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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 08:22 GMT
Stars back integrated schools campaign
Integrated schools bring both communities together
Integrated schools bring both communities together
More than 1,100 children in Northern Ireland were turned away from integrated schools this year because of a lack of places.

This was revealed at the launch of a celebrity-backed campaign on Thursday, calling for more places in schools where Catholic and Protestants are educated together.

In total, the province has 45 integrated schools providing places for 14,000 pupils, or 4% of all schoolchildren.

But the Integrated Education Charter for Choice Campaign believes provision of school places must meet an ever-increasing demand.

Campaign chairman, former Mirror Group boss David Montgomery said that generations of children had been "deprived of the basic right to share each other's company because of rigidly segregated education".

He added: "In later life more and more of us from Northern Ireland have grown to deeply resent this system that robbed us of friendships and the chance to experience and understand the other side's culture and community."

Joanna Lumley: Backing campaign
Joanna Lumley: Backing campaign

The campaign has been backed by celebrities such as Emmerdale actor Stephen McGann as well as Hamlet star Kenneth Branagh and Joanna Lumley, famed for her role in Absolutely Fabulous.

Stephen McGann was first to sign the charter and said he felt he wanted to help parents "bring their children together".

"It can't be right to force parents to choose between segregated schools, when what they really want is for their child to share school days with children from all different beliefs," he said.

More than 40 well-known names from all over Ireland have signed up to the charter, including sports personalities Sammy McIlroy, Barry McGuigan and Tony McCoy, writers Brian Friel and Jennifer Johnston, singer Daniel O'Donnell, and comedian Ardal O'Hanlon.

Michael Wardlow:
Michael Wardlow: "Support is incredible"

Michael Wardlow, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, has been overwhelmed by the support for the campaign.

"We need to build on this support to ensure that we reach our goal, that is, a place at an integrated school for every child who applies - we cannot continue to turn children away".

Sir Robert Cooper, chairman of the Integrated Education Fund, said the campaign would help the two charities which promoted integrated eduation.

"We must make sure that the right of parents to choose an integrated school for their child is not ignored," he said.

The campaign also called on businesses, trade unions, funding bodies and the public to pledge their support by signing the Charter for Choice.

Integrated schools draw their pupils, staff and governors from both traditions in approximately equal numbers and are required by law to have at least 30% of pupils from whichever is the minority tradition in the school.

The first integrated school opened in Belfast in 1981 and there are now 28 primary schools and 17 second level colleges across Northern Ireland.

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See also:

22 Jul 99 | Northern Ireland
Hostility claim over integrated schools
07 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
Minister announces school funding
25 Apr 00 | UK Systems
Types of school
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