Northern Ireland’s education system is largely made up of state controlled schools (mainly attended by protestant pupils) and catholic maintained schools (almost exclusively attended by Catholics). Within the context of Northern Ireland, Integrated schools are seen as places where children from both communities (Catholic and Protestant) are brought together at school where they strive to achieve a religious balance of pupils, teachers and governors.
However, integrated education is much more than that to my family, as we believe that integrated schools educate children, as individuals, in an environment where self-esteem and independence are developed as a priority. Self-respect and respect for others (irrespective of colour, creed, culture, race, religious beliefs, gender, background or ability) are strongly encouraged. This integrated ethos nurtures individuals from a geographic area to ensure inclusion of their students as they come from all walks of life. Therefore, they get to mix in school with those that form part of the society they live in. I have found that Ulidia Integrated College (and previously Acorn Integrated Primary School) encouraged open-minded attitudes among pupils as well as building the students confidence and their ability to question, observe, listen to enable them to make informed decisions and prepare them for life in society and the work place.
We particularly liked the initiative Ulidia has at the start of year 8; sending these new students away as a cohort for 3 days of Team Building, where they can get to know each other out of the school /academic environment, learning and socialising together, as well as enabling them to develop their individual confidence and setting the seeds of team work for the school years ahead. One other the reason why we chose an integrated education for our son was that it recognises the value of us as parents, and our involvement in all aspects of school life is actively encouraged. We as parents are encouraged to take an active role in the governance of the school and the Parent’s Council. Indeed, I was on the Acorn IPS Parents Council for 2 years and a Governor for 5 years.
Mr & Mrs Edwards