‘Controlled schools are naturally integrated schools’

Robin McLoughlin, principal of Banbridge Academy.
Robin McLoughlin, principal of Banbridge Academy.

A Banbridge principal has highlighted the diversity and inclusivity of the controlled schools sector in Northern Ireland.

Robin McLoughlin, principal of Banbridge Academy, was commenting on Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) research about the make-up of the controlled education sector.

Controlled schools are non-denominational and firmly set within an ethos embedded in Christian values. They are open to pupils of all faiths or none, and account for 558 or 48 per cent of all schools in Northern Ireland.

The council’s research demonstrates the complexity and diversity of the sector.

Some of the key findings from the research include:

• the controlled sector has over 140,600 pupils

• over 8,500 teachers are employed in controlled schools

• the majority of nursery schools, primary schools and special schools in Northern Ireland are controlled

• 95% of all special schools belong to the controlled sector

• over a third of newcomer pupils attend controlled schools

• 31% of all controlled pupils are entitled to free school meals

• over 28,700 primary and post-primary pupils have special educational needs.

In terms of religion, key findings of the research include:

• 66% of pupils are Protestant

• 10% of pupils are Catholic

• 5% of pupils are other Christian

• 1% of pupils are non-Christian

• 18% of pupils indicate no religion.

Mr McLoughlin, a CSSC member, commented: “Controlled schools are naturally integrated schools which reflect the community we serve.

“We are proud that Banbridge Academy is a non-denominational school that meets the needs of our entire community.

“CSSC’s research findings are already leading to a better understanding of what controlled schools across the Province are, the diversity within the sector and the challenges that face pupils and teachers, particularly given the current financial pressures within education.”

CSSC, the advocacy body for the controlled sector, has been in operation for just one year, and has plans to use its research to tackle some of the challenges facing schools.

“It is essential that CSSC has evidence to underpin its programme of work going forward and this baseline assessment is the first part of that. CSSC is proud to be the first advocacy body for controlled schools. Our dedicated and experienced team of staff will provide member schools with the support they need to enable their schools, pupils and teachers to thrive,” Mr McLoughlin added.