Following the successful parental ballots of two nursery schools to become integrated, the IEF is encouraging more parents to consider the option of transformation to integration for their nursery school. The ‘Integrating in the Early Years’ initiative supports schools wishing to become actively welcoming to children of all backgrounds and traditions. IEF hopes that the initiative could encourage more nursery schools to transform to integrated status and thus to help break down barriers and nurture community relations among children, families and communities.
Both Bangor Central Nursery School and Brefne Nursery School in north Belfast held parental ballots last year, with the vast majority of parents voting for their nursery school to go through the process officially called “transformation” to integrated status. At Bangor Central NS 97.6% of parents voting said yes to integration while 92.6% of parents voting at Brefne NS supported the motion.
There are 95 standalone nursery schools in Northern Ireland, all of which are either Controlled or Catholic Maintained, but more parents are requesting integrated education for their children from an earlier age, wanting their family to enjoy the opportunity to learn alongside others from diverse community backgrounds.
Schools and nursery schools of any management type are able to legally transform to become an integrated school, with the exception of special schools and schools established in hospitals. The transformation process to integrated status can be initiated by the school/nursery school or be led by parents. In the latter case, parents can confidentially register their support for their school becoming integrated on www.integratemyschool.com. If enough parents express their support, all parents in the school are invited to vote on the proposal. If a majority votes in favour of transformation then the school will submit a proposal to become integrated, which will be considered by EA and DE followed by a final decision by the Minister of Education.
Speaking about the vote at Bangor Central Nursery, Principal Pamela Algie said:
“The Governors and staff of Bangor Central Nursery are delighted that so many of our parents have chosen to go on this journey towards integration. This is a great opportunity for very young children from all communities to learn together daily. The children can make friends and get to know each other no matter what their background is.”
Principal of north-Belfast based Brefne Nursery School, Victoria McGimpsey, adds:
“Brefne Nursery School has always welcomed children from all backgrounds and religions, supporting our ethos of ‘every child’s uniqueness catered for’. This official step towards transforming into an integrated Nursery School demonstrates the support we have from the local and wider community. We have been providing pre-school education in the area for over 50 years and we look forward to this new, exciting chapter of becoming the first standalone integrated nursery school in Belfast and one of the first in Northern Ireland.”
All nurseries, primaries and post-primaries exploring integration will receive support at each stage of the transformation process from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), the Shared Education and Sectoral Support Team within the Education Authority (EA), and the Integrated Education Fund (IEF).
As part of the initiative the IEF and NICIE hosted a one-day conference called “Integrating in the Early Years, STEM and Outdoor Play”. Twenty-five nursery schools were represented at the event last October, which consisted of a series of workshops on the key themes.
Schools and parents can access more information, specifically for nursery schools, about the process of becoming integrated here.
Parents can also find out more and register support for their child’s school to become officially integrated via www.integratemyschool.com.
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