Slump in proportion of Protestant children in state schools
THE proportion of children in 'state schools' identifying as Protestant has nosedived in the last 15 years, research has found.
More then one in every three pupils in controlled education are now Catholic or from `other' faiths or none.
The Irish News this week revealed that the religious divide in Northern Ireland schools is at its widest ever.
The number of Catholic children is at an all all-time high while those who identify as Protestant is in decline.
On school census day this year there were 175,617 Catholic pupils - 50.7 per cent of all enrolments. It is the first time this figure has topped 175,000.
There were 114,314 Protestant children - 33 per cent - while 56,408 identified as `other'. In 2000/01, the divide was 50.7 per cent Catholic and 42.7 per cent Protestant.
Separate research from the Controlled Schools' Support Council (CSSC) also shows a sharp drop in Protestant pupils.
While the state sector is non-denominational, it has in the past been considered de-facto Protestant.
The CSSC found that since 2004/05, the proportion of Protestant pupils in its schools decreased by 14.7 percentage points.
It now stands at just 63.4 per cent, down from 78.1.
The analysis showed that the sector was now providing education for children of all faiths and none - 10 per cent are Catholic.
Conversely, 0.6 per cent of pupils at Catholic maintained schools are Protestant.
CSSC chief executive Barry Mulholland said the statistics clearly demonstrated that the controlled education sector was large and distinctive.
"CSSC's report showcases the diversity and inclusivity of controlled schools, which are open to all faiths and none," he said.
"Controlled schools provide education to over 143,000 children and young people to enable them to learn, develop and grow together, within the ethos of non-denominational Christian values and principles."