FAQs for School Staff and Governors

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

If you have any additional questions or would like more information please contact Jill Caskey by email Jill@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).

 

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.

 

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.

 

Who Writes The Development Proposal And Action Plan, And What Needs To Be Included?
The Development Proposal will be submitted to the Education Authority by the Board of Governors. It will be written by the principal with input from the senior staff and other support bodies such as the Education Authority itself and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE). Teachers and parents are likely to have some involvement at a consultative level. The development proposal and action plan must outline how the school will remain viable in future years, how and when changes will be made to ensure there is an integrated ethos and the school is open to all, and also how the school will ensure that the appropriate religious balance is achieved.

 

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.

 

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.

 

What Support Will Be Available For The School If It Decides To Become Integrated?
The Integrated Education Fund, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and the Education Authority (EA) will be available to offer guidance and support at all stages of the transformation process. The services and support offered by these organisations will continue even after integrated status has been achieved.

 

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.

 

Does Transformation Guarantee An Increase In Pupil Numbers?
No. There is no guarantee that becoming integrated will result in an increase in pupil numbers, however it is possible that there will be an increase, as the school will be providing for, and open to, children from all backgrounds.

 

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.

 

How Many Pupils From The Minority Community Do We Need To Attract?
While the legislation refers only to reasonable numbers of Catholics and Protestants, the aim for transforming schools has been in the longer term to attract at least 30 percent of pupils from the minority tradition within the school’s enrolment. The Department recognises, however, that this can present challenges for individual schools, dependent on the demographics of the local area and also due to the increasing number of pupils designating as ‘other’ or ‘no religion’. The Department and NICIE will provide advice and support to schools with particularly low numbers of pupils from the minority community.

 

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).

 

How Long Does The Process Take?
There is no set time frame for the process. However, before the effective date of Transformation, it is very important that a school has sufficient time to:

• provide clarity to parents and the wider community on its new identity as an integrated school;
• produce information on the transformed school’s ethos and admissions arrangements; and
• attract pupils from the minority community.

Consequently, a Development Proposal should be published at least 18 months before the proposed 1 September implementation date.

If a Development Proposal is published with a shorter time frame, the Department may modify the proposed implementation date after discussion with the proposer.

 

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 Management Arrangements For The School Change?
All transforming schools, including Catholic maintained schools, can choose to be either grant maintained integrated or controlled integrated. All transforming schools to date have been controlled schools that have become controlled integrated schools. In this case, the EA remains the managing authority for the school and there is no effect on ownership or employment.

 

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 grant maintained 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.

 

Can My School Increase In Size?
A Development Proposal is required to increase or decrease the total approved enrolment of a grant-aided school.