asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answers by the Lord President on 15 December 2004 (
WA 84) and 27 January ( WA 175) on Northern Ireland teachers, what they mean by a "balance of opportunity in employment"; whether there is at present a balance of opportunity in employment for teachers in Northern Ireland; when such a balance was first achieved; how such a balance is assessed; and whether the reconciliation of historical divisions between the major religious communities is best furthered by segregated or integrated religious education. [HL1117]
The phrase "In order to maintain a balance of opportunity in employment" which was used in the Written Answer by the Lord President dated 15 December 2004, is taken from Article 15 of the European Equal Treatment Directive 2000/78/EC and was inserted as the Government and the Commission were keen to ensure that the unique situation in Northern Ireland was taken into account.Teachers in schools are currently not included in the monitoring requirements of the fair employment and treatment legislation. Consequently, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland does not hold statistical information on the religious breakdown of teachers employed in schools. The various employing authorities that are responsible for employing teachers hold this information. However it is not readily available and could only be obtained at a disproportionate cost.The schools sector in Northern Ireland reflects parental choice with children attending maintained schools (mainly Catholic pupils), controlled schools (mainly Protestant pupils), integrated schools and Irish-medium schools. The exemption in relation to the recruitment of teachers recognises the complexion of these schools including the developing integrated sector.Views on the exemption were invited in the context of the single Equality Bill consultation and responses will be considered along with the investigation report on the teachers' exemption which has been published recently by the Equality Commission. Copies have been placed in the Library.The Government respect parental choice in education. They also recognise the significance of education in preparing children for their role as adults in a shared society and the important contribution that all schools can make to this.