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An Assessment of Religious Segregation in Northern Ireland’s Schools

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posted on 17.05.2021, 13:45 by Brad Campbell
Reflecting the deep ethno-national differences that exist between the Protestant-British and Catholic-Irish communities in Northern Ireland, a considerable wealth of knowledge exists on the nature and intensity of residential segregation. However, in contrast there have been relatively few empirical studies undertaken to quantify the scale and intensity of religious segregation between Protestant and Catholic pupils in Northern Ireland’s schools. This paper aims to contribute to the literature by using school census data from the Department of Education (DoE) for the school year 2018/19 to investigate religious segregation from several perspectives including (1) educational stage, (2) school type and (3) by pupils’ religion. The analysis will adopt well established indices to capture two dimensions of segregation; firstly, population unevenness to measure the intensity of segregation between Protestant and Catholic pupils using the index of dissimilarity (D) and the degree of unevenness by each religious and non-religious group using the segregation index (IS). The second dimension – social exposure will be used measured using the interaction index (P*x) to explore the intra group inter-group contact. The main findings from this study are that primary schools are more segregated than post-primary attributed to smaller, more localised catchment area and the influence of familial ties. The Protestant “Controlled” sector is less segregated than the Catholic “Maintained” sector due to a more religiously diverse intake. There is an absence of segregation in integrated schools reflecting an ethos of religious diversity and inclusion. When the results of segregation indices are compared with the residential segregation literature, schools are significantly more segregated.


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An Assessment of Religious Segregation in Northern Ireland’s Schools

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310 Sociologiska institutionen | Department of Sociology