A period of public consultation has begun following the submission of a proposal to the Education Authority by a Parental Steering Group in the Mid Down area to establish a new Integrated Post Primary School accommodating 600 pupils.
There has been a continued increase in demand for integrated education across Northern Ireland in recent years and in the 2019/2020 academic year, more than 25% of pupils who had placed an integrated post primary school as their first choice could not be accommodated.
The Development Proposal seeks to provide places for the many children and families who currently cannot access the Post Primary education of their choice. Parents who wish to view or support the proposal for the new school proposal by completing an Expression of Interest or Community support form can do so at www.nicie.org/mid-down-project/eoi/
Roisin Marshall, CEO Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education said: “I am delighted to see this proposal being brought forward by a Parent Steering Group. This presents a real opportunity to provide much sought after Post Primary Integrated Education for the Mid Down area. NICIE’s role is to support initiatives and create opportunities for children to be educated together. The demographics of the area have highlighted a very significant level of unmet demand for Integrated Education. This will ensure more choice in the area and allow families the possibility of accessing Integrated Education from age of 3 to 18.” The proposal has demonstrated the need for the school due to the expansion of the population in the area, with many young families and children seeking places at an Integrated school.
Tim Jackson, Co-Chair of the Parental Steering Group commented: “For the last two years the steering group has been gathering expressions of interest with the view to submitting a Development Proposal for a new 11-18 Integrated school in the Mid Down area. Our engagements with the local community have highlighted the fact that there is very substantial demand for a school of this type. With the support of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), we have now submitted a Case for Change to the Education Authority which will then progress to the Minister for Education. There is a real hope, desire and appetite for fresh opportunities for our children to be educated together in a new Integrated College.”
Amanda McNamee, Principal of Lagan College Belfast highlighted: “We welcome this initiative to develop a new 11-18 Integrated College. At Lagan College, we have been fortunate to be a very popular school in South Belfast but as a consequence this has resulted in us being forced to sadly, turn away hundreds of children which has meant that many families who are seeking a Post Primary Integrated Educational experience regrettably miss out. Unmet demand is a well-documented problem in the Greater Belfast and Mid Down area, and as a school community we are fully supportive to see this proposal being brought forward and offering a solution to the growing number of families who wish to send their child/children to an Integrated Post Primary School.”
Stephen Taylor, Principal, Blackwater Integrated College said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project which seeks to provide a solution for children at Blackwater Integrated College and meet the needs of families new to Integrated Education. Due to the limitations of our current site we cannot expand as we need to. This proposal offers great opportunity for our school to become part of an exciting new initiative, in what will be, eventually, a state of the art facility for children of all abilities and backgrounds. The inclusion of a Sixth Form from an early stage within the project is exciting, and a welcomed opportunity for progression for young people. It is our expectation that the size of the school, which is projected to be for a minimum of 600 pupils, will facilitate the delivery of a curriculum, which will meet the needs of all students.”
Sandra Patterson, a teacher at an Integrated Post Primary School and member of the parental steering group concluded: “As a teacher within an Integrated College, I have witnessed first-hand the benefits to young people of being educated within an Integrated environment. This is what I want for my children and I am disappointed that 11-18 Integrated Education is not currently on offer in my locality. As such I have taken inspiration to be part of the change. I fully support this Development Proposal and look forward to having the opportunity to send my children to an 11-18 Integrated College in the Mid Down area. Integrated Education, in my opinion, is the way forward for our community.”
Those wishing to show their support for the new school proposal as a parent should complete an Expression of Interest form before Monday 20th September 2021. Others wishing to show support can complete a Community Support form, these can be found at: www.nicie.org/mid-down-project/eoi/