The business of integrated education: Margaret Mountford visits Hazelwood

Business director and lawyer Margaret Mountford, known for her appearances on BBC’s The Apprentice, visited Northern Ireland on Monday (9 December) to endorse the work of the Integrated Education Fund and to see at first hand new facilities which the IEF has helped establish at Hazelwood Integrated College in Newtownabbey.    And the TV presenter said there is no reason to keep children apart at school according to their religious background.

Pictured with Margaret Mountford are Baroness May Blood, Head Girl, Courtney Laight and Head Boy, Stephen Mackessy. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons

Pictured with Margaret Mountford are Baroness May Blood, Head Girl, Courtney Laight, and Head Boy, Stephen Mackessy.  Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons

Margaret Mountford, who was born and brought up in Northern Ireland, is also an academic and chairs a school board in London.  She admired Hazelwood IC’s new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) centre for post-GCSE students, which opened in October after delays over planning issues at the beginning of term. The buildings were installed thanks to £150,000 in grants from the IEF and the Belfast Trust for Integrated Education.

Margaret Mountford heard that the school is actively working to build relationships with local employers and industries in order to make the world of work real to pupils.  After talking to business studies and STEM students at Hazelwood IC, Margaret met supporters of integrated education from the business sector, and discussed the contribution a de-segregated system could make to a more cohesive and prosperous society.

At the end of her visit, Margaret said, “Seeing the young people from different backgrounds and cultures working together to prepare for the world ahead of them is inspiring and a fantastic image of a new Northern Ireland.  I hear from the business community here that there is an urgent need to move away from an expensive, segregated education system to a network of properly-resourced schools preparing pupils for the global jobs market. It’s time to recognise that diversity means strength, and integrated schools have been demonstrating that for many years now.”

Hazelwood IC Principal Kathleen Gormley commented, “Everyone was delighted to welcome Margaret Mountford to the school and the pupils really enjoyed engaging with her, and hearing Margaret’s story.  We are very proud that on a trip home to Northern Ireland, she chose to visit an integrated school to see for herself how young people of all backgrounds and abilities can thrive together.  It is great to be able to show guests what donors and supporters of integration have achieved by helping us set up the new STEM centre.”