A new term means a fresh start for Seaview Integrated Primary School in Glenarm
The staff and children of Seaview Integrated Primary School in Glenarm returned today to what felt like a fresh start, and as the ribbon was cut and the doors opened, the first Catholic primary school in Northern Ireland to gain integrated status was ready to look forward to the future.
The school staff team were delighted when they discovered earlier this year that Peter Weir MLA, then Education Minister, had approved the school‘s bid to move to being an integrated school - a place of education that welcomes children from all faiths.
At the time the news was also welcomed by the Ballymena-born star, Liam Neeson, who has been an advocate of integrated education in Northern Ireland for many years and has worked with the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) as an ambassador to champion the process of conversion.
Mr Neeson commented in a special video message:
“I am delighted that so many parents across Northern Ireland are choosing an integrated future for their children. The recent news that Seaview Primary School in Glenarm is set to become the first Catholic school to become integrated is a positive step forward on the journey to an inclusive society. I’m delighted to say that Seaview is just one of a number of schools that has conducted a democratic ballot of its parents since the ‘Integrate My School Campaign’ was launched just a few years ago.
“I want to congratulate all of the parents, staff and governors in schools right across Northern Ireland, who are taking courageous steps to ensure children from different traditions, will get to learn and play together, every day, in the same school. You are actively helping to build inclusive communities. Well done. I am so proud of you all.”
The children of Seaview were as excited as the staff as they turned up ready on Wednesday morning (1 September) to enjoy education without barriers and looking forward to meeting new friends.
Brefne Nursery School, Belfast, Carrickfergus Central Primary School, and Harding Memorial Primary School, Belfast, also transformed to Controlled Integrated Status at the start of the new school year, meaning integrated schools in Northern Ireland will see their biggest increase in over a decade.
Recent surveys carried out by LucidTalk and the joint QUB/UU ARK project show continued public support for integrated education, with 71% of people in Northern Ireland believing that integrated education should be the norm, while 69% would want their children to attend a mixed-religion school.
Almost any school in Northern Ireland can begin the process of transforming to integrated status but no school transforms without majority support from parents, the first step in a process that culminates in approval from the Education Minister.
Schools are supported in their transformation journey by the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), who also provide financial support to help schools explore the process and work with its local school community. Integrated education continues to be the fastest growing form of education in Northern Ireland, with around 7.5% of all children nowattending an integrated school.
Roisin Marshall, Chief Executive of NICIE said:
“Four schools joining the integrated family this September is fantastic news, the most at any one time in over a decade. Each one of these transformations is the result of months, sometimes years, of hard work and effort by dedicated parents, staff and governors. This commitment has paid off, with the four schools embracing the diverse religious and cultural communities they serve, and securing a brighter future for generations of pupils to come.
“This is what the integrated movement has been about since Lagan College opened 40 years ago this September – parent power enabling children to learn together for a shared society. We are proud to support these school communities through the process of Transformation.”
Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the IEF added:
“We were absolutely delighted with the Minister’s decision to approve these four schools for integrated status and we look forward to supporting them on their integration journey.
“The IEF has been raising awareness of transformation through our ‘Integrate My School’ campaign and it is encouraging to see it being embraced so positively by parents and schools. The IEF and NICIE are working with more schools than ever before who desire formal integrated status and who see the added value that quality inclusive education brings for their children.”
Parents and schools interested in the process of transformation can contact IEF Parental Engagement Manager Andrew Norrie at Andrew@ief.org.uk or 077 6716 7827 or NICIE Senior Development Officer Sean Pettis Sean firstname.lastname@example.org : 028 9097 2910.