Committee evidence shouldn’t be based on misinformation or denigration: Lockhart

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has said comments made to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee insinuating that pupils attending Controlled Schools might somehow be at risk of wishing to join a paramilitary organisation were outrageous.

By Carla Lockhart MP

Upper Bann

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The comments were made during an evidence session the Committee is holding on Integrated Education and the DUP MP pointed to other examples where inaccurate language was used during the Committee’s inquiry.
Mrs Lockhart said, “It does nothing to promote either one school sector, or our education system as a whole to hear someone dismiss and denigrate another sector of education. It is particularly dangerous and bizarre however to hear an argument based on an anecdote about what a single pupil allegedly said in a careers class at an unnamed school at some unspecified time in the past.

Any insinuation or suggestion that children who attend Controlled schools as being at risk of recruitment into terrorist organisations is outragous. It does a disservice not just to who attend or have attended Controlled schools, but particularly to the teaching and other staff who are as dedicated and focused on helping our young people get the best start in life as those in every other sector of our education system. I work with schools in my constituency from every single sector and I respect the choice parents make to see their children educated in any of these sectors.

Unfortunately it isn’t the first comment made to the Committee which has been either dismissive or misleading. Just a month ago the Committee was told by an academic giving evidence that one college (in Northern Ireland) was set up specifically to provide teachers for the state-controlled schools”. This would appear to be a reference to Stranmills College as it was then known, but was either ignorant of the fact, or chose to ignore that Stranmillis was established specifically as a non-denominational college and from its earliest operation, included students from all religious backgrounds.

A lesser example was also to be found in today’s hearing with reference to a ”State Protestant school”, presumably referring to a Controlled school, yet Controlled schools have never had any barriers to entry based on religion. Indeed, in my own Constituency there is at least one Controlled school where pupils from a Protestant background make up just 40% of the enrolment.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of those who support and advocate for integrated schools would not want to see a case built on either misinformation or the denigration of another school sector. Those who have done so only do a disservice to the cause they purportedly set out to advance.”

Note:The comments from today’s evidence session can be viewed here:

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