Within days of the launch of the Independent Review of Education in Northern Ireland, further evidence of the demand for Integrated Education is apparent after two more successful parental ballot outcomes were announced.
Following parents at Ballyhenry Primary School in Glengormley voting in favour of transforming their school to Integrated status just last month, now 90% of parents Culmore Primary School in Derry/ Londonderry and 77% of parents at Downshire Primary School in Hillsborough have overwhelming endorsed their schools commencing the journey to become Integrated schools. This brings the total of successful parental ballots held by schools since 2019 to 24, the most dramatic rise in support for Integrated Education in over 40 years.
The news of these three schools starting the Transformation process comes at a time when the Independent Review of Education in Northern Ireland stated its support for the expansion of Integrated Education by saying; “We believe that Integrated Education has made a significant and highly positive contribution to Northern Irish education and to broader society. We would wish to see it expand.”
It also follows the recent announcement that the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster has launched an inquiry into Integrated Education. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s new inquiry will examine the cost and implications of the current two-track system, of an expansion of Integrated Education, and outcomes for pupils and Northern Irish society.
Sir Robert Buckland MP, the Committee’s new Chair said:
“Despite having public backing and the legislation to support them, integrated schools in Northern Ireland, with students from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, remain rare. In new legislation last year, Stormont committed to the development of integrated education in Northern Ireland. With this new inquiry, we aim to find out what this looks like and establish the policy choices that will face Northern Ireland’s Department for Education as they turn to implementation of their plans.”
The news of the new parental ballots was welcomed by Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) who said:
“We applaud the result of these parental ballots at Culmore, Downshire and Ballyhenry Primary Schools. Hopefully, all schools will soon be able to join the growing network of Integrated schools across Northern Ireland.
In a week when we have seen the NI Affairs Committee launch the inquiry into Integrated Education and the launch of the Independent Review of Education, it is important to note the growth in support and demand. Clearly demand is on the rise and the IEF, along with our colleagues in the Council for Integrated Education, will continue to work with schools and parents to help ensure that that demand is met, so places are available for every parent who wishes to avail of an Integrated Education for their child.”
The IEF recently launched a major advertising campaign to raise awareness of Integrated Education, with the support of international film star Liam Neeson. The campaign seeks to empower parents, enabling them to express their support for Integrated Education through the Integrate My School website (integratemyschool.com). This website allows parents to confidentially register their interest in their child’s school becoming an Integrated school through the process of Transformation. The final decision on whether a school can become Integrated ultimately rests with the Department of Education.