We drove 44 miles every day to make sure our children went to integrated school... it's unfair
Published 09/03/2013 | 08:00
Parents who drove 44 miles a day to ensure their children were educated at an integrated primary have called for more support for the schools.
Patrick and Rachel Corrigan were so committed to integration that they drove 22 miles from Loughinisland to Newcastle and back, twice a day for six years, after being informed that they wouldn't secure a place at their closest integrated school in Crossgar, as it was oversubscribed.
Mr Corrigan, who is Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, has one child at Shimna Integrated College and two at All Children's Integrated Primary School.
He explained: "I would have been supportive of integrated education as it is part of the solution for Northern Ireland to be a more peaceful society.
"We looked at a variety of schools but were happiest with what integrated schools were offering. We wanted them to be able to learn, make friends and play with, as a matter of routine, children of all religious backgrounds."
That decision meant the Corrigans bypassed their local Catholic maintained primary, but they have no regrets about their choice.
In fact, to ensure their children had a continuous integrated education, they ended up moving to Newcastle 18 months ago.
Mr Corrigan said: "We have been delighted with the primary and post-primary schools the children attend, they have delivered what we wanted – well-rounded, well-educated children who have made friendships with people from all backgrounds.
"It's not a case of brushing our differences and tough issues under the carpet, it's about children and also their parents being able to face up to those in a mature way."
However, he believes that parental choice does not exist because of the lack of provision.
He said: "Driving 44 miles a day to enable your children to go to an integrated school is not a fair choice, particularly when four out of five parents want their children to attend integrated schools.
"Politicians and vested interests are blocking the way. We need a radical change of our school system with schools being encouraged by the Department of Education to transform into integrated.
"That would be good for children, good for parents and good for society."