NI Education Minister backs 99.9% of school visits being by Christian groups


Pictured: Northern Ireland Education Minister Paul Givan, photo credit: Northern Ireland Assembly Flickr, distributed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED

The Northern Ireland Education Minister Paul Givan has defended the fact that 99.9% of school visits in Northern Ireland from religious groups are by Christian groups, following a major report highlighting the lack of inclusivity around school speaker events. Speaking at a visit to launch £80 million of funding for seven new schools, Mr Givan told The Belfast Telegraph that ‘we should cherish and value that we have a strong Christian ethos within our school system.’

The report by Parents for Inclusive Education Northern Ireland (PfIE NI), which was launched last week, found that alongside religious organisations being given extensive access to schools, 48% of schools did not inform parents of the visits, and 38% weren’t meeting their legal obligations to publish in their prospectuses on how parents can withdraw their children from such activities.

The report found that of the 11,522 visits between 6 November 2022 and 5 November 2023, only 13  were by non-Christian groups.  In response to this report, Mr Givan told governors he supported their ‘freedom’ to choose who they saw fit as school visitors.

Parents for Inclusive Education is a grassroots campaign group of primary school parents in Northern Ireland, advocating for a more inclusive education system that respects and includes all children regardless of their faith or belief. Northern Ireland Humanists has supported Parents for Inclusive Education since its inception in 2023.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator said:

‘We’re really disappointed that when presented with a major report highlighting the lack of inclusivity of school visits, and also the concerns of parents around this, the Education Minister has decided it wasn’t an issue. 

‘We believe every young person should get a critical, objective, and pluralistic education about different religions and humanism. Rather than just defend the status quo, it’s time for the Northern Ireland Government to issue guidance to all schools explaining their duties when it comes to school visits and parental choice.’

Notes

For further comment or information, media should contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at [email protected] or phone 07918 975795.

Read more about Parent for Inclusive Education NI’s launch.

Read Parents for Inclusive Education’s report. 

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.



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