HC Deb 13 July 1978 vol 953 cc1717-8
9. Mr. Freud

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many schools in the secondary sector are integrated; and what proportion of the secondary school population this represents.

Mr. Carter

It is known that several schools are attended by pupils of both the main religious denominations, but the Department of Education for Northern Ireland does not collect statistics of the numbers of pupils enrolled at schools according to their religious denominations. No schools have yet applied for controlled integrated status under the Education (Northern Ireland) Act 1978, but it is really too early to expect this to have happened. The Department of Education only recently issued a circular to schools, school authorities and other interested bodies drawing attention to the Act's provisions.

Mr. Freud

Until there is an increase in integrated schools, will the Minister seek to encourage the pupils of sectarian schools to join together in certain academic classes, as is the case in neighbouring schools in this country? Will he bear in mind that, until there are integrated schools, there is little hope of ending the ghetto development in the communities?

Mr. Carter

We shall certainly not attempt any artificial integration, in the academic levels or elsewhere. This is an education matter and it has nothing to do with questions of sectarianism or integration. On the general question of integration, we have made it quite clear as a Government, and my noble Friend has made it quite clear, that this is a matter for the community itself to decide.

Mr. Lee

Is not the whole miserable business of segregated education in Northern Ireland about the best argument that one could ever produce for the total abolition of religious education?

Mr. Craig

Does the Minister agree that segregated education tends to make people live in separate areas, and that this is not good enough for the community spirit?

Mr. Carter

That is so obviously true that I do not really know how I can reply to it.