Northern Ireland

UN committee says Northern Ireland transfer tests should be abolished

The UN committee on the rights of the child said all children should receive a "truly inclusive education"
Image caption The UN committee on the rights of the child said all children should receive a "truly inclusive education"

Unregulated transfer tests in Northern Ireland should be abolished, a United Nations (UN) committee has said.

The UN committee on the rights of the child said all children should receive a "truly inclusive education".

The committee is composed of 18 members drawn from countries including Bahrain, Spain, Italy and Ethiopia.

Their latest report explores how the UK is implementing the UN charter on the rights of the child.

However, it includes a number of recommendations specific to Northern Ireland.

Segregation

It says that in Northern Ireland education, "segregation by religion persists", and calls for the executive to "actively promote a fully integrated education system and carefully monitor the provision of shared education".

The report goes on to say that abortion should be decriminalised in Northern Ireland "in all circumstances" and that the executive should "review its legislation with a view to ensuring girls' access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services."

It also recommends that children should be able to decide on their own not to attend religious worship in schools, rather than having to be withdrawn by their parents.

Image caption The committee says "segregation by religion persists" still exists in Northern Ireland

Religious education and acts of collective worship are currently compulsory in Northern Ireland schools.

Parents do have the option to withdraw their child from these on the grounds of conscience.

The CEO of the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), Tina Merron, welcomed the committee's support for integrated education.

"This is a very welcome endorsement of the aims of the integrated education movement and represents recognition at the highest level that young people in Northern Ireland are largely growing up in a context of division and separation according to religious tradition," she said.

'Expression of support'

"I am very pleased to see such a clear expression of support for education reform and would hope that it now becomes central in the new Executive mandate."

Save the Children NI said another of the report's findings highlighted high levels of child poverty here.

"We hope the NI Executive will take the UN Committee's recommendations seriously and implement them through the new Programme for Government," they said.

The committee's full report makes almost 100 observations or recommendations in a number of areas including education, civil rights, care and mental health provision.

However, the committee cannot compel UK governments to change legislation.

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