Integrated Education Bill: Consideration Stage

Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 17th January 2022.

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Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 17th January 2022

I call Ms Kellie Armstrong to move the Bill.

Moved. — [Ms Armstrong.]

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Members will have a copy of the Marshalled List of amendments detailing the order for consideration. The amendments have been grouped for debate in the provisional grouping of amendments selected list. There are four groups of amendments, and we will debate the amendments in each group in turn. Members will note that the Marshalled List was reissued and holds the serial number ML 2 in the bottom right corner. It is marked in red print on the front page that it is reissued. Members will have received printed and electronic copies of the document, but additional printed copies are available in the Rotunda if needed for the debate. In addition, the grouping list identifies amendment No 7 as an amendment to amendment No 6: please note that it is, in fact, amendment No 6 that is an amendment to amendment No 5. That will be clearly identified at the point of decision-making in the Bill.

The first debate will be on amendment Nos 1 to 9, 15, 17, 24 to 26, 57 and 61 to 71 and opposition to clause 12 stand part, which deal with definitions and purpose. Within that group, amendment No 6 is an amendment to amendment No 5. The second debate will be on amendment Nos 10 to 14, 16, 18 to 22, 31, 36, 39, 48 and 58 to 60 and opposition to clauses 4 and 5 stand part, which deal with advice, guidance and support. The third debate will be on amendment Nos 23, 27 to 30, 32 to 35, 37, 38 and 40 to 45 and opposition to clauses 6, 7, 8 and 9 stand part, which deal with strategy, implementation and reporting. In that group, amendment No 28 is an amendment to amendment No 27. The fourth debate will be on amendment Nos 46, 47 and 49 to 56 and opposition to clause 10 stand part, which deal with regulations.

I remind Members intending to speak that, during the debates on the four groups of amendments, they should address all of the amendments in each group on which they wish to comment. Once the debate on each group is completed, any further amendments in the group will be moved formally as we go through the Bill and the Question on each will be put without further debate. The Questions on stand part will be taken at the appropriate points in the Bill. If that is clear, we shall proceed. Members, if it is not, it will become clearer as we move along.

Clause 1 (Meaning of “integrated education”)

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

We now come to the first group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 1, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 2 to 9, 15, 17, 24 to 26, 57 and 61 to 71 and opposition to clause 12 stand part. In this group, amendment No 2 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 1; amendment Nos 3 and 4 are mutually exclusive to amendment Nos 1 and 2; amendment No 5 is mutually exclusive to amendment Nos 1 and 7; amendment No 6 is consequential to amendment No 5; amendment No 7 is mutually exclusive to amendment Nos 1 and 5; amendment No 8 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 1; amendment No 15 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 12; amendment No 25 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 24; and amendment Nos 61 to 68 are consequential to amendment No 2.

I call Jim Allister to move amendment No 1 and address the other amendments in the group.

The following amendment stood on the Marshalled List:

No 1: In page 1, line 3, leave out from “means” to end of line 22 and insert

<BR/>

”is as defined in Article 64(1) of the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.”

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I am content with amendment Nos 2 and 7 from the Minister.

Amendment No 1 not moved.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I call the Minister of Education, Miss Michelle McIlveen, to move amendment No 2 and to address the other amendments in group 1.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I beg to move amendment No 2:

In page 1, line 4, leave out from “of—&quot; to end of line 10 and insert —

<BR/>

“of those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.”

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 3: In page 1, line 8, leave out paragraph (b). — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 4: In page 1, line 10, leave out paragraph (c). — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 5: In page 1, line 11, leave out subsection (2) and insert —



“(2) An ‘integrated school’ is a school which —


(a) intentionally supports, protects and improves an ethos of diversity, respect and understanding between those of different cultures and religious beliefs and of none, between those of different socio-economic backgrounds and between those of different abilities, and


(b) has acquired —


(i) grant-maintained integrated status, or


(ii) controlled integrated status


under the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.” — [Ms Armstrong.]

No 6: In amendment No 5, leave out “improves” and insert “advances”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 7: In page 1, line 11, leave out from “intentionally” to end of line 14 and insert —



“is a controlled integrated school or grant-maintained integrated school as defined by Article 2(2) of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 8: In page 1, line 17, leave out paragraphs (b) to (e). — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 9: In clause 2, page 2, line 4, leave out paragraph (b) and insert —



“(b) to promote awareness and appreciation of human rights”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 15: In clause 3, page 2, line 12, after “education,” insert —



“at nursery, primary and post-primary levels,”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 17: In clause 4, page 2, line 22, leave out “the duty” and insert “a duty”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 24: In clause 6, page 2, line 37, leave out from “Education” to “when” and insert —



“Without prejudice to the generality of the duty under Article 64(1) of the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, the Department of Education must take account of that duty when—“. — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 25: In clause 6, page 2, line 37, leave out “include provision for” and insert “have regard to”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 26: In clause 6, page 3, line 1, at end insert —



“(2) The active fulfilment of duties in respect of support for integrated education conferred on education bodies by this Act (or regulation made under it) shall not prejudice or subordinate their duties in respect of promoting shared education involving other school sectors and integrated schools or the due discharge of their continuing statutory duties under other enactments including the Shared Education (Northern Ireland) Act 2016.” — [Mr McCrossan.]

No 57: In clause 11, page 6, line 8, leave out “11” and insert “10”. — [Ms Armstrong.]

No 61: In clause 12, page 6, line 16, leave out from “omit” to end of line 17 and insert —



“for ‘at school of Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘at a controlled integrated or grant-maintained integrated school of those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including (in the case of each such school) —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 62: In clause 12, page 6, line 19, leave out from “for” to end of line 21 and insert —



“for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 63: In clause 12, page 6, line 21, at end insert —



“(2A) In Article 71(8) of that Order (proposal for acquisition of grant-maintained integrated status), for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 64: In clause 12, page 6, line 21, at end insert —



“(2B) In Article 79(2) of that Order (significant changes to grant-maintained integrated schools), for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 65: In clause 12, page 6, line 21, at end insert —



“(2C) In Article 81(3)(d) of that Order (withdrawal of grant by Department) for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 66: In clause 12, page 6, line 21, at end insert —



“(2D) In Article 88 of that Order (management of controlled integrated schools: scheme of management) for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 67: In clause 12, page 6, line 21, at end insert —



“(2E) In Article 92(6) of that Order (proposal for acquisition of controlled integrated status), for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 68: In clause 12, page 6, line 21, at end insert —



“(2F) In Article 97 of that Order (significant changes to controlled integrated schools), for ‘reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils’ substitute ‘those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.’” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 69: In clause 12, page 6, line 22, leave out subsection (3). — [Mr Lyttle (The Chairperson of the Committee for Education).]

No 70: In clause 13, page 6, line 32, leave out sub-paragraphs (iii) to (v). — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

No 71: In clause 13, page 6, line 38, after “section 1” insert —



“and words and expressions which are defined in Article 2(2) of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 have the same meaning as in that Order”. — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I support the education of our children together. I have stated that throughout the debate and discussion on the Integrated Education Bill. What I do not support is poor legislation. I do not support legislating for one sector at the expense of others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I absolutely do not support playing party politics with the law that will govern our education system.

I am not standing here today grandstanding or seeking headlines; I stand here on behalf of every child and parent in our education system today and for those who will come through our education system in the future. I have never said that the current system is perfect, but it allows children to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. The quality of education in our schools is of paramount importance in giving our children and young people the best start in life. It is that quality, rather than sectoral preference, that drives parental preference. I stand for all parents, regardless of their background, and wish to reserve their right to express preferences for their children's education rather than force one sectoral solution. That is my role as Minister of Education.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Minister for giving way. Hopefully, the questions throughout today's debate can be good-natured. The Minister raised an important point that is often raised in the debate about education on the basis of the wishes of parents. How does the Department identify the wishes of parents and, indeed, those of children and young people?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. That will become clear as we go through the various aspects of the debate, particularly when we discuss parental preference.

At a time when a full and independent review of education backed by the Executive is under way and will examine in a fulsome, objective manner how a single education system might be delivered here, the Integrated Education Bill is not required. At Second Stage, Mr O'Dowd rightly asked why there was a necessity for the Bill. I concur with those sentiments. In my view, the independent review remains the appropriate means to effect meaningful change that can be agreeable across sectoral boundaries. We know that the review will be challenging for everyone, but it should give Members pause for thought when voting on the Bill. The review will engage and consult fully with the whole education system in a way that no one can suggest that the private Member's Integrated Education Bill has.

As Members will appreciate, the Committee's deliberations and the preparation for Consideration Stage, particularly with the tabling of multiple amendments, set against the context of wide-ranging education legislation, mean that what we are considering today is complex. I would appreciate Members' indulgence as I speak through the groupings.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Before the Minister moves into any detail, may I say that I am struck by the point that she has just made? As I understand it, 'New Decade, New Approach', which was embraced by all the parties of the Executive, endorsed an independent review. Therefore, surely what we have in this Bill is an attempt to gazump that. Is that what it comes to?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

That is the point that I was making at Second Stage. I said that I felt that this was a little presumptuous and that we should wait for the review to conclude. There is an investment in the review of approximately £1·5 million. I understand that that is progressing well and that there has been wide-ranging consultation across all the sectors. Certainly, there is a hope that that report will be made within 18 months. At that point, there will be recommendations that should be acted on as a consequence. I feel that that is the best place to be and where we should be regarding this legislation. Alas, however, we are where we are, and we are now at the Bill's Consideration Stage. If Members are content, I will take them through my amendments and reflect on other comments as we move through each of the groupings.

Our debate and subsequent vote on the group 1 clauses and amendments will focus on definitions and purpose. The group covers what will be included in clauses 1 and 2, the definition of integrated education and an integrated school, as well as the purpose of integrated education as described by the Bill. It covers amendments that range across clauses 3, 4, 6, 11, 12 and 13, and some of the amendments are more substantial than others. Those clauses cover various issues, and the way in which they have been drafted raises serious concerns. The clauses lack legal clarity. The definitions, if not amended, will be open to misinterpretation and will therefore result in legal challenge. Indeed, how the Bill as a whole would work in practice and the gaps that it contains with regard to its operation alongside existing education law are a major concern.

The Bill will not create a level playing field, as has been claimed. To promote or support one sector as defined in the Bill above the others is not acceptable to me as Minister of Education, because I value all sectors equally.

The Bill as introduced will put education bodies in an impossible position by placing additional duties on them that will create conflict with their existing duties. There is a finite education budget, which is already stretched. No one who votes on the Bill today should be under any illusion that the Bill, if it is not amended appropriately, will put further pressures on that budget.

We have had the benefit of the expertise of the Office of the Legislative Counsel (OLC) in relation to drafting throughout the Bill's passage. It was regrettable that Executive approval was given only on 21 December, and that presented a significant challenge to the professional drafters over the Christmas period. None of us will have the same level of competence as the OLC, and we should draw from and take seriously the opportunity that OLC drafting presents to emerge from this stage with legislation that is more workable than the legislation with which we started.

The Bill sponsor may have stated at the Second Stage debate that her Bill had undergone a 12-week consultation almost six years ago during the 2016-17 mandate in the form of online surveys for adults and children. However, where was the specific consultation with schools? No one can legitimately argue that the Bill does not have the potential to impact on schools from every sector, whether it intends to or not. Where is the awareness that the educational landscape legitimately might have changed, that new parents and children are now involved in the education system and that views may have changed in the intervening years before the Bill was introduced in June 2021? Certainly, planning structures, relationships and opportunities exist now that were not there in 2016-17.

As I said at the Second Stage debate, were I, as an Executive Minister, to present legislation to the Assembly that was based on an outdated consultation exercise that is, in my view, limited in scope, I would rightly expect to be laughed out of the Chamber.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance 3:45 pm, 17th January 2022

I thank the Minister for giving way. I appreciate what you are trying to say about my consultation. However, we had a Committee Stage, and the Committee completed substantial consultation on the Bill. Up-to-date consultation is available, and you can read that in the Committee pack. It is not just me who has consulted on it; a Committee, which has members from your party, also did so.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

The Office of the Legislative Counsel, as you will have heard referenced —

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I thank the Minister for giving way. I sat through the consultation process in Committee. I probably attended every very long session of that consultation process. Many of those who came to present to the consultation process — I can speak for many of the sectoral bodies such as the controlled and maintained sectors — said that they were surprised that the Bill was presented without further consultation other than the original 2016-17 consultation exercise. Indeed, they were taken aback by that process.

I will make another point. The Committee process itself was deeply flawed. I put my concerns on the record about how we received the legal advice on the Bill on a Wednesday and were asked to make a formal consultation response on a Thursday. I do not consider that to be an appropriate consultation.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for her intervention. The Office of the Legislative Counsel is the professional drafter of legislation for Departments in Northern Ireland. It is fully objective and separate from any party or specific Department. The professional expertise in drafting law for the entire Executive rests with the OLC. It has no vested interest in policy, and, in this case, educational sectors or school management types. It acts as guardian of the statute book here, and the legislation that it drafts is accurate to the highest degree and legislatively clear, takes account of existing legislation and removes the risk of unintended consequences. Every word is painstakingly pored over to ensure absolute accuracy. As Minister of Education, I thank the OLC for the hours of scrutiny, days of analysis and weeks of drafting since I was given the necessary Executive approval to instruct them on 21 December 2021, which it has invested in the amendments tabled by me in my role as Minister.

I can only urge you to look seriously on the amendments that were drafted for me by the OLC. They represent the Chamber's best chance to make an integrated education Bill that is workable in its entirety and will not drive a coach and horses through the entire education system and the Education budget.

It had not been my intention to propose any new legislation relating to one sector of education in advance of the outcome of the independent review. I have, however, been left with no alternative but to table amendments to mitigate the significant risks presented by the Bill as it sits. As Education Minister and a Member of this legislative Assembly, I could not stand back and allow law to pass that held the potential to have such far-reaching consequences for not only the here and now but future Education budgets. Today is the opportunity for all of us to demonstrate our support for integrated education that is in line with existing statutory duties and that does not operate to the detriment of other sectors or place unfettered pressure on the public purse.

The amendments that OLC has produced, and that I, in my role as Minister of Education for all children, have tabled represent a legally accurate means of delivering the key elements described by stakeholders and the Bill's sponsor as needing to be addressed.

I turn to the definition of "integrated education". I have heard the concerns about how the current definition, which is set out in article 64 of the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, does not reflect people other than those from a Protestant or Roman Catholic background or sufficiently support how they designate according to their fundamental beliefs when applying to an integrated school. The OLC has drafted an amendment to address that.

The clause 1 amendments that I tabled provide for "those of other religious beliefs" and "those of no religious belief" to be able to designate as such when they apply to integrated schools. That definition is reflected in associated amendments to clause 12, which incorporate this amendment into the range of existing provisions in the 1989 Education Order. It also provides greater clarity in legal terms and addresses concerns expressed by a range of stakeholders throughout the process — concerns that I share — about any school deeming itself to meet the definition of an integrated school. It results in a more straightforward provision that meets the stated needs of the integrated education sector, and it avoids the risk of challenges from other sectors that exists in the clause as introduced.

While I appreciate that the Bill's sponsor also tabled an amendment that, in effect, seeks to clarify that existing schools must go through the transformation process, this relates to integrated status via the procedures that are set out in the 1989 Order. OLC relates the definition of an integrated school to the existing legislation, clarifying what a grant-maintained or controlled integrated school is under the 1986 Order. I consider that the amendment that I tabled is the best guarantee that the Assembly has of achieving absolute legal accuracy.

The Bill as introduced and the Bill sponsor's amendments to clause 1 retain words and provisions that are simply not needed. What school in any sector does not provide education for a range of children? What school in any sector does not provide education for children from all social and economic backgrounds? What exactly is meant by:

"those who are experiencing socio-economic deprivation and those who are not"?

What school in any sector does not teach children with "different abilities"?

The problem with placing this wording in legislation is that it is open to interpretation and challenge. Legal advice has, for example, confirmed that retaining wording about different abilities opens up a challenge to how an integrated post-primary school might operate, even in streaming its classes. Logically, that cannot be the Bill's intention, yet it is the reality of retaining the clause as introduced or as amended by the Bill's sponsor.

I turn to ethos, and the Bill sponsor's amendments to clause 1(2) retain wording and provisions that, again, are simply not needed. In defining the ethos of an integrated school, the wording is inconsistent and incongruous with existing legislation. Again, the wording is unnecessary, legislatively unclear and open to challenge. The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) has advised me that, in its view, ethos changes, develops and is modified in line with the unique context of each school and the mix of people who make up the school community at any given time.

A definition in the Bill could become restrictive, as it cannot be readily changed to accommodate changes in society. Not placing it in the Bill keeps that work on ethos within the sector's control — for example, through the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education's (NICIE) work — which is more appropriate, and, in fact, more educationally sound. I concur with the inspectorate's analysis on that.

Other amendments have been tabled to the clause, but, again, in order to achieve legal accuracy, I urge Members to support the OLC-drafted amendments, which would put in legislation that "others" are an explicit part of an integrated school, and vote for amendment Nos 2, 7 and 8 to clause 1. Amendment Nos 61 to 68, which relate to clause 12, bring the definition set out at amendment No 2 into the relevant provisions of the 1989 Order, as advised by OLC. That means that subsections (3)(b) to (3)(e) of clause 1, as introduced, which you will see amendment No 8 takes out, are not needed, because specific articles are amended in clause 12.

Turning to clause 6, "General duty", the concerns about unintended consequences for bodies such as the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), parts of the Education Authority and the Youth Council for Northern Ireland, which is not currently operational, have been well expressed since the Second Stage debate. Placing a statutory duty in relation to integrated education on top of the statutory duties that those bodies were established and are funded to deliver is not good legislation.

OLC has drafted an amendment, No 24, that clarifies the duties in clause 6 that relate to the Department of Education. Again, I recognise that amendment Nos 25 and 26 have been tabled to clause 6 and seek to mitigate the conflict-of-duty concern. However, the clearest way to ensure that is to look to the drafting that has been provided by OLC. Again, I urge you to support the amendment that I have tabled, which provides clarity and works alongside existing legislation.

There is an associated amendment, No 70 to clause 13, which ensures that any references to education bodies only relate to the Department of Education or the Education Authority. If you support that amendment, no conflict of duties will be placed on CCMS, CCEA or, if it becomes operational again, the Youth Council.

Amendment No 69, which was tabled by the Chair of the Education Committee, takes out the amendment to the Shared Education Act in clause 12. I support the removal of that amendment as it has no legal impact or benefit. I can only reiterate that shared education is a funded programme that is open to all schools in all sectors. Integrated education is a sector that forms part of the school estate. Both may, of course, support the breaking down of community barriers and the building of good relationships, but so do many other schools from across every sector.

Amendment No 71 to clause 13 has been drafted to ensure that the legal definitions in the 1986 Order apply to the provisions of the Bill. That includes parents and children. Who else should an education Bill of any description be about? Again, I urge you to support that amendment.

In conclusion, our job today is to piece together a legislative jigsaw that slots together to make workable legislation. Let us rely on the drafting expertise of OLC to ensure that we deliver that. Thank you.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I want to take the Minister back. She made a passing reference to where the Bill, if approved, would fit, juxtaposition-wise, with existing arrangements. Tomorrow, as I recall, we are about to see the publication of strategic documents. How would the Bill fit with that strategy in terms of future area planning etc?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

If the Member is content, I can come back to him on that specific point and how that might relate to the strategy specifically, depending, of course, on how the Bill is amended and the subsequent clauses that are associated with that.

I have concluded my remarks. Thank you.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I will speak initially as Chairperson of the Education Committee and then as an Alliance MLA, in which capacity I am glad to support the passage of the Integrated Education Bill proposed by Kellie Armstrong MLA.

During the Committee Stage of the Integrated Education Bill, MLAs considered written evidence from 1,118 organisations and individuals. Of those responses, 523 were received via the Assembly's Citizen Space online survey platform, 95% of which agreed with the policy objectives of the Bill and 85% of which thought that the provisions in the Bill would be effective in achieving those policy objectives.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Beggs] in the Chair)

The Education Committee also undertook 14 oral evidence sessions and held 17 formal meetings as part of a comprehensive and inclusive scrutiny process that engaged closely with a wide range of stakeholders, the Bill proposer and the Department of Education. The Education Committee, therefore, allocated significant time and attention to the scrutiny of the Integrated Education Bill, as MLAs will, no doubt, have learned from the Education Committee report on the Bill. The range of stakeholders consulted and involved in written and oral submissions was considerable. The Education Committee extended both its call for evidence and the Committee Stage, which took place over approximately a five-month period in order to bring as much advice and perspective as possible to bear on that important scrutiny task.

The subject of this group of amendments is the definition and purpose of the Bill. Given the range of views among Education Committee members, the Committee did not agree a position on the amendments. I will, however, speak to Education Committee amendment No 69.

It was evident that the Bill sponsor aims to retain and extend the existing definition of integrated education in a manner that reflects a changing society in Northern Ireland. Many stakeholders supported that change but also sought assurance that any change would be consistent with the existing definition of integrated education, as per section 64 of the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. The Bill sponsor committed to clarifying that and has accordingly done so by way of amendment.

The Bill sponsor engaged with Committee members on an alternative wording to clause 7. When the Education Committee considered the Bill clause by clause, it was aware that the sponsor intended to amend clause 7 but that drafting had not yet been finalised. Accordingly, amendment No 69 is an Education Committee amendment that is consequential to the removal of clause 7's presumption that every new school should be an integrated one, and I present it to the Assembly.

Speaking in my capacity as Alliance education spokesperson, I will say that it is a privilege to support the passage of the Integrated Education Bill, which the group 1 amendments seek to amend, from the Alliance integrated education spokesperson, Kellie Armstrong MLA. The Alliance vision for education is an integrated and sustainable system that delivers equal opportunity for all children to develop their unique personality, talent and ability together.

The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998, which is an international peace accord, stated clearly that integrated education is "essential" to reconciliation. 'The Fresh Start Panel Report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland' recommended that the Executive set ambitious targets:

"to measurably reduce segregation in education ... as quickly as possible."

That was in 2016.

A poll on education in 2018 found that good educational standards are the most important factor for many people when they are choosing a school, followed closely by a desire for children to be educated together. Two thirds of respondents supported their school officially becoming an integrated school. The overall view was that:

"political leaders had done little or nothing to facilitate and encourage integrated education".

Some 60% of respondents felt that politicians held up the accessibility of integrated education.

The Ulster University Economic Policy Centre has also established that separation and duplication in our education system have a significant financial cost, which could be upwards of £90 million per year. Yet, the Department of Education states that our education system is in financial crisis. In my constituency of East Belfast, poll results have found that a majority of parents — approximately 76% — support their school becoming integrated.

On the group 1 amendments, I support Kellie Armstrong's proposed definition of integrated education and will not support the Education Minister's proposed narrowing of the definition. I am content to support amendment No 6, as it adds to the definition. I will also support the Education Minister's amendment No 24, as it will strengthen the requirement of the Education Department to take account of its duty on integrated education.

I would really like to hear — I hope that the Education Minister returns to this — how the Department of Education currently encourages and facilitates integrated education and how it identifies, assesses and meets the demand of parents and pupils for integrated education. Perhaps the Minister can also speak to what action the Department has taken to implement the independent review of integrated education, which reported as long ago as 2017.

The lack of information and action on all of those matters is in no small part the motive that has led Kellie Armstrong to propose specific legislation and action to meet the parental demand and the demand of children and young people, which the Education Committee heard quite clearly throughout Committee Stage, for access to integrated education in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Pat Sheehan Pat Sheehan Sinn Féin 4:00 pm, 17th January 2022

I welcome the opportunity to speak at Consideration Stage. Everyone wants change of one degree or another, and much has changed here over the past 100 years. That process of change has accelerated since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, but there is still much to do. Sectarianism still exists here, and it is a cancer in our society. The continued segregation of our society is an obstacle to ending and eradicating that sectarianism. In the light of that, it is good to see positive approaches to reducing segregation. New Decade, New Approach commits the Executive to carrying out:

"an external, independent review of education provision?, with a focus on ... moving towards a single education system ... educating children and young people of different backgrounds together ?in the classroom."

An example of that is the Strule shared education model in Omagh, which will bring together pupils from six local schools, with representation from the controlled, maintained and voluntary school sectors. Each school will retain its individuality and ethos while maximising the opportunities provided through collaboration and sharing. The Bill, if enacted, will enhance the efforts to break down barriers and build a new society rooted in peace and equality. Of course, the segregation in our education system is not responsible for the divisions in our society. Consequently, a more integrated education system will not be a panacea for all of society's ills. However, it can be another building block in helping to heal the divisions that exist.

It is important to state that integrated education will not be forced on anyone. Parents and young people will still have a choice of what sector they wish to attend, be it integrated, controlled, maintained or Irish medium. All of those sectors will exist in the short to medium term; they will not disappear. It is important, therefore, that other sectors are not disadvantaged by the Integrated Education Bill. However, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that exist for the integrated sector.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Bill sponsor for her work in taking the Bill forward. I thank her and her researcher and policy person, Fiona, on the positive and constructive conversations that we have had throughout the process. Any time that we have sought information about the process of the Bill, the sponsor has been more than willing to facilitate meetings and conversations on it.

I will speak in support of the Bill sponsor's amendment No 5, amendment No 6 and the Minister's amendment No 24.

One of the things about the process in Committee was that we were faced with choices, because a number of amendments were proposed to certain clauses. We went through them all and settled on the ones that we thought were most suitable. In this case, the Minister's amendment No 24 to clause 6 is the best. If that clause is not amended, it will place a contradictory or conflicting duty on the CCMS, which has a statutory responsibility for its sector. Another statutory responsibility — an onerous responsibility — would be placed on it to deal also with the integrated sector. That was a mistake in the Bill's original drafting. Consequent to supporting amendment No 24, we also support amendment Nos 70 and 71, which remove the CCMS, the CCEA and the NI Youth Council from the definition of "education bodies" in the Bill.

Although, in our context here, integrated education has a particular definition — of educating Catholics and Protestants together — society now is very different from what it was previously. I welcome the proposal to expand on the existing definition, with that increased level of diversity, to reference and include those of different abilities and from different socio-economic backgrounds. Encouraging greater diversity in our schools can only be a good thing as we move forward as a society.

Although I welcome the Bill, I am not uncritical of the integrated sector. The sponsor knows that I have criticised it in the Chamber, and my colleague John O'Dowd has always been critical of it. One of the fears is that, in the past, although the integrated sector certainly preached that there was cultural diversity in its schools, that was not always practised. I hope that our debating and discussing the Bill will have an impact on those integrated schools to ensure that there is proper cultural diversity and to ensure that the Irish identity is catered for. I willingly acknowledge that many integrated schools already teach the Irish language, promote Gaelic games and teach a different perspective of Irish history than would have been taught previously. That is good progress, but more still needs to be done.

I am particularly supportive of the part of amendment No 5 that refers to progressing:

"an ethos of diversity, respect and understanding between" different groups of people. The key concern that comes through our constituency office doors about integrated education is one of frustration that that level of respect for and understanding of the Irish identity is not there. We have the opportunity to address those concerns through the Bill, however.

One of the other criticisms that I have made of the integrated sector — I hope that the Bill will deal with it — is that some integrated schools practise academic selection. That is contrary to the ethos of inclusiveness and diversity and creates another artificial barrier in our society.

I note the Bill sponsor's proposed amendment to the definition of "integrated school". I welcome being able to take part in the debate, and I do not intend to speak at any length throughout it. I will finish on that point.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP 4:15 pm, 17th January 2022

At this stage of the debate, as others have said, we are to focus on the purpose of the Bill and the definitions employed to define that purpose. The Bill is about the promotion of integrated education, and that is where it stops. The sponsor of the Bill, to be fair, has stated that clearly and has made no apology for it. That is fine; it is completely her right to set the intent and purpose of the Bill.

The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will, of course, agree that the concept of our children growing up together, playing together and being educated together is something that we can all support; indeed, I am thankful that I — yes, back in the day — and my children experienced education through attending a school in the voluntary grammar sector where everyone was welcomed regardless of faith or background. I am also thankful that that can be experienced in other parts of the education system in Northern Ireland, including the special education sector. I also state my support and appreciation for the many schools that cooperate with each other through their area learning community and the shared education experience part of the curriculum. In Banbridge, for example, pitches at St Patrick's College are regularly used by the whole community, and subjects are taught on a shared basis between St Patrick's and the local controlled high school. Moving our society to a more inclusive basis through education is not simply the preserve of one sector. I would like to see more shared learning by making use of the enormous resource that is further education.

There have been many claims about the Bill and its purpose. In the past few days, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has declared that the Bill will start the end of "education apartheid in Northern Ireland". The Bill will do no such thing. The purpose of the Bill is to support the integrated sector, and it will, in its practical effect, add a further layer to education legislation in Northern Ireland — legislation that will take precedence over existing legislation.

The Department of Education already has a duty to:

"encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education".

It has the same duty towards the Irish-medium sector. It does not have a similar duty towards the controlled or maintained sector. The Bill would lift that duty further, creating a hierarchy in education in which the controlled and maintained sectors would be at the bottom of the pile. Clearly, the Bill will have a radical outworking in the education system in Northern Ireland. Such a change, as the Minister said, should be considered in a more holistic way and should be part of the independent review of education.

I put on record my real concern that the Bill has been allowed to proceed without an up-to-date consultation process. By the sponsor's own admission, the forerunner to the Bill was consulted on in 2016-17. It is now 2022. No Department would proceed with legislation of such import without, at the very least, updating its original consultation.

Clause 1 of the Bill looks at the definition of integrated education, and amendment Nos 1 to 9 deal specifically with that. The clause moves away from the current legal definition of integrated education and widens it with different social and economic criteria. Those criteria, however, could be applied to many schools. Figures provided to the Education Committee by the Controlled Schools' Support Council (CSSC) show that 61% of pupils in controlled schools are Protestant and 10% Catholic and that 39·5% of all newcomer pupils in Northern Ireland — that is, those who come to settle in Northern Ireland — attend controlled schools. That sector will not benefit from any of the provisions in the Bill that will be afforded to the integrated sector, yet it is perhaps more diverse and inclusive than many integrated schools.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

Yes, of course.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

In the interests of good-natured debate, does the Member acknowledge that a percentage of the controlled schools to which she referred include controlled integrated schools?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I do of course, and I will have something to say about that at a later stage, as the Chair of the Education Committee knows.

The House should reflect on this as well: interestingly, the figures given to us by the Controlled Schools' Support Council show that 28% of controlled school pupils are entitled to free school meals. That is an area that the House should focus on, and it is the area where the real inequalities in education arise: how those who rely on free school meals access education and how well they do in it.

Amendment No 5's proposed new subsection 2(a) is also problematic. It states:

"An 'integrated school' is a school which intentionally supports, protects and improves an ethos of diversity, respect and understanding between those of different cultures and religious beliefs and of none, between those of different socio-economic backgrounds and between those of different abilities".

While the Bill deals with the integrated sector, how are those not also features of the controlled, maintained and voluntary grammar sectors? To suggest otherwise is a slight on those who have taught for many years in all those sectors.

Amendment Nos 24, 25 and 26 deal with clause 6 of the Bill. In its original form, the Bill sponsor advances the requirement that education bodies, even CCMS, have to include:

"provision for integrated education when developing, adopting, implementing or revising policies, strategies and plans; and designing and delivering public services."

Amendment No 24, proposed by the Minister, clarifies that and would leave a general duty on the Department, but we need to take this amendment alongside amendment No 70, which gives us a support of the definition of "education bodies". This is the core of my argument: complex, radical change, as proposed in the Bill, is not and should not be taken forward by a private Member's Bill but should be given the proper considered debate that it deserves.

As I have said before, we all want to see a society that is more equitable, inclusive and respectful of diversity and that values everyone, no matter what their background. A truly settled and prosperous Northern Ireland will elevate those values. Will that be achieved by the Bill? Is this a panacea for educational underachievement? Will it tackle the inequalities in how education is accessed for certain members of our society? Sadly, it will not. The Bill will create a hierarchy of sectors in the education system in Northern Ireland. Over the period when the Bill has been discussed, I have met many different sectors in education, and there is profound disquiet that the definitions and purpose of the Bill will lead to further inequality and unfairness. The ethos of the Bill — that inclusivity in education can be delivered only in an integrated setting — is strongly contested by other sectors. In its evidence to the Committee, CCMS noted that Catholic schools are rooted in their local communities and that they are successful in building relationships and interacting with other schools, sectors and businesses.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

When I have made the point, certainly.

I have given the House figures on the diversity of the controlled sector; indeed, as the Chair of the Education Committee said, the controlled sector has the fastest-growing number of integrated schools in Northern Ireland.

I will, of course, give way.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I ask the Member to point out where the Bill says that no other sector delivers diversity. The Bill is about integrated education; it is silent on other sectors.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

The implication is there, in many cases. When I talk to other sectoral bodies, they say that the Bill's implication is clearly that the most meaningful way of delivering diversity is only through an integrated education.

All of that leads me, in finishing, to ask this: why are parties in the House not looking at those aspects of the Bill?

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

When I make a point.

Why are the SDLP, Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party rushing to support a Bill that will treat around 90% of our school population in a different and unequal way? Surely our young people deserve better.

I will give way, but I want to make a final point. I cannot help but smile at the irony of Sinn Féin, through Pat Sheehan, talking about people coming together and tackling segregation. Mr Sheehan nearly needs to have a conversation with his party colleague from West Belfast, who wants there to be a segregated Irish language community at Queen's University with separate accommodation and separate facilities. That is not the way to encourage an inclusive Northern Ireland or to tackle sectarianism and division in our society.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I thank the Member for giving way. I give her an opportunity to clarify and correct her remark about the comments that my party leader made in a video. He did not talk about the Integrated Education Bill or about integrated education. Will the Member reflect on the video that she spoke about?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I have listened carefully to the video, and I know that the Member may have had a hand in providing some of the information for it.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

Maybe it would have been more appropriate if you had.

[Laughter.]

To be fair to the Bill sponsor and those who support the Bill, I accept that it is about only one sector. I state clearly, however, that the Bill — I worry intensely about this — will set one sector against another. As we go through the amendments, I will point out where the Bill sets dangerous precedents and leaves behind other sectors that are important to parents and pupils and for the future of education in Northern Ireland. I will leave it there.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

As the SDLP's education spokesperson, I too welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill today. I add my appreciation to the Bill sponsor and her researchers, who have obviously put a lot of work into the Bill over the last number of years and have been extremely patient in engaging with parties on it. I share Mr Sheehan's sentiments that, at all junctures where we needed clarification, sought reassurance or expressed concern, the Bill sponsor was more than willing to engage and consider our concerns.

I affirm the SDLP's long-held support for integrated education. Since our foundation as a party, we have been committed to addressing all the inequalities and injustices faced by our divided society. It must be said that one of those inequalities is that, in the first month of 2022, we find ourselves educating our children according to their religion.

Most people whom you speak to in our society say that they would love to see children educated together and those barriers being eroded. It is simply not acceptable that —

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP 4:30 pm, 17th January 2022

I thank the Member for giving way. Does he also agree that there is a right for parents to choose and that, while many parents say that they want children to be educated together, they make an active choice of a Catholic maintained school, a voluntary grammar or some other part of education, based on academic record? Does he agree that parental choice is an important part of our system?

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Absolutely, and I do not believe that the Bill does much to disturb that right. After considerable time spent on the Bill, we are satisfied that it does not undo parental choice. My parents made a decision when I was at a very young age that I would attend the local school. The decision was not that I would attend the local school because I was a Catholic or otherwise. I attended the local controlled school. I am a product of the controlled sector and have grown up, my entire life, knowing John or Sarah as John or Sarah; it did not matter what religion they came from. I was lucky to attend a school that naturally integrated children together, who then grew together. I saw the benefits of that in the controlled sector over many years. I do not think that the Bill undoes parental choice. At the end of the day, parents will make the decision that is in the best interests of their children, and that will not in any way be devalued by the Bill, although I understand why concern has been raised around that.

It is simply not acceptable that, in 2022, our young people are still segregated according to their religion. Regardless of the debates and the different views on that, it happens in our society. Research has shown that 70% of our young people attend schools where there is less than a one in 20 chance of meeting a peer from the other main religious tradition. How can we say that we are properly preparing our young people to contribute to a society, as individuals and as a collective, when that is the case?

When I first joined the Assembly, I attended a number of meetings through peace and reconciliation events. There were people the age of my grandparents and parents at those events who, up until more recent years, had never engaged with someone from the opposite side of the community. That was said by both sides. There is a real division in our society that needs to be dealt with in a very positive and inclusive way.

It is especially absurd that we have not moved further and much more quickly when we consider the deep groundswell of support. It has already been mentioned that a key vision of the Good Friday Agreement was that we would see our people live, grow and be educated side by side, creating a truly shared future and society. The Bill is not the silver bullet to do that, but it is certainly a very solid starting point from which we could truly move to affirming the solid view that integrating our children together in education will have massively positive effects for the future of this place.

I mentioned that we have seen remarkable progress over the past number of years. Since 2000, the number of pupils in integrated education has risen from 14,000 to 24,000. Sixty-five schools are now integrated, with more on the way; conversations are happening about that. More schools are participating in shared-schooling initiatives than ever before. It is clear that the social and cultural role of integrated education as a force for common good has never been more recognised than it is today. We should pay tribute to the sterling work of organisations that advocate for positive change here, as well as to the parents who led the way on that issue.

The truth is that we have much more to do. Indeed, this conversation is helpful. From my work on the Education Committee over the past number of months, I know that all parties have actively participated in the scrutiny process. At times, I expressed concern, and the sponsor responded to those concerns. I think that I have driven the Chair of the Committee to early retirement, but there has certainly been very healthy debate on the Bill.

To truly build a new Ireland, we must build a shared future and a shared home place for all our people. We can no longer focus on or be shackled by the divisions of the past. That cannot be said about our schools. Over the past number of decades, the work of schools in the maintained and controlled sectors has been fantastic. Huge divisions have been eroded by the positive engagement of schools and the shared plans that they rolled out in recent times. I pay tribute to the excellent work of all of the other sectors. I have already stated that I am a product of the controlled sector. I am very proud of that. I have friends from all walks of life. There will never be a person who will put me under a sectarian banner; I do not look at life in that way. I appreciate people for who they are and for what they have to offer our society. There are opportunities available in society for everybody. Our job is about lifting everybody up together and providing the necessary equality.

Of course, the work of advocating integrated education is by no means new to the SDLP. It was the SDLP, along with the work of others, that ensured that integrated education was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. More than 20 years ago, Mark Durkan senior served as Finance Minister, and he backed our commitment to integrated education with financial support. This is not new for the SDLP. We have long sought greater integration of our children in education, of our society in housing and in life generally. It is worth noting that integrated education is not the only method that we must employ to bring our communities together. I have touched on the others. For instance, there needs to be meaningful action on shared housing, which would massively erode the barriers of the past. Shared sporting events and social pursuits are other such methods.

There are questions to be raised about the process of scrutiny. I found it very frustrating that, during Committee Stage, there was not sufficient time to properly scrutinise or evaluate the legislation. That is not the fault of the Bill's sponsor; it is the process that we have to endure. Education, particularly in the times that we are in, has many challenges because of COVID and other issues in schools.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. Surely, he would not possibly consider subjecting me to him in the Committee for more than a five-month Committee Stage.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

It was worth a try.

The Committee has been extremely patient with the process, but we have had considerable hurdles and challenges to overcome over the past few months. That is where my frustrations with the process lie.

It is the declared intention of the sponsor, Ms Armstrong, to define "integrated education" and integrated schools in clause 1. In doing so, she refers to "reasonable numbers" of children:

"of different cultures and religious beliefs and of none".

She also includes references to different socio-economic circumstances and different abilities. In addition, she determines the ethos of integrated schools by referencing "diversity, respect and understanding". It is, without doubt, desirable that definitions are set out for us. I welcome the general approach of the sponsor in clause 1. As Members will see from my second amendment, the references to "socio-economic deprivation" and "different abilities" were taken directly from the Shared Education Act 2016.

My first two amendments are probing amendments to seek clarification. The Bill's sponsor has had conversations with me and party colleagues in that regard. Amendment No 3 seeks to remove clause 1(1)(b). I really did not understand the rationale for having it. That is not me being in any way critical; it is about seeking certainty. Every school across every sector, even grammar schools, will claim that they have pupils who come from various socio-economic backgrounds, albeit to differing degrees, so I seek clarification of the purpose of clause 1(1)(b). If the sponsor kindly provides sufficient clarification, we will be happy to withdraw that amendment. My amendment is by no means an attack on the notion; rather, the intention is to seek that necessary clarification.

The same can be said for amendment No 4, which would remove clause 1(1)(c). I did not really understand the rationale for having that either. Those clarifications would be hugely helpful.

My fear was really that it had the potential to lead to some confusion in future without clarification. For example, it is possible that the reference to "different abilities" could lead to confusion over whether children can be streamed or banded in classes in post-primary schools. Legal advice may suggest that such a challenge is possible and could, for instance, give rise to a fresh call for an end to academic selection in bilateral integrated schools. Or, would it actually work the other way? Again, amendment No 4 is just a probing amendment to seek clarification from the Bill sponsor. I would appreciate that very much.

We are happier with the drafting of amendment No 5, tabled by the Bill sponsor. Indeed, we are happy with the Minister's amendment to that — amendment No 6 — so we will spend a bit of time shortly looking at both. A combination of both amendments could probably be developed for the next stage of the Bill. Amendment No 5 is to clause 1, page 1, line 11 and amendment No 6 replaces the word "improves" in amendment No 5 with "advances", which is a better choice of word for the context. Again, the sponsor and I have engaged on that. For example, a new school would have nothing to improve, but it could still advance. That is the reason for that amendment. What is more, the idea of "improves" could be seen, in some contexts, as negative — for example, a school may be seen as lacking in some way — whereas the word "advances" has no such nuances; rather, it denotes taking the position forward in a positive way. Therefore, that is a positive amendment and better reflects the position of many integrated schools at this particular time.

We have considered amendment No 7 and cannot support it, and the same applies to amendment No 8. Clause 2 sets out the five purposes of integrated schools. Our concern is that one purpose does not sit well alongside the others that are listed. Again, I seek clarification on that. The other four are about the delivery of elements of the curriculum in the school. Teaching would aim to promote certain outcomes in pupils in keeping with those four purposes; academic, social, moral, etc. On the other hand, the efficient and effective use of resources is a matter to be addressed at education system level.

Our amendment No 9 to clause 2 proposes to remove the wording of the clause and substitute it with a phrase that seeks to promote human rights instead. The Bill sponsor, Ms Armstrong, sought clarification on that today, and I appreciate that conversation. That purpose is perfectly in keeping with the other four purposes, and will impact positively on the curriculum and pupil outcomes in a similar way to the others. It will, therefore, bring consistency to the entire clause. The promotion of human rights is highly desirable and noble, and sits well beside all the purposes that are listed, especially the one on equality and diversity. It will also further enhance our desire to promote respect for identity and community cohesion, and is perfectly in keeping with the ethos of integrated education.

That is a very quick outline of our positioning and rationale for some of our amendments. I have been open about some of them being probing amendments. Hopefully, the sponsor will kindly give us the necessary clarification. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the time to speak to them.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

I support, among the amendments in group 1 on definition and purpose, the Minister's amendments, Nos 5, 24, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, and oppose the other amendments.

Integrated education can be an emotive subject in Northern Ireland. When you are concerned about the issue, and stand in the Assembly to express those concerns, you will judged. I was going to use the words "rightly judged", but, sometimes, that is not the case. You would be judged by the opposition parties and the public, no more so than when the subject that you are speaking on is the education of our children and young people, and especially when you are talking about educating all our children together in an integrated education system. In the wider context, it is perhaps thought that if you are speaking in opposition to the Bill, you are intent on promoting educational apartheid, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I speak as a parent, and my wife and I ensured that our children attended a school that was truly integrated, and had a very long history of integration, in order to make sure that they had the opportunity to enrich their understanding of life, cultures and religions in general. I believe that that has enriched their quality of life overall.

My party colleague Mrs Dodds indicated her history of attending a school that was naturally integrated, and her children followed suit. We all want to achieve integrated education so that all our children can be integrated with and sit beside people from different cultures and backgrounds. I believe that that enriches them. However, this is a private Member's Bill. It will not deliver integrated education. It will not deliver a level playing field for all sectors of education.

If we were to invent an education system, we would certainly not invent the system that we have now, but we are where we are with the different sectors and bodies that represent the sectors of education, and they are doing their jobs. To some extent, those who have been playing a role in the controlled or maintained sector could rightly look at the Bill and say, "Is no one taking account of the valuable work that we have been doing on the ground? Has no one been looking at the diversity in our schools, because only one area of integrated education was measured?".

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance 4:45 pm, 17th January 2022

I thank the Member for giving way. To be honest, we are in danger of having the DUP as the only party that is perpetuating that narrative. We have delivered a Shared Education Act, which legally promotes shared education, so it is a myth to say that the Assembly is not promoting, encouraging and facilitating shared education and cooperation between all sectors in Northern Ireland. I do not understand why that point keeps being raised when it is not a point of the legislation.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

I thank the Member for his intervention. I suggest that the Member goes and has a chat with the principals of our schools about how they feel about the work that they are doing. However, the Member makes a point.

I was not going to say this, but I spent a short time in OFMDFM, as it was then, and I was pleased with the work that we did on shared education. I was an advocate of shared education and how it was rolled out, and I am pleased to say that the Strule campus is coming to fruition now. Mr Sheehan mentioned that a number of schools are coming together now in a very positive way to enjoy the one campus and to enter into and enhance shared education. We are spending millions of pounds to enhance that campus for shared education. I am proud of the work that I did in OFMDFM back then.

I have now lost my place in my speech. I have made the point that this is a private Member's Bill and will not deliver integrated education, as I perceive it. I am not making any points about the integrated education sector per se: it does a good job. The integrated sector does a job that has been allocated to it, and it promotes that sector as it feels it is appropriate to do.

I do not see that accepting or amending clause 1 would do anything other than give credibility to the other clauses and lead to judicial review. As has been confirmed by those who gave evidence, we are in danger of having an integrated education Act that will lead to a judicial review. The private Member's Bill is not a suitable way to achieve the objectives of the Bill's proposer. This type of legislation is more the remit of the education body, with all its drafting resources, knowledge, experience and legal advice. It is uncommon to deal with an issue as complex as education reform through a private Member's Bill.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. 'The Report of the Independent Review of Integrated Education' was published in 2017. The Department of Education had the opportunity to take forward the recommendations of that report. Some were taken forward but the majority were not, and my Bill deals with that. I am not sure if the Member is saying that there should not be private Members' Bills. We wrote to the then Minister, who said that the Department was not taking forward those recommendations. If the Department is not taking those forward, what other way can we get it for the integrated education movement?

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

I thank the Member for her intervention. She has mentioned the independent review of education. The independent review of education, which was announced by Minister Weir, is the way to review our entire education system in Northern Ireland. I am pretty certain that, on a number of occasions, the Member has not been shy in telling us that it was her party, the Alliance Party, that put the review of education into New Decade, New Approach. Now, the Member seemingly cannot wait for an impartial report and, instead, wishes to bring inequity, as I perceive it, into our education system through what has been described as potentially bad law.

The Education Committee took legal advice, which came to us on 16 November. I will quote a couple of remarks from that legal advice:

"It is uncommon to deal with an issue as complex as education reform within the limited support available for policy research and drafting PMBs as compared with Government legislation. It is perhaps more likely that drafting inconsistencies between a PMB and a complex existing statutory framework will arise".

Another point made in the legal advice was:

"In addition to the high-level nature of this Bill, it would appear to be a deliberate choice by the draftsperson. It may be that the draftsperson has chosen to deal in the Bill only with key principles and has conferred on the Department a wide order-making power to address inconsistencies".

I do not believe that to be the case.

The legal advice also states:

"However, this framework Bill approach in this case is not without legal risk."

It seems to me that we are creating a situation in which other bodies representing our education sectors are likely to request judicial reviews. That has been mentioned to the Committee. That is the situation that we will be creating for ourselves if we pass this Bill in its present format, and even with the amendments that the Bill sponsor and others are proposing.

Photo of Harry Harvey Harry Harvey DUP

It is evident from this debate and previous education debates that there is clear and collective support for the concept of educating our young people together. The concept is not in dispute. The process for achieving the concept, however, is, particularly when it harms other sectors in achieving its aim. We can all appreciate the importance of educating our children and young people in a shared and integrated environment, both for future societal benefit and their individual personal development. The Assembly has made that aspiration clear in the past, and, indeed, the Executive have already begun work to bring it to the fore through the ongoing NDNA education review. As far as the DUP is concerned, that is the proper process for effecting change in education moving forward. As it stands, the private Member's Bill before us, although succinct, represents possibly the greatest shift in education policy for many years. If such legislation were to receive approval, it would very much call into question the rationale behind the ongoing review. We would do well to avoid placing the cart before the horse. Co-education is something that we all support and have signed up to. The DUP's objection to this private Member's Bill, as introduced and even if amended, is that it clearly prioritises and elevates one sector above all others. This is unfair and inequitable.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

Like others, I welcome the opportunity to speak, and I congratulate the Bill sponsor and her team for getting this far. As my colleague Daniel McCrossan said, the SDLP has a long history of supporting educating our children together and of enabling people to live together. One of our former Ministers, Margaret Ritchie, introduced the concept of shared housing. One such scheme in Banbridge, Peggy's Loaning, is quite a success. We now have more people living cheek by jowl, particularly in private housing developments, and, through mixed marriages and partnerships, we are much more integrated than before, yet parents tell me how their children play in the street together but, come Monday morning, go to different schools. As a parent and now a grandparent, I know that parents choose where to send their children to school based on where they can get the best educational outcome. We all know the importance of education for lifting all of us out of poverty and enabling opportunities to be more equal.

Some of the clauses talk about socio-economic factors and equality and diversity, and that is to be welcomed. The difficulty that I have with the Members opposite talking about waiting until an independent review is completed is that, over the past 15 years, we have had numerous reviews of health and education, including of academic selection. I am sure that the shelves in Stormont House and in some Departments are quite full of unimplemented reviews and action plans. That is a regret.

Therefore, I understand the Bill sponsor's impatience in tabling the private Member's Bill, because, like many people in the Chamber, she may have little confidence in others to bring it forward in any meaningful way.

The SDLP is very much behind the Bill, but, as others across the way have recognised, and as Mr Sheehan outlined, the controlled and maintained sectors were not the cause of division or sectarianism. I certainly was not taught to be sectarian in any shape or form through the education system. I went to what was, at that time, Our Lady of Mercy school in Lurgan for post-primary education.

Parents will make the choice. All schools have to up their game to provide the best opportunities, but we also have to up our game to give them the financial resources and support to provide the best opportunity for all our children and young people. The integrated sector has been at a disadvantage over the years when it comes to the funding formula. That is well documented and, certainly, is something that principals of integrated schools in my constituency tell me. Hopefully, the Bill will enable a level playing field without doing harm to the maintained or controlled sectors, because —

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Will the Member remind us how many pupils you have to have to form an integrated school in the primary and post-primary context?

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

As the Member will know, a number of schools, over the years, sought to transform and found difficulty getting the exact change. Having the principle or ideology of integrated education is very different from having practicalities that drive you to look to be integrated. Of course, I do not serve on the Education Committee; I am sure that others are better informed than I am and could give exact numbers. Is there a formula of 40:20 or 40:30? I am not really sure what it is. It may be 60:40.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

Yes. Justin may want to answer that particular question.

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the Member agree that the SDLP has always been at the forefront of creating a more integrated society? When it comes to a school that intentionally promotes, protects and improves on an ethos of respect and understanding between those of different cultures, different religious beliefs and none, different socio-economic backgrounds and different abilities, that is my old school, the Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School. That is Sacred Heart Grammar School and Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry, as well as Newry High School. Schools in the controlled and maintained sectors provide that level of integration now —

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order, Members. I ask Members to address the front of the Assembly so that they are picked by their microphone and everyone can hear them.

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party

Forgive me, a LeasCheann Comhairle. There are great controlled, maintained and Irish-medium schools at present. It is not a question of black-marking all in the current education system.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for his intervention. I do not believe that any contributor to the debate so far has sought to denigrate the work of the controlled and maintained sectors. I am quite sure that we will hear from the Bill sponsor that that is clearly not her intent. Rather, it is about looking at how we can legislate for a better integrated society and move society forward with some of the building blocks for reconciliation.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I deliberately did not put my name down on the normal running order of Members who wish to speak, because I am interested in listening to what all Members have to say, especially those who have proposed amendments. At the Second Stage of the Bill, we had a really good debate. I was very clear about the Ulster Unionist Party's position on the Bill. Our position has not changed. We want a single education system. Is integrated education a single education system? No, it is not. The Bill sponsor will accept that it is just another sector along with the controlled, maintained and Irish-medium sectors.

We made a commitment at that time that we would work with the Bill, consult with those whom we needed to consult and listen with both ears open to hear about what could be done with the Bill, because we could not support it in its original form. There are many clauses that, today, we still cannot support if they are not amended. However, amendments have been proposed by the Committee, and we welcome the Department's amendments. We can see that there is a move from the sponsor to amend the Bill to address some of the concerns that were raised. That will be done. I do not propose to go through all of those, because I have a sheet here and it would take me quite a while to detail all the voting intentions of my party.

It is worth reiterating the words of Dolores Kelly with regard to the other sectors. Sometimes the debate, and the public debate, seems to be that some people seek to put the caveat that the integrated sector is seeing itself as above and elite, and that is definitely not the case. Again, I am a product of a controlled school, a bit like Daniel, from different ends of the country, and the product is the same and the intent is the same. It is the education of our children. The methodology is important here.

With regard to the amendments, we will be supporting the amendments that we see as allowing the integrated sector to come onto an even platform. There is one in particular that I will ask the Bill's sponsor to respond to, and that is one with regard to, I think, clause 5, that refers to not allowing religious demographics or empty desks or spaces to be considered with regard to establishing demand. I do not know how you can do that if you are going to be fiscally responsible, and one of the intents of the Bill is to be fiscally responsible. We know that the Department of Education is under extreme financial pressure. It is £2·4 billion out of our block grant annually. We know that, over the next five years, the pressure is going to increase. The amount of money spent per head on our pupils does not augur well when we look at other jurisdictions. I spoke to the Bill's sponsor about this earlier, and she is aware of it. I hope that she addresses that issue later.

The Ulster Unionist Party will work positively with the Bill and the amendments to see a Bill that is fair and just.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

From the outset, I say that, much like Mr Butler, I believe that ultimately the goal that we should all be facing toward is the development of a single education system for all children in Northern Ireland. I fundamentally believe that our children should be educated together in an atmosphere that respects culture, tradition and identity, in which we can all celebrate who we are and grow together to create a shared and peaceful society.

Unfortunately, I do not think that this Bill will help us to achieve that objective, because the net consequence of it will be to raise the status of one sector of education delivery in this country, to the active detriment of other sectors. Members arguing in favour of it can seek to assuage their own consciences or their constituents who choose to educate their children in the non-integrated sectors by saying, "This isn't an implied criticism of the controlled sector or the Catholic maintained sector —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

— or any other sector".

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Well, the Member can chunter from a sedentary position. The Member once tried to tell the House that he was against academic selection but also pro grammar school. Good luck squaring that circle. The Member can chunter all he likes. The fact of the matter is that the consequence of this Bill will be —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Can I continue? Thank you.

The consequence of this Bill will be to elevate one sector over others in delivering the education of our children. The Minister has already outlined why this is pre-emptive and unnecessary. Devolution was restored in Northern Ireland, two years ago now, on the basis of New Decade, New Approach. New Decade, New Approach committed all of us to an independent review. Indeed, I believe that I am on the record of the House — if I am not, I am about to put myself on the record of it — saying that I believe that, in education, we actually need to have a Bengoa-style review. If we were to sit down today and design from scratch an education system for Northern Ireland, we would not arrive at the position where we are today. There are historical reasons why we are in the position that we are in today, and I do not intend to rehearse those arguments here. However, all parties that signed up to New Decade, New Approach agreed to — it was certainly my belief at the time — a Bengoa-style review of how we deliver education. I find it inconceivable that such a review would not come forward with a recommendation —

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for giving way. Under New Decade, New Approach, we also committed to a culture and identity Act. Where has that gone? We cannot cherry-pick what parts of New Decade, New Approach we seek to support.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I stand for the full implementation of all agreements — not piecemeal, but the full implementation of all agreements. However, let us not go down that route today.

Indeed, the Bill sponsor's party has been vociferous in claiming the credit for ensuring that the independent review was included in the agreement that allowed the restoration of devolution. Their having claimed the credit for an independent review, they now seek to pre-empt its outcome.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

Will the Member give way briefly?

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

No.

That is a mistake. We should allow that review to runs its course and then take that as our starting point. I am opposed to the measures being outlined because, as I have said before and still believe, it prioritises one specific sector above all others.

Lots of people have talked about their personal experience of education. I was educated in Nettlefield Primary School at the bottom of the Woodstock Road and then at Wellington College in Belfast, and I had a very good experience there, but I am also a father, and my eldest child has just completed the transfer process. We are looking at school options and going through the various things, and she is actively considering an integrated school because it is a good school. I am referring to Lagan College, which is a good school that delivers good education. Earlier in the debate, some criticism — I cannot remember from whom — was levelled in that school's direction because it operates a policy of academic streaming, but that is a different argument for a different day.

One of the problems in getting us to this point —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

It should be quite apparent, Mr Lyttle, that I have no intention of giving way to you. Take the hint, man.

It is quite apparent that the consultation process that has led to this point has been fundamentally flawed. You cannot have a consultation where some of the findings are six years out of date. That is not a proper consultation. As for the Committee consultation, that is equally flawed, as has been outlined earlier in the debate.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I will make some progress and then give way to the Member.

That is equally flawed, as was outlined earlier in the debate by the Member for Upper Bann, Mrs Dodds. You cannot have a situation where legal advice lands with a Committee on a Wednesday and a decision is required on the Thursday.

The definition that has been produced by the Office of the Legislative Counsel is a better one. It allows for the evolution and development of the term "integrated" at a practical level, and it allows a modicum of control to rest with bodies such as NICIE.

I want to draw Members back to some of the comments that were made during the debate at an earlier stage of the legislation. I refer to the other Member for Upper Bann, Mr O'Dowd. In a previous debate, he said:

"That is another way for the integrated sector to move forward and develop, which begs the question: why is there a necessity for the Bill?".

Why indeed? He continued:

"Does the Bill give further advantage to the integrated sector over other sectors? I think that it does. I support the current status of encouraging and facilitating that sector ... on a different plateau from other sectors, and that may be detrimental to those sectors. Indeed, reading through the Bill, Mr Storey" — who, I presume, is my colleague from North Antrim

"pointed out a few things, although I do not wish to agree with Mr Storey much more throughout the debate." — [Official Report (Hansard), 6 July 2021, p63, col 1].

Mr O'Dowd therefore acknowledges the fundamental point that I made at the commencement of my remarks: the Bill advantages one sector over another.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance 5:15 pm, 17th January 2022

I thank the Member for giving way. I want to clarify that, as part of the Committee pack, I provided a letter from the Speaker, from whom I sought clarification about whether I needed to carry out another consultation in 2019 when the House was back and we were coming together, in which he clearly said that the consultation completed in 2016 was perfectly valid for this legislation.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I acknowledge that and would never question a ruling from Mr Speaker.

The Office of the Legislative Counsel has raised concerns about the Bill as introduced and what it would mean should it be enacted. It has expressed strong views about how that risk should be handled, including that the starting point for some clauses should be to amend what was introduced rather than rewriting them, with a view to obtaining full support on the Floor. I regret that it has not been possible to achieve that full support.

I conclude by saying that I support the amendments moved by the Minister. I warn and caution colleagues that, while an awful lot of you are anxious not to be seen to oppose integration, it is not a contradiction to oppose the Bill and say that you support integration in education. I support our children being educated together. I support our taking the time to follow through on the process to which we all agreed in New Decade, New Approach and using that as a starting point for a positive new education system that serves all our children, tackles the problem of empty desks and deals with the compartmentalisation — if such a word exists — of our education into various sectors. Our children should be educated together, and we should encourage mutual understanding, respect and tolerance. The Bill, however, is not the route to achieve those worthy aims that, I believe, all of us have in common.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I wish to address a range of amendments in group 1. A lot can be said about the Bill. A lot was said at Second Stage, and all of us stand by the remarks that we made at that point. It strikes me that, as we evaluate the benefit of the amendments and, indeed, the original text of the Bill, there are two overriding considerations that should guide our opinions. We are being asked to look at various amendments at Consideration Stage today, including those that clearly express opposition to the full content of a particular clause, as moved, on a number of occasions, by the Minister and Mr Allister.

The first of the two overriding considerations is to what extent the Bill addresses the strategic position of education. If we simply move in a piecemeal fashion that does not address where we aim to be in a wider context, we do ourselves a disservice. That is why it was right, in line with the commitments in NDNA that have been taken forward by me and the current Minister, to establish the independent review.

Mrs Kelly, I think, talked about previous reports gathering dust. Unlike the various reports that have been produced and brought forward by a Minister without reference to anyone else, the independent review of education, which has wide terms of reference, is Executive-led and is taking an Executive-approved approach. To, in effect, pre-empt that by introducing legislation that, from a structural point of view, deals with only one aspect of education is therefore a fundamental mistake. We should await the full report.

As we consider the various amendments, the overriding element must be the extent to which they deliver on the basis of equality. For our families, our schools and, above all else, our children, the key litmus test is to what extent they are treated on a fair and equitable basis. No child should be advantaged or disadvantaged by the school gates that they go through. Whether a child goes through the gates of a controlled school, a maintained school, an integrated school, an Irish-medium school, a school that embraces academic selection, a school that does not embrace academic selection or a school that focuses on special educational needs and makes specific provision for those, they should have equality of treatment. Indeed, all those schools should be treated equally. Therein lies one of the fundamental flaws of the Bill. The flaws have been highlighted very well by the Minister, and the amendments that she has tabled today seek to at least ameliorate that situation. They do not entirely address it, but they at least seek to reduce the problems that would be created, potentially, by elements of the Bill.

Similarly, parents are entitled to make choices about their children's education, and we should not take a view that one choice is naturally better than any other. We should not, for instance, say that choosing an integrated school is virtuous or that it benefits parents. We should not say that a different choice is, somehow, secondary in nature. Members who support the Bill and some of the amendments have been at pains to point out how they really do not see this as any form of slight on the controlled or maintained sectors. Clearly, however, an advantage is given, and the Bill contains a presumption that integrated education is a more virtuous choice than other choices made by parents. We need to fundamentally guard against that. We should look at any amendment through the prism of whether it delivers equality or makes a distinction.

Mr Butler said that part of the objective of the Ulster Unionist Party is to ensure that we have a level playing field. I will try to make what I say not too much of a criticism of the Member. He talked a little about the generalities. He mentioned one specific area of the Bill — the reflection of demographics — but did not address others. I assume, therefore, that he takes the view that equality and a levelling up —

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

[Interruption.]

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I will be happy to give way in a moment.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

You are hitting your mic.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

OK, sorry. I thought that I was about to get some information from the Member; obviously not.

Amendments to clause 12 are among the group 1 amendments. Clause 12 makes specific reference — I know that this is qualified elsewhere — to the presumption that any new school will be integrated and that any new school that is built will be integrated. On the basis of what the Member has said, I presume that he will support the amendment tabled by the Minister and Mr Allister, which opposes clause 12, and we can take it that the Ulster Unionists will vote against that clause. One assumes that all the details of that have been read.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I appreciate the Member's giving way. In our discussion on an earlier stage of the Bill, Mr Butler said:

"Like the party opposite, the Ulster Unionist Party will support this stage of the Bill, but with serious health warnings." — [Official Report (Hansard), 6 July 2021, p53, col 1].

He went on:

"We do not support the Bill in its current form; I do not think that any party here would. However, as I said to its sponsor, the intent is good and, with certain tweaks, it could be transformed into a useful Bill." — [Official Report (Hansard), 6 July 2021, p54, col 1].

Can my friend identify to me what appropriate "tweaks" have been made since that earlier stage?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I am not sure whether that was more directed at Mr Butler than at me, but I am happy to give way to Mr Butler if he wishes to clarify his position on clause 12 and where he feels that sufficient changes have been made to the Bill to change it from its unacceptable earlier format. If the Member is saying that he believes that the amendments tabled by the Minister are of benefit, that would be of worth, but I am happy to give way.

The silence suggests that he is not in a position to answer that question.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I am happy to give way to Mr Butler first if he wishes to —.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I thank the Member for Strangford Mr Weir for giving way.

To address the MLA for South Belfast first, there are 71 amendments to the Bill. Those are the "tweaks" that have been offered by Members. We have done the democratic thing and looked at them all. Some we are for, and some we are against, but the reality, as people will see, is that the Ulster Unionist Party is pupil-centric and education-centred and will do what is fair by everyone. We will also do all that we can to protect the other sectors. As I said — I was clear about it — it is not about elevating one sector above another, but nor are we afraid of ensuring that all sectors are represented and, to use a Northern Irish term, given a fair crack of the whip.

Our position on the amendments to particular clauses will become apparent as we go through the debate. I spoke to one of the Clerks about it, and there are amendments that can be taken together. For instance, if the Minister chooses to move amendment No 29, which would insert new clause 7A, and clause 7 is still there, both clauses would be in the Bill. We still have the Further Consideration Stage, so there is still work to do with the Bill between now and that stage. We are not necessarily in for too long a night, but there is still work to be done on the Bill. We will do our best to ensure that, if there is a Bill, the Bill that goes through serves the intention that, we believe, it should.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I thank the Member for his clarification, as far as it went. I have to say that I am still a little bit —.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I am happy to give way in a minute. If I can just address one point first, I will be happy to give way to the sponsor of the Bill.

On what the Member said, first, he is clearly aware of the fundamental principles of Bill stages. The opportunity to make major changes lies at Consideration Stage; Further Consideration Stage is for only a very minor level of tweaking beyond that. If we are saying that, even with what passes today, there is further work to be done, it seems that the opportunity is fast running out.

I am still a little confused. The Member said that are 71 amendments — plus, presumably, the opposition to particular clauses — and that it will become clear what position the Ulster Unionists are taking on some of them. From what the Member has said so far, the Ulster Unionists have not addressed many of the amendments, which is surely what the Consideration Stage should be about. I am really none the clearer on which of the 71 amendments he will back and which he will not, even those in group 1. However, the Member has made his position clear.

The Member from Strangford wanted to come in.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I was just going to say to my fellow Member from Strangford that I tabled amendment No 27 and the Minister and the Department tabled amendment No 29 on the presumption that new schools will be integrated schools. As I said, my ears have been open throughout the process, and amendments have been tabled. I have just about broken the Bill Office trying to get an amendment that is within scope, but amendment Nos 27 and 29 should hopefully address those concerns.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

Unfortunately, they do not entirely. Amendment No 29 is a good amendment by my colleague. Amendment Nos 27 and 29 both sort of bring in new clauses, but they leave the contents of clause 12 untouched, namely the presumption that any new school will be an integrated school.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order. I remind Members that we are talking about the group 1 amendments. We are straying into other groups, so I ask Members to address the group 1 amendments in this debate.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Surely, clause 12 is in group 1.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I was referring to amendment No 27, which was referred to. I ask Members to ensure that, when they comment, they do so on the amendments in this group.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP 5:30 pm, 17th January 2022

I understand that. I know that Members have raised amendment Nos 27 and 29, which are rightly part of the thing. I was referring to the opposition to clause 12, which is one of the group 1 amendments, and to the reference to that clause. I have tried to keep my remarks to that, and there will be other opportunities in the later stages to deal with it.

I will deal with a few of the amendments that have been tabled. Amendments in the Minister's name, particularly amendment No 2 and others in the group, would correct the definition of integrated education. I know that an alternative amendment has been tabled by the sponsor of the Bill, but the fundamental way that the Member diverges from the SDLP amendment, which would remove paragraphs (b) and (c), means that integrated education is not, in the original text and as it would remain if amended, defined simply on the basis of community background, if I can put it that way, and of religious denomination. The Bill sponsor seems to introduce two other elements that are not alternatives to but are in conjunction with that by proposing to put in place a requirement for a mixture of socio-economic backgrounds and abilities. The Member is perfectly entitled to do that, but one can draw only two conclusions from those proposals. Either they establish a high bar that will prevent schools becoming integrated schools, or they are a meaningless test. I will take Members through them in turn.

Let us take the basis of the socio-economic background requirement that there has to be a mixture of those who are from socio-economically deprived backgrounds and those who are not. The natural catchment of most post-primary schools is a relatively wide geographical area that will sometimes mean that there is a mixture of socio-economic backgrounds, but approximately 80% of mainstream schools in Northern Ireland are in the primary sector. Such schools are often very much drilled into their local community. In many cases, they will draw from a specific geographical area, which may well have provision for specific demographics if, for example, you are in a strongly working-class area. Whatever the community, it will tend to be very working-class or middle-class

[Interruption.]

I am sorry; my microphone has gone a bit awry again. Either we are saying that, in those communities, a primary school of that nature cannot ever really be considered an integrated school, or we take the view that this is something to which lip service is to be paid, and it becomes meaningless.

Similarly, with regard to different abilities, there are very different backgrounds. There are Members in the Chamber with high levels of ability to which I can only aspire. We are all of different abilities, so either this is very exclusive — Members have raised the point of whether, for example, a post-primary school that bases its intake on academic selection is potentially excluded from being an integrated school — or it means that we take a general approach that simply says that, if there is any difference in level of ability, there is

[Inaudible.]

I am sorry. I thought that the Minister was looking to me to give way. Alternatively, it becomes utterly meaningless.

How are the differences to be judged? Are we going to do an audit in each school of its socio-economic background or, indeed, of the different levels of ability it has in order to make a judgement? It seems to me that that means a very stringent test or a loose test. Either way, it renders the thing —.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for giving way. I am conscious that he is a recent ex-Minister in the Department. Do schools not already do those audits or know the socio-economic backgrounds of their pupils or their levels of ability, or would that be a new thing for schools to do?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

If we were to judge ability at primary school level, how would we judge the ability of those who are coming into P1? Have we a handle on their academic ability or their qualities? The point is that that can be looked at narrowly or widely. Either way, it makes it fairly meaningless from the point of view of a definition.

If the principal aim is to embrace, broadly speaking, a cross-community ethos, I very much support the formula that has been suggested by the Minister, which refers to the two main communities but also takes account of those who have different religions or none, as being the proper test of integration. The current formula in the Bill, which the sponsor would not see adjusted, introduces elements that will either render it meaningless or inadvertently — I am sure that it is not her intention — act to make it difficult for some schools to be counted as integrated.

I turn to the proposed amendments to clause 2. There is a fundamental problem with clause 2. No one could disagree with any of those elements being the ethos of a school. However, as schools in the controlled, maintained and Irish-medium sectors have asked, what school in the country does not seek to embrace those values? There is an implication in having those values as a pure definition of integrated education. There are Members who can support every jot and tittle of the Bill and argue that they are not in any way disparaging controlled or maintained schools. However, by definition, that clause implies that those values are shared uniquely by integrated schools. That is, in many ways, deeply insulting to those outside the integrated sector.

Again, how are all these things to be judged? Will we do some sort of ethos audit of each school, with a barrier that has to be overcome? The Member nods her head: the ethos police will inspect every school to ensure that it meets the criteria suitably. Again, at what cost? How are we to judge that element? As I have said, there is not a school in the country that does not aspire to those values. Therefore, it is superfluous and potentially insulting.

I have mentioned the test of equality. Other aspects of the issue of new builds fall into later groups of amendments, so I will not transgress by describing those. Still, left untouched, at clause 12, is the presumption that any new school will be integrated. Will parents who are making a choice between sectors see a level playing field? If this is about trying to make sure that there is a level playing field, no one has any objections to that.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I will give way in a moment. However, it is difficult to make a case for a presumption in favour of one sector and then say that there is equality in that.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I am not sure whether the Member has read through the amendments. In group 1, the Committee's amendment No 69 would remove that. I met the Department and explained what I was supporting and not supporting in the Bill. There already is an amendment on that.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I note that it is not an amendment that the Member tabled. The best way to deal with that directly, as Mr Allister and others have indicated, is to remove in its entirety clause 12, which creates that presumption.

In clause 6, there is a lack of definition of "education bodies". It is natural and correct that NICIE will fight the corner of integrated education.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I will give way in a second. In the same way, the CCMS will fight for the position of maintained schools. However, the Bill would place a duty on all education bodies, without definition, to support and promote integrated education.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I am grateful to the Member for giving way, because we have just had a very telling admission. He asked a direct question, to which he got a direct answer, about ensuring that the ethos in schools is correct. Does he agree that it is fundamentally unfair to suggest that children who are educated outside the integrated sector are subjected to an ethos that is unhelpful, unproductive or unhealthy? Does he also agree that it is an insult to the education professionals in those sectors, who have devoted their entire professional careers to educating our children, to suggest that the ethos in those schools is in some way askew?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I do: it is. The golden thread that should run through any strategy that we adopt on education should be that equality and opportunity are there for all. I do not believe that the Bill does that. The amendments, particularly those that the Minister and Mr Allister tabled, claw back at least some of the unfair advantages that are potentially in the Bill.

Mention has been made of the broader strategic direction for education. The Member raised the proposals that were put forward out of the previous audit of the integrated sector. That report was drawn up by a couple of people who were appointed, as they were perfectly entitled to be, from the integrated sector. That is a fact. It is also the case, however, that a number of measures were put in place by the Department of Education. Some were impractical or, indeed, on a couple of occasions, did not find favour even with the integrated sector itself, and NICIE did not think it appropriate for them to be put in place.

A number of other measures need to be dealt with strategically. That is why they were put into the independent review of education's wide-ranging terms of reference. The remit of that review was endorsed by every party in the Executive. Every single party came to the conclusion that the independent review was the right place in which to deal with those matters strategically. The Bill and many of the clauses that are dealt with in the first group of amendments simply undermine that position.

We would be a lot better first accepting the amendments that the Minister and others have tabled and then dealing with the structural issues of education through the independent review. Otherwise, we will deliver something that gives sectoral advantage rather than equality to our children.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. For clarity, is he suggesting that we conduct no educational reform or intervention prior to the reporting of the independent review, particularly given that most of the Bill's provisions are based on the previous independent review of integrated education report that was published almost four, or possibly five, years ago?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The point that I am making is that the review was not truly independent. Its two authors were people with direct links to the sector, which they were perfectly entitled to have. It was effectively a wish list on behalf of integrated education. It produced some good stuff and some stuff that was not as valuable. The point, however, is that we could put forward sectional changes that benefit or have an impact on one sector over another, but a position has been taken across the board — in NDNA, by the Executive and by both Education Ministers in this mandate — that the best way of dealing with the very important structural changes in education that need to be examined is through the independent review. That is the route by which we can make a strategic decision and, hopefully, begin to cherish our children equally rather than —

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The Member has had his opportunity to speak. I am making the point that the independent review is the better route to take. We can try at least to ameliorate the Bill by accepting the amendments, particularly those tabled by the Minister. We can cherish our children equally or we can create disadvantage for some and advantage for others, which nobody in the House should be embracing. It is therefore important that people read and consider the amendments and make those changes.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 5:45 pm, 17th January 2022

I am not given to quoting Mr John O'Dowd — certainly not approvingly — but, at the risk of some reputational damage to him,

[Laughter]

I will start by referencing some things that he said in the Second Stage debate, to which Mr Stalford alluded, because they rang unusually true. He said this:

"Does the Bill give further advantage to the integrated sector over other sectors? I think that it does. I support the current status of encouraging and facilitating that sector, and I am not arguing against giving advantage to it, but the Bill goes too far. It sets the integrated sector on a different plateau from other sectors, and that may be detrimental to those sectors." — [Official Report (Hansard), 6 July 2021, p63, col 1].

He went on to say, of the significant advantage given to the integrated sector, that:

"this legislation has mission creep written all over it." — [Official Report (Hansard), 6 July 2021, p63, col 2].

That is a fair summary of this Bill. This Bill is designed and intended to elevate the integrated sector above all other sectors into special status, special provision territory.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I will, but I would have liked to —. Yes, carry on.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. In my reading, the express purpose of the Bill is to identify, assess and meet demand for integrated education. How is that in any way unfair?

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Let us deal with that issue of meeting demand for integrated education. There is not another sector where there is a statutory duty to meet the demand of applications to particular schools. Take the voluntary grammar schools: many people are disappointed when they apply, and that is tough. Under clause 5 of this Bill —. I confess, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am drifting somewhat. I need to find my glasses.

Clause 5 expressly states that there is a statutory duty to provide:

"sufficient places in integrated schools to meet the demand for integrated education".

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I will in a moment.

Look at what that means. Take Lagan College, which is a very successful school. Year after year, many people are disappointed about not getting into Lagan College. It is the same with Slemish College in my constituency. This Bill would provide that you cannot be disappointed and that the schools must provide the places. What does that do for financial equilibrium? What does that do for cost? During the debate on the Second Stage, I commented on the total absence of costing implications for this Bill. There is a staggering cost implication, which would create a phenomenal burden on the public service in the name of giving special status to integrated education such that, if you ask, you must get.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. There is a further amendment that adjusts the language from "meet the demand" to "aim to" meet the demand. It may not make a difference, in his opinion, but I say that as a point of reference.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I am well aware of that amendment; it tinkers with "meet demand" by changing it to "aim to meet". However, the direction of travel and the expectation that will be created, and therefore the expectation that will be looked for, is that of meeting demand. What other sector has been afforded that privilege? None. However, that is the premise of the Bill.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. In a previous debate, Mr McNulty said:

"As I said, there are issues that need to be worked out, and, for my part, I will fight to ensure that the good work of the schools across my constituency and beyond is held up as examples of best practice. To that end, I echo what my party colleague Daniel McCrossan said. I do not believe that abandoning our faith-based schools or our Irish-medium sector serves any of our young people." — [Official Report (Hansard), 6 July 2021, p65, col 1].

Is the practical outworking of the legislation not precisely that?

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Absolutely. The intended outcome is that there will be a special status for integrated education, which, I remind the House, already has the statutory protection of encouraging and facilitation. It is already in the law, but we are now going to craft onto that the additional privilege of the Bill. Clause 12 — it is part of this group — as Mr Weir pointed out, very vividly illustrates that in clause 12(3). I did not hear the sponsor's response to Mr Weir because she was speaking away from me, but she certainly has not tabled an amendment to that. Clause 12(3) creates in law:

"a rebuttable presumption that new schools should be integrated."

Interestingly, that clause tells us that that is the purpose of clause 8. It may not appear exactly in clause 8, but that clearly is its purpose. We are in the realms of privilege building for one sector, and one sector only, when you create:

"a ... presumption that new schools should be integrated", as if it is a novelty.

I think of many controlled schools. Harryville Primary School is a controlled school in my constituency in Ballymena. It has 11 or 12 different nationalities, and multiple languages, in it, and yet we are told, "That doesn't count. The controlled sector doesn't count". Of course, the real purpose of the Bill, in putting the integrated sector to the top of the pile, is to push others to the bottom, particularly the controlled sector. The sector that is going to pay the price of the legislation is, above all, the controlled sector. The body that represents that sector was not even consulted about the Bill, such was the disregard of and disinterest in what the controlled sector might have to say. This is a Bill of privilege and supremacy. That is why I opposed it at Second Reading and continue to do so.

Some of the amendments — the Minister's amendments — will try to make something of the best of a bad job, but it still a bad job as far as this Bill is concerned. I find it astounding that, after the five parties of government trumpeted a new approach — New Decade, New Approach — the first party out of the traps to supersede and override the new approach on education is the Alliance Party. The new approach in education was meant to be an independent review, but here we have a Bill that wants, as I expressed earlier, to gazump that.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. We need to come back into the realm of reality and accuracy here. The Bill gives effect to recommendations from an independent review of integrated education that reported in 2017, almost five years ago. How is it gazumping anything to implement something that was reported on five years ago?

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

If the Member thinks so much of that independent review of five years ago, why was it that it was his party, we are told, that wrote a new independent review into New Decade, New Approach? You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say, "Didn't we do well? We got it into New Decade, New Approach. There will be a new independent review of integrated education", and then, out of the other side of your mouth, say, "But we are not prepared to wait for that. We want to create our privilege first. We want supremacy first, so we will bring a Bill that gazumps that". That is what the Bill is about; gazumping the independent review and, in particular, obtaining supremacy over the other sectors. That is why it is an unworthy Bill in all its parts, and why I urge the House to, yes, make the best of it that you can with those amendments. However, even when you have made the best of it, it will still not be a worthy Bill. It will still be a tawdry attempt at supremacy, and one which is about elitism in the worst possible sense.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

If we are to move away from being a society that is entrenched in division and sectarianism, surely one of the key pillars of that endeavour is to do away with the outdated practice that teaches people in separate and divided schools based on religion or perceived religion. The Bill attempts to do that. For that reason, it has my party's broad support, even if there are elements that, we think, could be tweaked or strengthened. Some of the opposition to the Bill is based on parties being happy to keep people apart and separate. If people are brought up and taught together, what place would there be for division and divisive parties with divisive agendas? I have heard comments from Members saying that they are for integration, just not now. As the old adage goes: if not now, when?

With amendment No 2, the Minister proposes to remove a key part of the Bill by removing the reference to socio-economic backgrounds in the criteria. I am not clear on the rationale for that. I was not here for the full debate. Clarity on that is important.

Amendment No 9 removes the original reference to efficiency, which is a welcome change. This is where the Bill sponsor and I probably diverge. We believe that integration is a good thing because it brings people together and breaks down division, and because, in 2022, segregation is not only wrong but completely baffling. It belongs in the history books. The amendment, obviously, does not make those points, but it talks about the promotion of appreciation of human rights. That is important. However, in my view, you cannot use neoliberal arguments to justify integration. Rather than saying that everybody should come together with less, we should say and ensure that people come together for more; a better way forward and better education system for all.

A number of Members have referred to the need for cultural diversity in education, and in integrated education specifically. That is important, but it has to go beyond integrated education to avoid cementing the division that exists in this Building and wider society. Reference was made to British and Irish culture being taught in schools. Of course, that already happens in most, if not all, of those schools, as I understand it. We must recognise that teaching or educating in those traditions should not copper-fasten or re-emphasise division but be a way in which to educate, inspire, encourage people to question, and, crucially, allow them to develop their own views about the world, rather than just what they hear internally. Rarely do we hear about efforts to focus on the commonality of history in day-to-day experience. It rarely gets a mention generally, but especially in conversations about education. The other traditions that are referred to here and elsewhere should be front and centre of integrated education. That cannot and must not be a token thing, but something that runs right through the heart of the education system and debates around it.

I will not run through how I will vote, because we will be here all night. I still do not know why, in the debate about education today and generally, religious organisations still have such a grip on schools to this day. I went to a Catholic grammar school. The teachers were excellent. As I see it, I got a very good education, but it was down to their teaching rather than to the ethos of the school. It was down to the work that was done by the teachers. The ethos of any school should be about education, personal development, teamwork, skills and extracurricular activities such as sport, drama etc — not on showing teenage boys videos on anti-abortion propaganda, among other things. I will support the clauses and the amendments as they come up, but I will leave my comments there for now.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green 6:00 pm, 17th January 2022

I will make some short comments at this stage. I remind the House again that my children attended a primary school where, at one point, up to 27 languages were being spoken, but it was not an integrated school. There is, therefore, a difference with regard to the diversity and demographics of the pupils and the set-up of the school.

I am listening to the debate. We had the Bill's Second Stage a while back, when we talked about the Bill's general principles, and here we are again. A lot has been said about the independent review that arose from New Decade, New Approach. Of course that is very welcome, but, as has been said, it will be a long time before we see that report, never mind any actions that come out of it. Dolores Kelly rightly brought that up in her contribution, and she referred to the many reviews and strategies that we have seen from all Departments that remain undelivered. This is not an either/or issue; it is not an independent review or the Bill. We need to be reminded that Lagan College, which has also been mentioned, was 40 years old last year. The time to deliver is up. To sit and wait for more reviews is not mutually exclusive to supporting the aims and objectives of the Bill. There have been discussions around the Bill being open to challenge. I do not see that as a rationale for not supporting legislation. It is OK to have challenges, but it is not OK to use them as the reason for not supporting Bills if you want to see them coming forward. It is still shocking that, in 2022, we still have to declare such statements as, "Of course we want to educate our children together". It is 2022. Let us start doing it.

Christopher Stalford mentioned the Bengoa review and said that he wants to go as far as a full Bengoa review on education. Do Members need to be reminded that that review was brought forward in 2015 or 2016? It remains undelivered. The sector is still crying out for the delivery of what was, in its opinion, an absolutely excellent review. If we do not want to support legislation but want to educate our children together, and if we want to move forward but do not want the Bill or to take the necessary actions or to support the people who are trying to move the issue forward and simply want to stall and have a review and then another review, there is nothing to stop other legislation coming forward. It is 40 years since the sector started. It was parent-led and it was about parental choice. It is oversubscribed. We all have integrated schools in our constituencies. It is time that we all started to move forward and support the sector. I supported the principles of the Bill at Second Stage, and I will support the Member in her efforts to make the amendments in group 1. I thank her for her work to date on those.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I call the sponsor of the Bill, Kellie Armstrong, to respond to the debate.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has been an interesting conversation so far, but I will start off by saying something that may well surprise some Members: I will support a number of the Minister's amendments. When I met the Minister's departmental officials recently, I told them that, having seen her amendments, I found that there were some that I could take forward because they answer some of the issues that have emerged.

As many Members know, during the process, after Second Stage, I engaged with a number of them several times to make sure that I understood exactly what the issues were with the Bill, and I said that, where I could, I would table amendments. I also knew of other amendments coming in. As I said earlier, I was always happy to make good legislation.

Others have made me out to be the big bad demon who is trying to destroy all types of sectors. That is so far from the truth. I was brought up in maintained sector education. I had a fantastic education and have absolutely no problem with Catholic education under CCMS. I am disappointed that some of the commentary from that sector has demonised me. I find that extremely disingenuous. As far as the controlled sector is concerned, a huge number of integrated schools are in the controlled sector, so why would I criticise it?

The reason why I tabled amendments in group 1, which covers definitions and purpose, was to make sure that we understood that widening the definition was to bring in children of all faiths and none. The independent review of integrated education recommended widening the definition. Some have criticised my consultation. I say clearly to the House that I asked the Speaker whether further consultation was needed, and he said no. He was content with the consultation that had been completed. Anyone who wants to criticise me needs to direct their comments to the Speaker's Office. It provided me with that guidance, and I provided the letter to members of the Education Committee. The Committee's consultation confirmed the need to widen the definition. My Bill does not try to remove the Christian-based approach to education or make integrated education secular in any way. That will upset people — for instance, the humanist society — but that is outside the scope of the Bill, which I want to be only about integrated education.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Mr Carroll referenced the Catholic grammar school education that he had. As I said earlier, I went to Wellington College. If any person thinks that a school such as the one that I went to inculcates its pupils with a faith, I can say that that was not my experience of a non-maintained grammar school. Do not get the idea that there was a faith ethos in the school. My school had a scripture union, and children who wanted to go to that could do so. It is not, however, the case that people were inculcated with a sense of faith by the teaching that they got there. That was not my lived experience at all.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I mentioned removing the Christian base from schools because, in Northern Ireland, the legislation is that all schools must have a Christian base. That is just the way it is. I went to a maintained school. I have a strong Catholic faith that, to be honest, I got from the heavy number of masses that I regularly attended through that school, and I enjoyed it.

The updated definition includes children of all faiths and none. It continues to require reasonable numbers of both main religious traditions and cultures, namely Protestants and Catholics. The introduced definition also adds "different socio-economic backgrounds" and "different abilities" to reflect how integrated education has developed into more than just educating children from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds. It provides an educational setting where children of different abilities, from different economic backgrounds, of various faiths — no matter what that faith is — and of no faith are in class learning about each other and being celebrated for who they are every day. Some claim — this may answer some of Mr McCrossan's issues — that there are children from various socio-economic backgrounds and with different abilities in all schools. I am sure that there are, but I am widening the definition of integrated education beyond simply religious background to reflect the reality of the place that we live in today and the wealth of diversity celebrated in integrated schools.

I will not support the Minister's amendment to the definition. I am absolutely delighted, Minister, that you have moved to include all faiths and none in your definition. It is, however, restrictive and not fully reflective of the make-up of children attending an integrated school. We should celebrate all aspects of our children. Respecting and learning about religion and cultural background are important and profound, but it should not stop there. That is why I ask the House to support my amendment, which includes different socio-economic backgrounds and different abilities.

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The Member says that she will not support the Minister's amendment because she regards it as restrictive. However, the current wording of the clause, and the wording in amendment No 6, which retains the definition, is conjunctive in nature because all three of those aspects must be met for a school to be counted as integrated. For instance, a school that meets the reasonable numbers test for a religious mix but does not meet one of the other two tests cannot be counted as an integrated school. Consequently, rather than being restrictive, the Minister's amendment ensures that the definition is focused on the community background. The proposal in the Member's amendment restricts because it reduces the number of schools that can be regarded as being integrated. In and of itself, the Member's amendment is more restrictive than the Minister's amendment.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you. Every single integrated school that I have met and discussed this with can meet the definition that I have put forward. They all have children who qualify for free school meals and children who do not, and they all have children with different abilities, whether academic or vocational, and they all have children with special education needs. So I am confident that the definition will not cause any problems whatsoever for any integrated school now or in the future. Children who are educated together should be educated to the best of their ability and not because of their religious background.

I am also content to support Daniel McCrossan's amendment No 6, as it adds to the definition that I have put forward. As I said, I cannot support the Minister's amendments to the definition. I can absolutely support her amendment No 24 as it will strengthen the requirement for the Department to take account of its duty under article 64(1) of the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.

I appreciate the thinking behind Mr McCrossan's amendment No 9. Who would not support learning about human rights? That already happens in integrated schools as part of their holistic approach to respecting all. I am happy to support the amendment. It is strange that he removed a requirement to be efficient with resources, but I met with him and spoke about that and am happy to accept the amendment.

I now move to some of the matters that were mentioned from the Floor during the debate. I have already dealt with the Minister: there is an amendment that I cannot deal with and one — amendment No 24 — that I can go forward with. The Minister seems to think that I have some sort of issue with the independent review of education. As others have mentioned, the Alliance Party was at the forefront of ensuring that it was put into New Decade, New Approach. However, the Minister confirmed that that examination will go on for 18 months, which runs into the next mandate. I do not know who has the crystal ball, but I do not know whether I can predict what a Minister will do in the next mandate. As others have said, plenty of reviews have happened over the years, and the review of education could sit on a shelf for a further year, two years or three years: I do not know. The New Decade, New Approach agreement falls at the next election, so there is no guarantee that the review will be taken forward. I wish it was being taken forward: I am bringing forward this integrated education legislation because, as Ms Bailey said, 40 years have gone past with no significant improvements on how we help integrated education in Northern Ireland.

The Minister has tabled another amendment to a later part of the Bill that I will support. That amendment, I think, creates a planning authority for integrated education, which is something that we absolutely need. We must remember that integrated education does not have a planning authority. I can see the officials who are in the Chamber shaking their heads; unfortunately, they do not get to speak in the debate.

The definition of integrated schools is deliberately limited to stop the ongoing misuse of the term "integrated schools". Later in the Bill, I have brought forward a provision so that the ETI can inspect the ethos of a school, because, to be quite frank, myself and the movement are sick, sore and tired of hearing politicians ask, "Is that school really integrated?". We are asking for an inspection and are prepared to do the extra work. Those schools are prepared to be measured: they already go through different aspects of work through NICIE to prove their integration status. We are saying, "Yeah, we're happy enough to be measured on that".

Mr Chris Lyttle discussed the Committee amendments. Who am I to argue against the Examiner of Statutory Rules? I do not have a problem with any of the Committee amendments that have been tabled. I know that Mrs Dodds complained about the Committee process. That is not something that I am in control of; I cannot change that process. Again, if there is an issue with it, it needs to be taken up with other people in the House. I cannot help with that matter.

Mr Sheehan confirmed that there is still much to do. He talked about continued segregation and how 'New Decade, New Approach' discussed bringing forward a single education system. He said that he wants a new society that is rooted in peace. I agree with him that integrated education is not a panacea. It will not fix Northern Ireland or be the solution to ongoing peace, but it is one of the tools that we can use to have a shared society. Society is different now, and he said that he welcomes the inclusion of the different socio-economic backgrounds and abilities: I thank him for that. He was critical of integrated education. To be honest, if we cannot take criticism, what can we do? Through clause 10(2)(i), I aim for the inspection regime to measure how inclusive integrated education is.

Mrs Dodds complained that the Bill is about integrated education: I make no apologies for that. It is what it says on the tin. It is the Integrated Education Bill. She also said that all schools are diverse. I do not have a fight with her on that. Schools are taking forward a fantastic wealth of opportunities for our young people so that they can understand who they and who others are. Schools share facilities and take part in the extended school regime. Mrs Dodds was correct, as was Mr Sheehan, that the Bill will not end segregation. However, she spoke about the Bill in generalities and did not really speak about the amendments. She challenged the Speaker, who confirmed that the consultation that I completed as part of the Bill was there to be used.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 6:15 pm, 17th January 2022

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I listened to Mrs Dodds's contribution throughout. At no point did she challenge the Speaker or his authority.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Members, the comments have been noted in Hansard. I invite the Member to continue.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you. I confirm again that I provided the Committee with a copy of the letter from the Speaker's Office that confirmed that no further consultation was required. Anybody who wants to deal with that is certainly welcome to take it through to the Speaker.

I was a little disappointed that some of the Members who commented had already decided what I planned to do. At Consideration Stage, instead of paying attention to the amendments, they kept going back to the original Bill. We have amendments in front of us, and we should all speak to them.

Daniel McCrossan confirmed that he supports integrated education, and he talked about the SDLP supporting it. However, some parents do not have the choice of integrated education for their children. Mr McCrossan confirmed that the Bill does not undo parental choice for anyone who chooses one of the four sectors that we have in Northern Ireland: I agree with him. He also said that integrated education is not a silver bullet but is part of the way forward. He talked about the increases in the number of children in integrated education and of those taking part in shared education. All that is to be welcomed. To those who say that I am trying to destroy or take away from any other sectors, I ask this: who, do you think, takes part in shared education? Shared education is shared education between maintained, controlled, integrated and Irish-medium schools. I thank the SDLP for being supportive. I listened to its concerns, and I tabled amendments. I said to those I spoke to that I would table amendments and would share them in advance of the deadline, and I did that. Mr McCrossan asked for the clarification that he needed on clauses 1(1)(b) and 1(1)(c). I have dealt with that for him with my amendment on pupils of different socio-economic backgrounds and abilities. My consultation supported widening the definition. Some 88% of the responses to the consultation completed by the Education Committee supported the widening of the definition to include what is in my paragraphs (b) and (c).

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair)

When Mr Newton stood up, I was sad to hear him say that he would be accused of promoting "educational apartheid". That is not fair. To be honest, we are all allowed to support the sectors and schools that we prefer. It happens to be that integrated education is the one that I like, and I have a good shine for CCMS schools because of the schooling that I went through. However, unfortunately, that is not something that I have control over, Mr Newton.

Mr Newton said that a private Member's Bill would not change the system. No, it is not; the independent review of education will change the system, I hope. However, in the meantime — there is some time to go before that independent review of education even comes forward with its report — there are children in the integrated education sector who are unable to secure a first preference place in a post-primary school. Parents are trying to set up mid Down integrated college because Lagan College is full to bursting. They are bringing schools together so that, hopefully, there will be more places to provide integrated options for children in that area. The only thing that I am trying to do with the Bill is to enable integrated education.

Mr Newton asked why other sectors were not asked how they promote diversity. Ask them. I am sorry: CCMS, CSSC, NICIE and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) all talk about diversity. When I was with CSSC, it had display boards in its offices that confirm its integrated education. We have to remember that a significant number of integrated schools are controlled integrated schools. Many schools promote diversity, but that is not part of the Bill. I talk about integrated education in the Bill; I cannot talk about any other sector in my Bill, because that is outside its scope.

Mr Newton said that the integrated education sector does a good job. Thank you for that, because it does so in extraordinary circumstances. Alliance put the independent review of education into 'New Decade, New Approach'. You said that the Bill should not progress because that review is happening. I do not agree with you. I started the process even before I was elected in 2016, but I started the formal process in 2016. I did not pre-empt the Assembly collapsing for three years and needing 'New Decade, New Approach'. The process has been going on for years. I am sorry that you think that I am undermining 'New Decade, New Approach', but, to be honest, I will not leave integrated education where it is and wait until we find out what that report might say. Believe me, I told the panel that I would love it to be as innovative as possible.

Mr Newton quoted from the legal advice that was provided to the Committee. I do not have access to that legal advice, as it is privileged, so I have not seen that legal advice. I have to distance myself from the suggestion that the drafter was not correct somehow. The draftsperson was provided by the Bill Office from the independent panel of draftspeople. They are professional people who are provided by the Bill Office to sponsors of private Members' Bills that are going through the Assembly process. The draftsperson whom I had was extremely professional. The criticism in whatever the legal advice was provided by the Committee or by the Minister you will need to take up with the Bill Office.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

Does the Member accept that, no matter how clever or skilled the draftsperson is, they take instructions from the Bill sponsor?

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you. The Bill is put through the Speaker's legal team to ensure that it is appropriate before it comes to the House. It has been through a process. I followed completely the Bill Office's process. I will say this to Mr Newton: just because something is uncommon does not mean that it should not be done. Yes, I am pushing the boundaries of a PMB and it is complex legislation, but, hey, why not? The Bill, with some of the amendments that have been tabled, will make for good legislation that will support integrated education and integrated schools.

Mr Harvey admitted that the concept of integrated education is not in dispute, but he said that integrated education "harms other sectors". Really? Are we harming other sectors by having parental preference and by enabling people to choose the type of school that their child can go to? I find that difficult. Mr Harvey seems to wish that no process to enable integrated education should be progressed until after the independent review of education. That is somewhat short-sighted.

We both represent the Strangford constituency. Perhaps you would like to speak to the 200 to 250 parents of pupils —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

On a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker. Will you direct the Member that all comments should be referred through you rather than to individuals?

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

That is a fair enough point, and I am sure that the Member will note that. Thank you.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I therefore say to you that perhaps Members would like to go and speak to the 200 to 250 parents who have had children turned away from getting an integrated place in my constituency.

Dolores Kelly spoke about the number of independent reviews that sit on shelves. She confirmed that the SDLP is in support of the Bill. She said that controlled and maintained schools are not the cause of sectarianism. I agree. Our sectors take children in and try to teach them to the best of their ability. They are not in the game of creating sectarianism.

She did say, however, that integrated education has been at a disadvantage. I am not going to go into the funding formula that she mentioned, because I am trying to move things forward for integrated education. She also hopes that the Bill will do so.

Robbie Butler recognised that integrated education is one of the four education sectors. He said that educating children is the priority of education. Robbie asked about clause 5 not considering empty desks. Clause 5 mentions:

"providing sufficient places in integrated schools".

In my constituency, there are schools in all the different sectors, and, where there are empty school desks and an integrated education school is oversubscribed, parents are encouraged to fill the other sectors' places first. Many parents cannot access an integrated school place because there are simply not any, as a result of another school down the road having empty places. Although we have four sectors, children who are being turned away from the integrated education sector are therefore being asked to go into a sector that their parents do not want them to be in. That is not fair.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

Will the Member accept that the same issue applies to all other pupils in all other sectors? I am dealing with a constituency matter in which a child is moving between schools, and the schools that have been offered are a Catholic maintained school, a controlled school and an integrated college. The child's preference in this instance is for the controlled school. Preference is there and open to all, but the perceived barriers are not there. It is just one of those issues that all sectors, not just the integrated sector, have to deal with.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I do not deal with all sectors in the Bill. I am dealing with the integrated education sector only. I do not think that if we have a system as we have now, in which parental preference is provided, we should say, "No, you can't go to the school sector of your choice, because there's a different type of sector down the road that has places". If we are going to allow parental preference, we have to allow parents to exercise that preference. That is why clause 5 is not considering empty desks.

In my discussions with the SDLP, it had concerns about the religious demographics of an area. I said to Daniel that I would say publicly in the Chamber that, if it will help, I am quite happy to work with him to look at the religious demographics piece at Further Consideration Stage.

Mr Stalford said that the Bill raised the status of one sector over others. He said that we needed a Bengoa-style review of education. I absolutely agree with you, Mr Stalford. Apologies. I should have gone through the Chair. We do need a Bengoa-style review. Is the independent review of education deal undertaking that Bengoa-style review? I wish that it did, and I hope that it does, but we have yet to see the outcome from it. We know that the panel has been talking to a lot of people. Mr Stalford also said that he supported children being educated together.

Mr Weir talked about the clauses as drafted, without referring to the amendments. I confirmed to him that amendment No 69 to clause 12, leaving out subsection (3), which is the presumption that all new schools will be integrated schools, is a Committee amendment of which I am completely in support.

He asked whether the Bill addresses the strategic direction for education. As much as I would love my Bill to do that, because I believe that, if we were to have a single education system, it should be of schools in which all children can attend together under one roof, I can deal only with the independent review of integrated education and the Integrated Education Bill.

I cannot write up the strategic direction, and that would be pre-empting what the independent review of education will do. NDNA is an Executive-led approach. I do not believe that the Bill pre-empts the report, because that panel can bring forward recommendations for new legislation that may change any legislation that is on the books.

He talked generally about education and complained about the Bill's timing. Well, that was outside my scope. I started it in 2016. I had to stop it for a time. As you will all understand, there were three years when I could not progress it, and, as soon as we came back, I brought it back again. There has been an extraordinary amount of work. The Committee spent many months on it. I cannot see how I could have done this any quicker. This Bill is one of the highest up on the list of private Member's Bills brought to the House in the current mandate.

I believe that Mr Weir is not right. Parents' choices are not being met. He was critical of the authors of the independent review of integrated education. I actually thought that Mr Weir, in a former role in the House, had brought those people in to do the independent review of education.

Mr Allister said that he understands the intention behind the Bill, and I am very grateful for that, because it is about integrated education. He talked about how many people are disappointed when they cannot get into a grammar school. Well, I can say the same about integrated education. A significant number of parents across Northern Ireland cannot get their children into integrated schools. The Good Relations Indicators report confirms that, in 2018-19, one in five children could not get a post-primary place in an integrated school in Northern Ireland. Their first preferences were not met. He talked about the timing of the Bill, and just to confirm again, I brought this forward in 2016 and that is lodged in the Speaker's Office.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Is there another sector anywhere in education where there is statutory obligation to provide places on demand?

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I do not know, Mr Allister. I would say that special educational needs would be one area where children need to be provided with places. I would say that the fact that children need to be educated in Northern Ireland means that they are provided with a school place. I am asking that, for integrated education, there will be an assessment of need, that that demand will be considered through a strategy and action plan and that biennial reporting will come forward for that.

Gerry Carroll talked about doing away with an outdated practice. I know that we do not agree on every aspect of the Bill, but I am very grateful to him for engaging with that, because I am sure that it took up quite a lot of his time. I thank him very much.

Clare Bailey, again, highlighted the number of reviews that have not gone anywhere. She highlighted that opponents claim that the Bill should not go forward for fear of challenge. To be honest, how do we know those challenges will happen until they do? Plenty of challenges are taken against different aspects of education, and I am very grateful to her — her experience — for confirming that, 40 years after the integrated education sector started —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Will the Member give way briefly?

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I ask the Member to expand on what she has just said to Mr Carroll. In his remarks, Mr Carroll made it very clear — I absolutely respect his view — that he wishes to see an entirely secular education system. That was certainly my interpretation, and I am happy to —. Yes, OK. The Member has just said that she wishes to engage with that argument. To be clear, the Member is not in favour of a secular education system, is she?

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

No, I am not, and that is why I am not dealing with it in the Bill. There are other issues that Mr Carroll mentioned that I have not spoken to him about. I will speak to him after this section, if that is OK, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

Ms Bailey confirmed that, 40 years after the integrated education sector started up, people are still delaying.

I would say this to all of you today: we are only on group 1, and it will be a long night, and this will, possibly, run quite long into tomorrow, but just to confirm, I am more than happy to support the Minister's amendment No 24. I have no issue with the Department's new clause 6. It places a duty on the Department, and I am very grateful for that. I agree with the Minister's amendment Nos 70 and 71 on the definition of "education bodies" in the Bill, which, hopefully, will become an Act. Those will certainly help to allay a lot the fears of CCMS or other education bodies which do not want to support, or feel that it is not within their remit to support, integrated education.

I cannot support the Minister's amendment No 2, because it removes "socio-economic deprivation" and "different abilities" from the definition. I ask that you support my amendment No 5. I am happy to support Mr McCrossan's amendment No 6. I cannot support the Minister's amendment No 7, which takes out the new definition of an integrated school. I support amendment No 9. I will now sit down and let the Minister wind up.

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

As Members of the House, we enjoy the great privilege of bringing forward legislation to improve the lives of the people we serve. As a Member of the legislative Assembly for the last 15 years, I have never taken that for granted. I know, and I am sure that you will all agree, that with that privilege comes tremendous responsibility to ensure that the laws that we make are clear, unambiguous and coherent. Any functioning democracy is underpinned by a strong, solid legislative process. The amendments that I seek to move today are underpinned by my desire, as Education Minister, to prevent a situation in which our children and young people and their parents are failed as a result of law that is unclear, and I am genuine in my endeavours in respect of that.

The amendments that I bring forward today have been drafted by drafting experts in the Office of the Legislative Counsel (OLC), and that drafting represents the House's best means of achieving coherent and workable legislation.

We have heard throughout the debate about the importance of the intentional nature of an integrated school ethos. I have rehearsed already the Education and Training Inspectorate's view on school ethos and the importance of flexibility in ethos mirroring societal changes. We do not need to restrict the ethos of any school or sector in legislation and tie it to that. The evolution of our Schools of Sanctuary is reflective of the importance of agility of ethos in any school.

We have heard about the need to enable those who do not wish to designate as Protestant or Roman Catholic to see themselves reflected in the admissions process of an integrated school. The amendments to clause 1 that the OLC has drafted provide for those of other religious beliefs and no religious belief to be able to designate as such when they apply to integrated schools. The Bill as introduced and the Bill sponsor's amendments to clause 1 retain wording and provisions that are simply unnecessary. The law is not the place for vagueness, which can open the floodgates to legal challenge and leave our public to pay the costs as a consequence, taking vital and scarce public resources away from our education system.

The amendments to clause 6 that the OLC has drafted are to clarify that the duties here relating to the wording of the Bill as introduced are for the Department of Education and not for other education bodies. That enables other bodies to deliver the statutory responsibilities that they were established and are funded to deliver without placing a conflicting statutory requirement on them in relation to integrated education. Placing the duty on the Department in clause 6 ensures that integrated education support can be provided appropriately, without such impact on those bodies and sectors. What we must achieve is legal clarity and a Bill that works in its entirety and aligns with existing legislation. While we have expressed various points, perhaps through different lenses, on the group 1 amendments, we must collectively and with integrity take seriously our duty to make good, workable legislation.

I have been asked to clarify a number of points that were made. Obviously, the Chair of the Education Committee asked how the Department currently establishes parental preference. The Chair will be aware of the school admissions process. The preferences of parents are established through an analysis of the schools to which they apply. I have tabled amendment No 23, which provides for new clause 5A. That will form part of the group 2 discussion and will be voted on after the group 3 debate. It introduces a duty to ascertain parental preference. As the Chair has shown an interest, I trust that he will support that at the relevant time in the debate. DE does not assess the need in any sector. What it does do is facilitate and go through a process of area planning. That process has all sectors included and allows proposals to come forward to change the educational landscape to reflect parental preferences.

The Chair of the Committee raised the independent review of independent education. As mentioned at the Second Stage debate, the 39 recommendations relating to the review of integrated education were not all accepted. Fresh Start capital funding, for example, cannot be provided to special schools, a recommendation that was in the report. In the three years from 2017 to 2020, when there was no functioning Executive, the Department progressed operational recommendations. There are 16 recommendations, which relate to significant policy and legislation, that are being formally considered as part of the independent review of education. Obviously, it is not lost on us that that was a request by the Alliance Party.

Mr Allister asked whether this Bill gazumps that review, and, in short, yes, it does. Obviously, we have enough substantive business to discuss today without revisiting how the Department of Education could have taken forward such recommendations without ministerial approval, but, in relation to discharging the existing duty to integrated education, the Department funds NICIE to encourage and promote integrated education. It reviews policies and adapts them for integrated education in relation to transport and temporary variation. DPs only consider places in the integrated sector. I will give the Bill sponsor some clarification on that. If an integrated education school comes forward for a temporary variation, other sectors are not taken into consideration when the application is considered. Only integrated education places are considered at that point. With regard to funding, there is support for transformed schools, and this can be accessed. The Fresh Start capital funding programme is also well under way, which the integrated sector is benefiting from.

Mr Allister raised area planning. All sectors are represented in the structures. This Bill, if passed as published, will elevate one sector above the others. Therefore, there is an impact on the trust and also the collaborative arrangements that have been built up over the past number of years. The area plans that are being published tomorrow represent months of engagement between all the sectors. All have signed up to that strategic plan as the way forward to delivering a high-quality system that will provide access to a broad and balanced curriculum in viable and sustainable schools. The Bill as introduced includes unnecessary levels of duplication with regard to consultation by all. So, there are issues as a consequence of it moving forward.

We have gone through quite a considerable amount of this already, and I do not want to rehearse too much of it, but the OLC's clauses that have been amended do give clarity that the duties here relating to the wording of the Bill as introduced are for the Department of Education and not for other bodies. That enables bodies to deliver the statutory responsibilities for which they have been established and are funded. When we are considering how we vote, we need to be very careful as there are consequences in the way that we do vote. As a consequence of that, we may end up restricting our options further on in respect of this Bill. I urge caution on that. If we vote for an amendment, we need to be aware that we may remove that option later on. We may not be reminded of that until we get to that later amendment, so we all have a series of vital choices to make throughout the Consideration Stage.

While I understand that parties have already indicated their intentions throughout this, I once again will say that, in relation to clause 1, I urge you to vote for amendment No 2 and to vote for amendment No 7, which means not voting for amendment Nos 5 or 6. Vote for amendment No 8 and the associated amendment Nos 61 to 68. In relation to clause 6, vote for amendment No 24. In relation to clause 12, vote for amendment No 69, tabled by the Chair of the Education Committee. In relation to clause 13, vote for amendment Nos 70 and 71. Again, I say that our job today is to piece together a legislative jigsaw that slots together to make workable legislation. Let us rely on the drafting expertise of OLC to ensure that we deliver that.

Amendment No 2 proposed:

In page 1, line 4, leave out from “of—&quot; to end of line 10 and insert —

<BR/>

“of those of different cultures and religious beliefs, including —


(a) reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils;


(b) those of other religious beliefs; and


(c) those of no religious belief.” — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

Question put, That amendment No 2 be made.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Clearly, there is substantial division on this. I remind Members that they should continue to uphold social distancing and that those who have proxy voting arrangements in place should not come to the Chamber.

Before I put the Question again, I remind Members present that, if possible, it would be preferable to avoid a Division.

Question put a second time.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Before the Assembly divides, I remind Members that, as per Standing Order 112, the Assembly has proxy voting arrangements in place. Members who have authorised another Member to vote on their behalf are not entitled to vote in person and should not enter the Lobbies. I remind Members of the requirement for social distancing while a Division takes place. I ask Members to ensure that they retain at least a 2-metre gap between themselves and other Members when moving around in the Chamber or the Rotunda, and particularly in the Lobbies. Please be patient at all times, observe the signage and follow the instructions of the Lobby Clerks.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 37; Noes 48

AYES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Harvey, Mr Stalford

NOES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Noes: Ms Bradshaw, Mr Lyttle

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I know that this has been quite a long day already, but I propose, by leave of the Assembly, to suspend the sitting until 7.25 pm. The sitting is, by leave, suspended.

The sitting was suspended at 7.05 pm and resumed at 7.28 pm.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

We now move to amendment No 3, which has already been debated. I call Daniel McCrossan to formally move amendment No 3.

Amendment No 3 not moved.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

We move to amendment No 4, which has already been debated. I call Mr Daniel McCrossan to formally move amendment No 4.

Amendment No 4 not moved.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Amendment Nos 5 and 6 have already been debated. In the interest of clarity, I say that amendment No 5 was tabled by Kellie Armstrong and is listed as such in the reissued Marshalled List.

Amendment No 5 proposed:

In page 1, line 11, leave out subsection (2) and insert —

<BR/>

“(2) An ‘integrated school’ is a school which —


(a) intentionally supports, protects and improves an ethos of diversity, respect and understanding between those of different cultures and religious beliefs and of none, between those of different socio-economic backgrounds and between those of different abilities, and


(b) has acquired —


(i) grant-maintained integrated status, or


(ii) controlled integrated status


under the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.” — [Ms Armstrong.]

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

As amendment No 6 is an amendment to amendment No 5, we need to dispose of amendment No 6 before returning to amendment No 5.

Amendment No 6, as an amendment to amendment No 5, proposed:

In amendment No 5, leave out “improves” and insert “advances”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is an agreement that we can dispense with the three minutes and move directly to the Division. I remind all Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. I ask Members to ensure that they maintain a gap of at least 2 metres between themselves and others when moving around in the Chamber or the Rotunda and especially in the Lobbies.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 49; Noes 37

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Ms Brogan, Mr McCrossan

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mrs Dodds, Mr Newton

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

We now return to amendment No 5.

Amendment No 5, as amended, proposed:

In page 1, line 11, leave out subsection (2) and insert —

<BR/>

“(2) An ‘integrated school’ is a school which —


(a) intentionally supports, protects and advances an ethos of diversity, respect and understanding between those of different cultures and religious beliefs and of none, between those of different socio-economic backgrounds and between those of different abilities, and


(b) has acquired —


(i) grant-maintained integrated status, or


(ii) controlled integrated status


under the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.” — [Ms Armstrong.]

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

There is substantial division on that one as well. I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is agreement that we dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division. Again, I remind all Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. Please ensure that you retain at least a 2-metre gap between yourself and other Members when moving around in the Chamber, the Rotunda and especially the Lobbies.

Question put, That Amendment No 5, as amended, be made. The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 49; Noes 37

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Ms Bradshaw, Mr Dickson

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Harvey, Mr Newton

Question accordingly agreed to.

(Mr Speaker in the Chair)

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I will not call amendment No 7, as it is mutually exclusive with amendment No 1 and amendment No 5, one of which has been made.

Amendment No 8 proposed:

In page 1, line 17, leave out paragraphs (b) to (e). — [Miss McIlveen (The Minister of Education).]

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 37; Noes 49

AYES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Ayes: Mrs Dodds, Mr Harvey

NOES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Noes: Ms Bradshaw, Mr Dickson

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 8:30 pm, 17th January 2022

Again, I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is agreement that we can dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 49; Noes 37

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Catney, Mr McCrossan

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Harvey, Mr Newton

Question accordingly agreed to. Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (Purpose of integrated education)

Amendment No 9 proposed:

In page 2, line 4, leave out paragraph (b) and insert —

<BR/>

“(b) to promote awareness and appreciation of human rights”. — [Mr McCrossan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is agreement that we can dispense with the three-minute rule and move straight to the Division.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 49; Noes 37

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Catney, Mr McCrossan

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mrs Dodds, Mr Harvey

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is agreement that we can dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 49; Noes 37

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Ms Sugden, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Blair, Mr Dickson

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Harvey, Mr Newton

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

The suspension of Standing Orders 10(2) to 10(4) this afternoon allows today's sitting to be extended indefinitely. The Business Committee, however, has agreed not to sit much beyond 9.00 pm and that any business in today's Order Paper that has not concluded will be considered at the start of tomorrow's sitting. I think that you will all agree that this seems to be a convenient moment at which to adjourn. Tomorrow's sitting will commence at 10:30 am with Consideration Stage of the Integrated Education Bill. I propose to pick up the speaking list as it stands.

The debate stood suspended.

Adjourned at 9.09 pm.