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Religion and Education in Northern Ireland

24 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2011  

Christopher McCrudden

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law; University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: January 16, 2011


Since the foundation of Northern Ireland in 1920, the issue of control over primary and secondary education has been a source of significant tension between the two main ethno-religious communities in Northern Ireland, and between them and the government of Northern Ireland. Education in Northern Ireland is distinctly differently organized in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, and several of its ‘unique features’ (McKeown and Connolly, 1992, 211) arise out of the particular form of the political and religious sensitivities of education in the former. The paper is structured as follows. First, I shall outline the features of the governance of education in Northern Irish model. Second, I shall attempt to explain briefly why these features came about. Third, I shall consider research that has attempted to understand what are the effects of the model on the religious background of pupils in different schools. Fourth, I shall consider the role of teachers in this model. Fifth, I shall consider issues relating to curriculum and collective worship. Sixth, the crucial issue of school funding will be examined. Finally, I shall consider the prospects for the model in the future, by considering pupil opinion on the structure of schooling, and I shall explain how this model relates to political developments in Northern Ireland generally.

Suggested Citation

McCrudden, Christopher, Religion and Education in Northern Ireland (January 16, 2011). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2/2011. Available at SSRN: or

Christopher McCrudden (Contact Author)

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law ( email )

School of Law
Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland BT7 1NN
United Kingdom

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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