Major Westminster Delegation visit to Forge IPS

Forge Integrated Primary School in Belfast welcomed a very special cross-party delegation of 20 MPs including the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

March 28, 2024

Events, School News

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Hilary Benn with pupils from Forge Integrated Primary School.

On 26 March, Forge Integrated Primary School in Belfast welcomed a very special cross-party delegation of 20 MPs including the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Hilary Benn and the Shadow Minister Fleur Anderson, alongside South Belfast MP Claire Hanna and a number of local MLAs.

Westminster Delegation at Forge Integrated Primary School.

Forge is one of the longest established integrated schools in Northern Ireland having  opened in 1985 as the result of a determined effort by a group of parents. It now educates over 400 pupils in the primary and adjoining pre-school. The special visitors were greeted by pupils and staff of the school as well as former pupils now attending the nearby Lagan College. The young people were given the opportunity to engage with the delegation through a question and answer session.

Principal Neville Watson commented:

‘I was delighted to welcome this very special delegation to Forge Integrated Primary School today. Despite the school being closed for the Easter holidays, staff and pupils willingly gave up their time to come in and meet our special guests and I was delighted to have a few former Forge pupils join us too, many of whom have gone on to attend Lagan College for their post primary Integrated Education. A few pupils even travelled from as far away as Shimna Integrated College in Newcastle.

Today’s visit was an opportunity to provide a glimpse into what Integrated Education is all about. There is no better way of doing that then engaging with the pupils directly. It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable and confident our pupils are when it comes to discussing what Integrated Education means to them.

I am very conscious that Forge made the headlines recently as one of the ten Integrated schools that will no longer benefit through the Fresh Start capital programme. This was extremely disappointing news. However, Forge Integrated Primary School has proved its resilience when faced with setbacks over the years.

Our focus has always been to provide an excellent shared learning environment where current pupils can thrive while maintaining a positive and forward-looking focus to delivering improvements, the new school project being one of many of these.

While we deal with these setbacks, we will continue to work hard to make our school the best possible place for our children to learn and grow, so that they in turn can make Belfast a better place for us all, whether under an old roof or a new one.’


Alliance MLA Kate Nicholl, Sinn Fein MLA Deirdre Hargey, Shadow Secretary of State Hilary Benn, Forge IPS teacher Denise Mahon, Forge IPS teacher Julie Anne Foster, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw.

Paul Caskey OBE, Head of Campaign at the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), said:

‘The IEF was delighted to attend this morning’s event and to meet such a prestigious political delegation. It is important that representatives from across the political spectrum can have the opportunity to see and experience Integrated Education firsthand. Forge demonstrates how children and young people from all religious and cultural backgrounds can learn with and from each other. The IEF will continue to support this thriving Integrated school as it works to offer the best Integrated Education for all pupils and families in this community.’


Lagan College pupils with MP Yasmin Qureshi.


Hilary Benn and Fleur Anderson.