One in 10 pupils at 'Protestant schools' are Catholic
ONE in every 10 pupils at state schools are Catholic, new research has revealed.
The study found that the controlled sector, often perceived as being Protestant, was inclusive and diverse.
The research was undertaken by the Controlled Schools Support Council (CSSC), which launched last year to give a strong and effective voice to hundreds of state schools.
It is the largest education sector, comprising 48 per cent of all schools and more than 140,000 pupils.
The study said controlled schools were non-denominational and firmly set within an ethos embedded in Christian values. They "are open to pupils of all faiths or none".
It is also the only sector to comprise a full range of schools, with nursery, primary, special and non-selective post-primary sitting alongside grammar, integrated, Irish medium and Dickson Plan schools.
In terms of religion, 66 per cent of pupils are Protestant, 10 per cent Catholic, 5 per cent other Christian, 1 per cent non-Christian and 18 per cent indicated no religion.
CSSC chief executive Barry Mulholland said the research sought to dispel many misconceptions.
"The religious breakdown of individual controlled schools often reflects their community," he said.
"For example, I know of some controlled schools that have an almost 50/50 religious balance and others that are over 90 per cent Catholic. It is therefore misleading to describe the controlled schools as the `Protestant sector'.
"Indeed, controlled schools have greater religious diversity in comparison to other education sectors and, interestingly, provide education for more pupils of no religion than any other sector."
This is the first time that such a detailed piece of work has been carried out that demonstrates the size and complexity of the controlled sector.
It found that more than a third of newcomer pupils attended controlled schools while almost one in three pupils overall were entitled to free school meals. In addition, more than 28,000 primary and post-primary pupils, it found, have special educational needs.
The CSSC, which has been in operation for just one year, now plans to use this research to tackle some of the challenges facing schools.
"It is essential that we have evidence to underpin our programme of work going forward and this baseline assessment is the first part of that," Mr Mulholland said.
"It is already leading to a better understanding of what controlled schools are, the diversity within the sector and the challenges that face teachers and pupils alike, particularly given the lack of funding for education right across the board."