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.