FAQs for Parents and Guardians

We have written these questions and answers following conversations with parents and guardians who have gone through or are considering the transformation process.

If you have any additional questions or would like more information please contact our Parental Engagement Outreach Officer Andrew Norrie by email: Andrew@ief.org.uk

How does the process start
The consultation process can be started by any group involved in the school. You can help to start the process by going to the website www.integratemyschool.com to register your support for your child’s school to become integrated. To move on to the ballot phase, at least 20% of parents must request the ballot or the Board of Governors must pass a resolution to hold a ballot. The Board of Governors will then write to the managing authority, for example the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and/or the Education Authority, to notify them of this decision. The ballot must be held between 1-3 months of this happening.


What Is The Parental Ballot, And Who Is Eligible To Vote?
The parental ballot is the opportunity for parents to vote on whether they want the school to transform. The ballot is postal and organised by an independent organisation known as the Electoral Reform Service (ERS), therefore all responses remain confidential. Every adult registered as a parent of a child at the school will get a vote. (One vote per registered parent).


What Happens After A Ballot In Favour Of Transformation?
For the result to be considered, at least 50% of parents must vote. If there is a turn-out of less than 50% then a second ballot will automatically take place. If 51% or more of those who have voted, vote in favour of transformation, then a development proposal for transformation must be submitted to the Education Authority (EA). The EA will then publish an advertisement in the press and there will be a two month consultation period during which time relevant supporting data from the school (including an Action Plan for Integration) will be lodged with the Department of Education.


Can Any School Transform, Including Grammar Schools And Catholic Schools?
Yes. All schools except Special Schools and Hospital Schools can transform. Their admissions policy will then be changed as transforming schools have to recruit 10% of their next year’s intake from whichever is their minority community.


How Many Integrated Schools Are There?
There are currently 65 integrated schools across Northern Ireland; 45 primary schools and 20 post-primary schools.


How Many Schools Have Become Integrated Through The Process Of Transformation?
As of January 2019, 25 schools have already transformed into integrated schools thanks to the support of their parents. Principals, staff and parents of these schools are happy to share their experience with other interested schools – you can contact us to arrange this.


Will My Child Be Asked To Play Sports Associated With Specific Cultural Traditions As Part Of PE?
Your school will try to cater for the cultural interests, including games, of both the main traditions of Northern Ireland. All pupils will be able to participate or not, as they wish.


How Long Does The Process Take?
The process of transformation can take less than a year or it can take three years or more. Each school moves forward at its own pace but in each case the process includes the same stages:
•The consultation stage involves information being provided to the Board of Governors, school staff, parents and local community.
•The formal process can be initiated in two ways. Either the Board of Governors can decide to hold a parental ballot for transformation, or parents can sign a petition requesting the Board of Governors to hold a ballot. The DE Integration Works, transforming your school document states that the process will begin if the Board of Governors receive a signed request by a number of parents of registered pupils at the school equal to at least 20% of the number of registered pupils at the school on the date on which the request is received.
•If the parents vote in favour of transformation, the school submits a development proposal to the Education Authority and the Department of Education for consideration.
•There will be a two month consultation period during which time relevant supporting data from the school (including an Action Plan for Integration) will be lodged with the Department of Education.
•If the proposal is approved by the Department, the school will begin taking steps towards integration. This is a continuing journey for the school.


Who Decides If The School Will Be Allowed To Transform?
The final decision regarding the transformation rests with the Minister for Education who will base their judgement on the information available to them. This will include data relating to long term viability, educational standards and the ability of the school to achieve and maintain religious balance. Schools must be able to demonstrate that they can achieve a minimum of 10% of their Year1/Year8 intake from the minority population within the school’s enrolment and also the potential to achieve a minimum of 30% in the longer term. In the absence of a Minister for Education then this decision will be taken by the permanent secretary.


How Will RE Be Taught If The School Becomes Integrated?
All schools, including integrated schools, are required to follow a core RE curriculum agreed by the four main churches. The Board of Governors will ensure that provision is made for Catholic children whose parents wish them to be prepared for the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Financial support may be available from the Department of Education to help school’s access specialist teaching for sacramental preparation.


At The Moment My School Is Under The Authority Of The Education Authority. Will This Still Be The Case If The School Becomes Integrated?
Transforming schools can choose to be either Grant Maintained Integrated or Controlled Integrated, but all transforming schools to date have been controlled schools which have decided to remain with the Education Authority and have taken on Controlled Integrated Status.


How Will The Management Of The School Be Affected If It Becomes Integrated?
The Board of Governors will increase in size to reflect the interests of the minority community. Additional places will also be made available for ‘parent governors’ to allow greater parental involvement in the running of the school.


How Will The Quality Of Education Be Affected?
Integrated status will not diminish the quality of education provided at your school. In fact it will enhance it by providing new educational, social and cultural experiences. Many schools in Northern Ireland recognise the positive value of this and have engaged in cross community initiatives. Moving to integrated status will make these benefits permanent and at no extra cost.


Will The School Change Its Name Or Uniform?
Not necessarily. Some schools do decide, with the support of the school community, to introduce the term ‘integrated’ into their title or choose a new logo or even a completely new name to reflect their new status.


What Is Area Planning And How Does Transformation Contribute To The Area Planning Process?
Area Planning is the process through which the Department of Education’s Sustainable Schools Policy is implemented. It aims to identify the need for all types of education provision in an area and to plan to meet that need. The Education Authority working in conjunction with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and the other sectoral support bodies, including representatives of the integrated sector, are involved in the planning process. Transformation is a process through which a sustainable school changes its management type and ethos to become integrated. This presents a valuable opportunity to increase the level of integrated education in an area to meet parental demand.


Can My School Be Closed During The Period When We Are Looking At Integration?
If the managing authority for the school has confirmed it will close, or has already closed it, it is not possible for the school to transform or re-open.


If I Want My School To Become Integrated, What Should I Do, Or Who Should I Talk To?
The first person to ask about transformation should be your school principal, or your Board of Governors. If you would like more information about what transformation is before contacting your school, you can contact the IEF, NICIE, or the Education Authority, who should all be able to provide you with some more information. If you decide that you do want your school to transform, you can use the Integrate My School website to register your support.


How Will My Information Be Used? Who Will See My Information?
The information you provide when you register your support on the Integrate My School website will be stored confidentially and securely by the Integrated Education Fund, a registered charity in Northern Ireland. Your support will remain completely anonymous until 20% of parents at the same school register their support. Then and only then will your school be informed of your preference. This will take the form of a private petition to the school on behalf of all the parents of your school who have registered on this website. You will be provided with regular updates and further information only if you have given your permission.


What Are The Key Steps Of The Process?
The process is made up of the following stages. In planning for Transformation, there will be an initial exploration phase. This will involve information gathering and awareness raising to develop a clearer understanding of:
• the level of support for Transformation within the school community; and
• the type of changes that would be necessary within the school to transform successfully.
The school will then prepare a Transformation Plan that details the actions, time and resources needed to progress integration effectively.

The Transformation Process can be formally initiated in one of two ways:
1. the Board of Governors can decide by resolution to hold a ballot of parents for Transformation; or
2. Parents can sign a petition requesting the Board of Governors to hold a ballot (at least 20 percent of parents must sign the petition).

If the parents vote in favour of Transformation, the school submits a Development Proposal to the EA for publication.

The Department will then consider the Development Proposal. If the Department approves the Development Proposal, the effective date of Transformation will be the start of a given academic year (normally 1 September).


Can Integrated Status Be Removed?
For a school to no longer be integrated, the Education Minister must approve a further Development Proposal to change the school’s management type. The religious balance within a school does not affect its legal position as a grant-maintained or controlled integrated school.


Will The Board Of Governors Change?
Yes. The Board of Governors will be reconstituted to reflect the membership required by law of a controlled or grantmaintained integrated school. The table on page 37 of ‘Integration Works, Transforming Your School’ sets out the required membership of school Boards of Governors by category. The table does not include membership of the principal and co-opted governors.


Will The School Receive More Money If It Becomes Integrated?
All grant-aided schools are funded under the Common Funding Formula arrangements set out in the Common Funding Scheme, available on the Department’s website. Separately from the Common Funding Formula, the Department of Education provides additional earmarked funding to support schools considering Transformation and for up to five years after the formal implementation of Transformation for specific purposes.


Will Transport Assistance Be Provided For Pupils?
The current arrangements for providing home to school transport came into operation in September 1997 (Circular 1996/41) and were last updated in September 2009. A pupil is only eligible for transport assistance if they enrol at a school that is beyond qualifying distance from their home (two miles for primary pupils or three miles for post-primary pupils) and they have been unsuccessful in gaining a place at all suitable schools within statutory walking distance. Where there is no suitable school within statutory walking distance from a child’s home, the EA may provide transport to any suitable school, provided an EA or public transport service to or in the vicinity of that school is already available.

A suitable school is a grant-aided school in any of the following categories.

Primary / Secondary Sector
Catholic Maintained, Controlled or other voluntary, Integrated, Irish Medium

Grammar Sector
Denominational, Non Denominational