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Faith-based education 'favoured by parents'


24/09/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Faith-based schools to teach Catholics and Protestants together are a real alternative to integrated education, it has been claimed.

Up to two thirds of parents favour the innovative approach keeping religion at the heart of education while sharing other facilities, according to the UUP.

In integrated schools children are prepared for participation in their religious community but are encouraged to discuss other faiths.

Ulster unionist Basil McCrea raised the matter in the assembly yesterday.

"There is growing support now so instead of having a Catholic school and a Protestant school you might have a faith-based school where all of the major religions would be involved," he said.

"You can have other types of schools as well but this covers schools with an ethos based around faith and if the major Churches can work together there's no doubt that could resolve a lot of difficulties."

Mr McCrea was speaking during a Stormont debate on integrated education.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane is already advocating cooperation between schools to provide certain classes.

There are 61 integrated institutions including 20 secondaries and 41 primaries.

There are more than 19 integrated nursery schools.

The Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS) and the Transferor Representatives' Council (TRC) representing the Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian traditions would have a say in any move towards more faith-based cooperation.

Mr McCrea said pilots could be carried out to test the system in the north.

The Rev Ian Ellis, secretary to the TRC, said it was being considered.

"Ownership is only one of a complex range of issues needing to be addressed in any such jointly managed schools," he said.

CCMS chief executive Donal Flanagan said there was no such school as discussed by the UUP in existence.

"If there was provision to create or develop faith-based schools that would be a question of some merit but it is hypothetical at this point in time," he said.

"Any consideration must be quality, it has to stand the test of whether it is appropriate, is it the right thing to do and will it provide quality education."



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