Controlled schools are open to all

The Integrated Education Bill has passed to the next stage in the Assembly. The Bill proposes new provisions for Integrated Education in Northern Ireland.

Integrated Education Bill Text

Controlled schools are open to all children and young people. The purpose of integrated education in clause 2 of the draft Bill uses language that we would contend already applies to all controlled schools and in fact should apply to all grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland.

During the wider debate on this Bill controlled schools have been labelled by many as single identity, serving only one side of our community. This is wrong. Evidence from Controlled schools strongly refutes this.

The controlled sector is the largest of the education sectors. It accounts for 49% of all schools and includes 30 controlled integrated schools. The controlled sector is committed to educating children and young people from all community backgrounds together. Indeed that is the fundamental premise of the sector, which is open to all, and as such firmly supports the commitment within the New Decade New Approach agreement to support educating children and young people of different backgrounds together.

As it currently stands the Bill prioritises integrated schools above all others. It is essential that equality is at the core of education legislation. This Bill is a missed opportunity to support all schools being open to all not just one sector. Furthermore, the implications of prioritising one sector above all others devalues the work of Governors, Principals, teachers and staff in controlled schools. The Bill ignores the positive work already taking place within our schools and the communities of which they are a part.

The draft Bill comes at a point where the education system is the subject of an extensive independent review. It therefore seems wholly inappropriate, at this time, to propose substantial changes to one aspect of the education system in isolation.

It is vital that we all continue to work collaboratively to progress our children and young people being educated together.



20 January 2022