HC Deb 29 June 1995 vol 262 cc1075-6
7. Mr. Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on Government policy on, and progress towards, integrated education in Northern Ireland. [29807]

Mr. Ancram

The Government remain fully committed to supporting the development of integrated education and have recently approved proposals for a further four grant-maintained integrated schools. In addition, I have approved a proposal for an existing controlled primary school to become a controlled integrated school from next September. That brings to 28 the total number of integrated schools in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Barnes

The Minister will be aware that a survey showed that only 12 per cent. of Catholic and Protestant students at Queen's university had friends from the other community. However, the figure for Lagan college is 44 per cent. That makes a solid case for integrated education. I am pleased to hear about the measures that the Minister has mentioned, but is there not a case for turning mobile provision into permanent schools and for adding to capital investment in new schools?

Mr. Ancram


Madam Speaker

Order. Before the Minister answers, may I ask that conversations be a little less noisy? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all very well to say, "Hear, hear," but you are all having very loud conversations.

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for Government policy. We have long recognised the important role that integrated education can play in bringing the two parts of the community together. Indeed, in the schools that I mentioned in my answer about 5,000 pupils are now involved in integrated education. At the moment, the impetus comes largely from new integrated schools being set up, but the Government want to encourage existing schools to become integrated. I was delighted to be able to announce in my answer that that had happened recently with one primary school—it is in Portaferry—and I hope that there will be many more such schools.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

I commend the Government on their work in that important area and encourage them to press on. Is the Minister aware of the 1991 report that says that children who attend such schools are unlikely to become involved with paramilitary organisations when they leave?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. There is no doubt that the more that children from both parts of the community are encouraged to get together at an early age, not only through integrated education but through other policies such as education for mutual understanding, the less likely they are in future to succumb to the sort of divisions to which their parents have succumbed.

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