30 Mar

NICIE responds to DE decision on Drumragh IC and Court decision on Clintyclay PS

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) has responded with dismay and disbelief to the decision by the Education Minister to reject a proposal for expansion at the popular and oversubscribed Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh. This is the second rejection that the college has experienced in the last 3 years. On the first occasion a judicial review on the matter was taken by the school and in his findings Justice Treacy reminded the Department of Education DE of its duty under legislation to ‘encourage and facilitate integrated education’ and stated the need for the Department ‘to be alive to this duty at all levels including the strategic level.’

NICIE Chief Executive, Noreen Campbell said ‘This decision is bitterly disappointing and it is hard to understand how a Minister, who has previously endorsed the right of popular, oversubscribed schools to grow, and whose department has had cause to be reminded of its legal obligation towards integrated education, can see fit to ignore the wishes of those parents who want to have their children educated together under one roof. (more…)

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30 Mar

Principal comments on Minister’s “deeply disappointing” refusal of Drumragh IC development proposal

From Nigel Frith, Principal, Drumragh Integrated College:

Last week the Minister of Education refused for a second time to allow Drumragh Integrated College to expand. In his press release on the matter, Mr O’Dowd says: ‘As Minister I must ensure that education provision reflects the full range of needs in the local area and that we maintain a network of sustainable schools. It would not be right for me to make a decision that benefits one school and which also carries a strong risk of negatively impacting other nearby schools unduly.’

2014 saw a successful challenge in court to the Department of Education regarding its failure to fully implement its legal duty to facilitate and encourage integrated education. The Department and the Minister of Education were instructed by Judge Treacy to ‘be alive to this duty at all levels including the strategic level.’ The subsequent mention of that legal duty in the above-mentioned press release means very little; the refusal of this Development Proposal could be seen as suggesting that the Department and the Minister either have not understood the 1989 Order and Judge Treacy’s ruling, or they are disregarding them. (more…)

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27 Mar

Fund’s Chief Executive responds to rejection of Drumragh IC proposal to expand

Commenting on the Minister for Education’s rejection of the Drumragh IC development proposal, IEF CEO Tina Merron said “This decision is completely incomprehensible, as it flies in the face of a High Court ruling. Last May Mr Justice Treacy said that ‘The Department of Education needs to be alive to Article 64 at all levels, including the strategic one.’

“During the judicial review , the DE denied that the growth of integrated schools was in the hands of ‘competitor schools’ and added that when considering proposals in the future, consent of other schools would not be a prerequisite to a proposal being granted.

The judgment of the High Court means that consideration of wider school enrolments ought not to overrule the Department’s statutory duty to integrated education. Yet this – the impact on neighbouring schools – is exactly what the Minister says is behind his decision.

It seems that Drumragh IC is too popular to be allowed to grow. The College sought to increase enrolment to meet demand for integrated education in the area. Yet it seems the concept of parental choice does not apply where integrated schools are concerned – instead, we find the Minister maintaining the status quo of a divided education system rather than challenging vested interests. (more…)

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27 Mar

A High Court judge today quashed a decision to shut Clintyclay PS, the first Catholic school in Northern Ireland attempting a transformation to integrated status.

Court report by Alan Erwin, Laganside Media.

Mr Justice Treacy held that Education Minister John Dowd’s approval of a proposal to close Clintyclay Primary was “infected” by relying on erroneous information that the school had financial problems. He said: “In fact, not only was it not in financial difficulties, it had a budget surplus.”

The Minister will now have to take a fresh decision on the future of the school in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. But the delighted parents of a pupil who brought the legal challenge claimed the court verdict will inject new confidence into the entire community.

With Clintyclay’s enrolment having dropped below 30 pupils, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had proposed that it should close. An alternative proposal advanced by the school’s Board of Governors to change its management to grant-maintained integrated status was rejected. (more…)

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27 Mar

Blow to community as John O’Dowd says “No” to Drumragh IC expansion plans

The school community at Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh has received a major blow as the College’s application to expand has been turned down by the Education Minister.

John O’Dowd announced his decision today (27 March 2015).

It was proposed to increase the approved enrolment at the school from 580 to 750 pupils over a period of five years. This was the second time the proposal had been published and considered by the Minister, it having been turned down previously in October 2012 and subsequently subject to a judicial review.

Commenting on his decision John O’Dowd said: “My Department has a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education in the north; a duty I take seriously. Having considered this proposal and all the pertinent information twice, however, I am satisfied that it should not be approved. (more…)

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24 Mar

Young voters of tomorrow grill politicians at Lagan College

Westminster candidates Máirtín Ó’Muilleoir (SF), Ross Brown (NI Green Party) and Rodney McCune (UUP) were among a team of politicians facing tough questions from an audience of 17- and 18-year old students at the Integrated Education Fund’s “Youth Hustings” at Lagan College on Monday (23 March 2015).

The panel also featured Fearghal McKinney (SDLP) Paula Bradley (DUP) and Chris Lyttle (Alliance). Broadcaster and journalist Jim Fitzpatrick chaired the event and the audience was drawn from Lagan College, Grosvenor Grammar School and Ashfield Girls’ and Boys’ Schools. (more…)

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