Integrated Education Month 2017 launched on Friday (3 March) with a celebratory walk marking 35 years of integrated education in Northern Ireland. The symbolic journey began with a small group of founding parents, pupils, staff, and friends who set out from Ardnavally Scout Centre, the original site of the first integrated school, Lagan College. They walked almost six miles to the front gates of the Stormont Estate. Here they were met by more than 500 children, teachers, parents and supporters from integrated schools and colleges across Northern Ireland who joined the final mile of the walk to the steps of Parliament Buildings.
The gathering was greeted by Roisin Marshall, CEO of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and BBC Radio Ulster personality Marcus Hunter-Neill.
A time capsule containing a sod from the first school site (Ardnavally) was handed over, by founding parents Cecil Linehan and Anne Odling-Smee, to pupils from two of the newest integrated schools, Killyleagh Integrated Primary School and Loughries Integrated Primary School.
A fantastic performance by local singer/songwriter (and star of BBC TV’s Let it Shine) Scott Macaulay was followed by a moving solo by a pupil from Lagan College. Then everyone was encouraged to join in a dance session led by pupils from integrated schools, the likes of which has never been seen in the historic grounds before.
The day brought reflection, gratitude and inspiration. Roisin Marshall thanked everyone for a wonderful day and offered her heartfelt appreciation to all for the support and determination shown over the past 35 years. Roisin went on to express her delight at the brilliant turnout and her desire for all schools to have an integrated ethos within the next 35 years.
From those early days in the scout hall at Ardnavally, integrated education has flourished thanks to the commitment and hard work of parents and campaigners. There are now 65 integrated schools in Northern Ireland educating almost 23,000 pupils.
As part of Integrated Education Month we would like to encourage our friends and supporters to toe the line and participate in an ‘Odd Socks Day’ where you wear odd coloured socks and donate to the Integrated Education Fund. Click here to find out how.
Click here for a list of all integrated schools in Northern Ireland.
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