Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Young: We want to learn together - 82% back joint schooling in Northern Ireland

Day four of our fascinating look into the hearts and minds of our young people and their hopes for the future of Northern Ireland

Young people across Northern Ireland have overwhelmingly rejected our system of segregated schools.

Over 80% of young people aged between 16 and 24 in Northern Ireland feel that non-segregated education is important for the future of the country, a poll has indicated.

The startling level of support is revealed in a series of surveys carried out exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph by LucidTalk.

Some 550 young people were asked how important they believed non-segregated education was for the future of Northern Ireland.

In total, 82% of respondents across the board said they felt it was important.

This breaks down to 55.8% who said it was vital or very important and 27.1% who said they felt it was important.

A mere 7.3% said they felt it was not important.

The views expressed are in stark contrast to the reality of the current education system in which around 90% of young people are educated in either state schools – perceived as Protestant – or in Catholic schools.

Although there are a number of shared education projects between schools, only around 7% (21,000 children) are educated in the 62 integrated schools across Northern Ireland.

The findings reflect the results of a survey carried out by the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education last year, which found that 83% of parents believe integrated education is a vital part of creating a shared future in Northern Ireland.

And last month a poll by the Integrated Education Fund and LucidTalk showed that 77% of business leaders backed integrated education.

Tina Merron, chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund, welcomed the findings of the poll.

"The Belfast Telegraph young people's poll reflects what successive attitudinal polls have demonstrated over the last number of years – that society is ready to move beyond the segregated structures that maintain division," she said.

"The poll is an important barometer of young people's appetite for reform of our education system and placing integrated education at the very heart of that reform is essential for a shared future."

Ms Merron urging politicians to listen to the views of our young people.

"It is time that our politicians started to listen and demonstrate the political will and leadership that is needed to challenge the vested interests and put this generation and future generations first," she said.

The statistics emerged in the fourth day of our coverage of the LucidTalk poll which was carried out for this newspaper as part of our series on The Young.

The poll asked a sample of 550 young people from the rising generation how they rated the education system in terms of the training and qualifications they had received.

Among the results released today is confirmation that more than 66% of young people are happy with the education they have received or are receiving.

Around 25% were not content with their education, with 9% seemingly ambivalent.

However, there is a distinct divide between young people in urban areas and those in rural areas.

Young people who live in rural areas tended to be much happier with the standard of education they have received, with 66% saying they were pleased, compared with just 33% in urban areas (Belfast and Londonderry).

And a narrow minority of young people felt that all sports – that is rugby, soccer and GAA – should be offered in all schools across the divide. Overall, 52.4% wanted to see all three sports in every school, with 38.4% against this, and 9.3% saying they had no opinion on the matter.

Young Catholics were more passionate about all sports being offered across the board, with 70% in favour, compared with just 29.6% of young Protestants in favour.

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