Parents should be allowed access to faith schools but have to pay for them

In 2016 we are all aware of the events that have shaped Ireland's past.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 5th April 2016, 7:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th April 2016, 8:11 pm

It is good to look back at events like Easter 1916 and the Somme. But both communities should concentrate on shaping the future, in particular the future of the children of Northern Ireland who still in over 90% of cases attend schools dominated by one background/culture.

The proportion of kids attending integrated schools has barely moved in the years since the Good Friday Agreement, a deal which included a promise to further integrated schooling. This under Sinn Fein Education ministers.

Peter Robinson famously compared our school system to a form of apartheid. Beyond these words he did nothing major to change it.

John H. Whyte said the two things which do most to keep communities apart are low mixed marriage rates and separate education.

The decision of who people marry is a private matter, but the state could act on education. Why does our government pay for a system which separates kids? In this age of power sharing, who can be afraid of shared schools?

The Executive should make every school an integrated school.

Those who have always opposed integrated schooling will oppose this. The Catholic Church for example has a lot to lose. The same church has discouraged members from sending their kids to integrated schools. But other churches also have a sketchy record on this.

There is a simple solution. If parents want their kids to go to faith schools, they must pay a lot of the cost themselves. The state should not pay 100% of the costs of faith schools.

Schools that are funded by the Executive should be integrated. People would find the idea of Catholic or Protestant Universities ridiculous, indeed when you go to work you can’t choose to work only with people from a certain background – this would be crazy.

I am convinced neither community has anything to fear from this. Unionists and nationalists have both decided, in the main, the future lies in power sharing at Stormont, and in making NI work for all.

We should all pressure the politicians to move to a truly integrated system. Public support is clear in poll after poll. Nelson Mandela said that no child is born hating another because of their background, they learn to hate, and they can and should be taught to love. Here lies a big part of the solution to our divided society.

John Fox, Belfast BT15