Northern Ireland pupils transcend cultural difference through transformed integrated schools: we don’t think about religion when we’re passing the ball, we just do it

Lesley Abbott, Samuel McGuinness

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    Abstract

    Schooling for Northern Ireland children has over decades been in denominationally separate schools, until an integrated system was instigated by concerned parents in the late 1970s amidst growing political violence. By educating together Catholic and Protestant pupils and those of other religions or none, the hope was to contribute to peace in a conflict-prone society. The first integrated schools were planned and government funded. Then, in the early 1990s, some segregated schools sought to transform to integrated status through a detailed, formal process. In individual, face-to-face interviews, 11- and 16-year old pupils (n = 20), representing both school sectors and both the main cultural backgrounds, described their experiences of learning side by side for the first time with peers of a different tradition. Both younger and older pupils could discern the differences between their previous (segregated) and current (integrated) settings, saw the benefits of accepting and acceptance, and perceived sameness as well as difference. They could appreciate the global perspective, understood the purpose of outward, visible changes such as emblems and school displays, and welcomed curriculum change, particularly in Physical Education. Pupils understood the value of having difficult conversations without acrimony at the same time as learning about and respecting others’ viewpoints.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Inclusive Education
    Early online date18 Apr 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2022

    Keywords

    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Education

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