Catholic and supervised schools accuse NIO of being excluded from event to discuss the future of Northern Ireland

A body representing Catholic schools has accused the Northern Ireland Authority (NIO) of excluding it from a conference on inclusion.

The Council of Catholic Schools (CCMS) described his absence as “disturbing” and the Supervised Schools Support Council (CSSC) said he was also not invited to an event called A More Confident and Inclusive Northern Ireland.

The three-day forum started on Wednesday and was attended by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, who said the UK government is committed to doing more to promote integrated education.

In a letter seen BBC News, New York StateCCMS stated that it was “ironic” that they were not selected to participate.

“The program asks: what can be done to ensure that the views of all young people from all communities are given the opportunity and tools to participate?” their letter says.

“Given that the large family of Catholic schools represents one of the largest providers of education in Northern Ireland, the marked lack of participation and participation in the Catholic sector is alarming.

“Indeed, it is rather ironic that a conference aimed at building inclusiveness is actually exclusive in its approach.”

“The conference agenda asks the question: How can we work together to build a strong and inclusive Northern Ireland for all?” their writing continued.

“Combined with the exclusion of all Catholic schools and the bodies that represent them at the landmark event, despite a track record of excellence and success in Catholic education, we are asking the Northern Ireland office: “Does the NIO recognize the contribution of Catholic schools to support our young people? so that they reach their full potential, and how does NIO see Catholic schools in its future vision?”

There are about 450 Catholic schools in Northern Ireland with about 150,000 students.

Supervised Schools are schools formerly run by mostly Protestant churches that were taken over by the state in the 20th century and are now run by the Board of School Managers.

The supervised sector is the largest education sector in Northern Ireland. There are 552 supervised schools in Northern Ireland, representing 49% of all schools.

The head of its umbrella body, the CSSC, also wrote a letter to the principals of the supervised schools, noting that they “expressed their concern that any conference involving a discussion of the future of education would be held without the voice of 49% of schools. in Northern Ireland.”

“We have been given assurances that NIO is willing to engage with the sector,” continued Mark Baker.

A UK government spokesman said: “The Wilton Park conference brought together a host of academics, public policy and third sector representatives to discuss how to work together towards a more confident and inclusive Northern Ireland.

“A wide range of factors are considered, including skills, education, economics and social inclusion.

“NIO will continue to engage all sectors of society, including the Catholic School Board and the Supervised School Support Board, as well as educational authorities, in its work.”

Both the CCMS and the CSS, along with the other three main education representative bodies, have also previously expressed opposition to the Integral Education Bill for Northern Ireland, which passed through the Assembly in March despite the absence of an incumbent government.

A bill from the MLA Alliance Kelly Armstrong aims to force the Department of Education to increase the number of places in integrated schools and set minimum targets for the number of children enrolled in integrated schools.