Serving divided communities: Consociationalism and the experiences of principals of small rural primary schools in Northern Ireland

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Abstract

Previous studies suggest that small rural schools experience a range of challenges relating to their size, financial difficulties and geographical isolation, as well as potential opportunities relating to their position within their communities. In Northern Ireland, these schools are situated within the comparatively rare context of a religiously divided school system. However, research on these schools in this jurisdiction is scarce. The notion of consociationalism is highlighted as central to an understanding of the prevailing schooling system and the peace process in Northern Ireland as a post-conflict society. Set against this backdrop, the paper reports on a survey of principals of small rural schools in Northern Ireland; the challenges they face and their engagement with the communities they serve. The findings reveal how these small rural primary schools, while encountering many similar challenges to such schools globally, continue to play a central consociational role in serving their respective divided communities. Their relationship with the Church is seen as particularly important. The findings raise important broader questions as to the extent to which the current system of schooling is able to contribute to the building of a more integrated society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-306
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Studies
Volume71
Issue number3
Early online date25 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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