Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Catholic school population surges to record high

The number of Protestant pupils has decreased by 27.8% since 2000/1. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA
The number of Protestant pupils has decreased by 27.8% since 2000/1. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

The divide between the number of Catholic and Protestant school children in Northern Ireland is at its widest ever, the latest figures have revealed.

Statistics from the Department of Education show that, on school census day this year, there were 175,649 Catholic pupils in Northern Ireland's nursery, primary, secondary, grammar and special schools.

This accounts for almost 50.7% of all enrollments, with the amount of Catholics pupils at an all-time high.

In comparison, there were 114,314 Protestant pupils, 33% of the total, while 56,408 were designated as 'other'.

Back in 2000/1, the divide between Catholic and Protestant pupils was 50.7% and 42.7%, respectively.

At this time, there were 146,086 Protestant pupils and 173,253 Catholics.

While the number of Protestant pupils has decreased by 27.8% over this period, the number identifying as 'other' or 'non-Christian' has more than doubled.

These figures also reflect recent trends in employment in Northern Ireland, with the latest Labour Force Survey Religion Report showing the number of working age people designating themselves as Protestant has fallen dramatically in recent years.

Between 1990 and 2017 the proportion of the population aged 16 and over reporting as Protestant has dropped from 56% to 42%, while the proportion reporting as Catholic increased from 38% to 41%.

Last year, a leading academic predicted that Catholics could outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland as soon as 2021.

"Three years from now we will end up, I think, in the ironic situation on the centenary of the state where we actually have a state that has a Catholic majority," Dr Paul Nolan said.

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