hear a version of history that puts an emphasis on the perception that Northern Ireland has been a cold house for Catholics.

But much has changed since 1921, and when it comes to education, the Catholic-maintained sector in 2014 is not at any disadvantage.

It is thriving and has some excellent schools, which are popular with parents of that tradition.

Two other sectors of schools do, however, feel at a disadvantage.

Yesterday the integrated sector was celebrating a court order which will compel education chiefs to encourage integrated schools.

Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh took the case against John O’Dowd’s department after it refused a proposal to increase significantly the school intake.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Assembly yesterday passed a motion calling for Mr O’Dowd to take action against the “injustice” suffered by controlled schools.

The Assembly heard that these are overwhelmingly Protestant church-related schools but with a “welcoming non-denominational” Christian ethos.

Indeed, there are controlled schools in the greater Belfast area in which pupils from a Catholic background make up around half the intake.

It would be quite wrong for Stormont to do anything other than actively encourage any schools in which pupils from both traditions feel welcome. Such schools help introduce people to a mixed environment, which can only be good for breaking down barriers in the Province.