Today marks a significant day for the school community of Downshire Primary School in Hillsborough, as 77% of parents have voted in favour of the school transforming to Integrated status.
Established in 2005, Downshire Primary School is a large primary school in the centre of Hillsborough in County Down. The school motto is ‘Everyone valued, everyone encouraged, everyone achieving.’ This inclusive approach to education is what encouraged the school community to look at the process of Transformation, to become an Integrated school.
Mr Poots, Principal of Downshire Primary School, commented:
“The school Governors and community are delighted with the result of the recent integration ballot. Downshire is one of the largest primary schools in the country and the result sends a very clear message that the people of Hillsborough believe integration is the way forward for the village and indeed our country.
While the school has always been welcoming and inclusive, this vote highlights that Hillsborough is becoming more diverse and the community feels it is important that we are more intentional about advancing an ethos of respect and understanding for all.
For many years Downshire has delivered high quality education for our children and we look forward to an exciting future for the school as we transform to Integrated status in the months ahead.”
No school can become Integrated without the consent of a majority of parents. Therefore, in order to begin the process to become an Integrated school, a democratic ballot must be held and the majority of parents must vote in favour of the change in status.
The ballot was carried out by Civica Election Services and every adult registered as a parent or guardian was eligible to vote. At Downshire Primary School 77% of voting parents supported the move to Integrated status.
Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), said:
“We applaud the result of this parental ballot at Downshire Primary School. We commend the Board of Governors for giving their parents this opportunity. The results from other parental ballots held in recent years suggest that when parents are informed and engaged on the issue of Integrated status for their child’s school, then an overwhelming majority tend to vote in favour. This is most encouraging and reflects the results of many public attitude surveys held on this important issue.”
Roisin Marshall, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), said:
” NICIE is pleased to see parents voting yes for Integrated status at Downshire Primary and we look forward to working with the school on their Transformation journey.”
The next step for the school will be compiling a Development Proposal, which will be submitted to the Department of Education including a Transformation Action Plan. A Minister for Education, or in their absence the Permanent Secretary, will then make the final decision.
Almost every school in the country, apart from hospital and special schools, can apply to Transform to Integrated status and the parental ballot is a major step in this journey. The IEF and Council for Integrated Education provide support and advice for parents, staff and Governors considering taking the first steps to Integrated Education.