Creating Integrated Schools To Improve Tolerance and Promote Peace
Resource type: Grantee Story
Northern Ireland is a deeply divided society where religious segregation is a feature of almost every aspect of life. For example, 94 per cent of children are educated in religiously segregated schools and, unsurprisingly, research shows that high numbers of young children already have sectarian prejudices.
To combat sectarian prejudice, a parent-led movement has been working for many years to have children educated together. Parental demand for integrated education is high, but a significant number of children are refused entry each year to integrated schools due to a lack of places.
While there is no coherent, proactive government policy to promote integrated education, schools can qualify for financial support from the government – but they have to first prove their viability. Staff must be recruited, premises secured and a religiously balanced enrolment of a requisite number of children must be attained. Establishing a new school is a formidable undertaking, and significant voluntary parental effort and financial support are often needed to kick start and sustain schools until official support is forthcoming.
The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is a recognised charity, established in 1992, that strives to provide a solid financial foundation for the growth of integrated education in Northern Ireland. Its main activities are raising and dispensing funds to promote and support the growth of integrated schools. In particular, it provides financial security in the form of loans and guarantees for new schools that do not have the requisite numbers of enrolments to qualify for government support.
Purpose and Impact of the Grant
Previous Atlantic grants to the IEF have facilitated real progress in integration. In September 2004, seven new integrated schools were opened, representing the biggest single increase in the provision of integrated education since the parent-led movement to establish shared schooling began more than 20 years ago. The current grant is designed to further increase the number of children participating in integrated education by strengthening the fundraising, advocacy and communications capacity of the integrated-education movement.
It is anticipated that this new grant will help IEF:
- Increase the number of children attending integrated schools from 5.2% to 8%
- Enable specific policy changes to be made that make it easier to establish new schools and transform existing segregated schools into integrated schools
- Raise an extra £4 million from private sources.
The grant is also expected to enable IEF to:
- increase financial support from the government for integrated education;
- further increase parental support and demand for integrated education;
- continue growth within the integrated sector itself; and
- help increase tolerance and reduce prejudice within society.