Motion 4: Integrated Education
- Conference demands for every child to have a right to attend integrated schools, and not to be forced into a segregated system.
- Conference calls for all new-build schools to be integrated, and for greater encouragement be given to schools to transform to integrated status.
Proposer, Ian Parsley, Chair of Young Alliance, said:
Let us be clear, integration is not about merging people so we all become one; it is about sharing. It is about focusing on the highest common denominator instead of the lowest.
I speak as a committed Christian when I say religion has no place in politics and no place in state-funded education. Education is not about brainwashing, it is about developing people so that they can make their own choices – within the confines of general tolerance, fairness and democracy.
We are a liberal party but what we will never tolerate is intolerance, or any state-funded system that fails to tackle intolerance.
A generation from now, if there are any children at all without access to genuinely integrated education, it will be a sad reflection on the visionless leaders of Northern Ireland today.
Seconder, Naomi Long, Alliance Education Spokesperson, said:
Alliance has long recognised the crucial role which integrated schools play in educating our young people about tolerance and respect for diversity.
Whilst many schools outside the integrated sector teach those principles, integrated schools have the huge advantage of having a diverse pupil and staff body so that those principles can actually be put into practice in the classroom, staff room and sports field on a day to day basis.
Diversity itself cannot be taught, it must be experienced. Integrated schools offer a real alternative to the segregation and separation which is rife throughout our society.
But integration is about more than tolerance and respect for diversity – it is about offering an ethos which actively facilitates religious and cultural diversity and the full expression of it.
The creation of an integrated ethos goes far beyond simply having a religious mix of pupils at the school, welcome though that is as a first step.
The point of integrated schooling is not to create conformity but to actively encourage diversity and to do so in an environment of respect and tolerance. That happens most effectively when all traditions within a school are given equal respect, emphasis and right of expression.