Belfast Telegraph

School integration is a long process but definitely worth it, says Killyleagh Primary principal

By Claire O'Boyle

A pretty rural school might not seem the most obvious place for a revolution, but that is what happened at Killyleagh Primary.

The countryside school joined 64 others across Northern Ireland last September by making the move to integration, marking a momentous change for its 100 pupils.

Principal Jason Milligan admitted that some parents took a bit of convincing, but in the end the school did not lose a single child in the change.

"Luckily, they stuck with us," Mr Milligan added. "It's been a great move for the school and the kids. Naturally, people get concerned when their children are involved, so it's a long process."

For many mums and dads, integration was a fantastic option.

Jill Cash is on the board of governors and has two children at the school, Leah (7), and four-year-old Evie.

She said: "I was all for this. As far as I can see, the more mixed kids are, the better. I'm from Drumaness, a mainly Catholic area, so I've grown up with this.

"My mum's side of the family is all mixed, and growing up I would play camogie at home and then go into school and play hockey. I didn't see any difference and that's how it should be.

"When Leah was leaving pre-school she couldn't understand why they weren't all going to the same school. Your religion is something you can't help."

Sandra Simpson agreed. Her children, Charlie (11), Ashlee (9), and four-year-old Harry are also at the school.

"Our family is mixed already, so we were very keen," she said. "My brother is married to a Catholic, so our kids have grown up with their cousins not knowing any difference.

"The idea of my kids being segregated made me nervous. I don't like the idea of it."

The change came to Killyleagh Integrated Primary School when Mr Milligan received information from the Integrated Education Fund and took it to the board of governors.

He said: "We got someone out from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education to speak to the parents, then we had a vote in December 2014.

"We got 84% in favour and a put together a proposal that finally got ministerial approval last January. It's a long process, but it's definitely worth it."

However, the road to success was not always smooth.

Jill explained: "There was a lot of confusion from some parents who thought the kids would be taught Irish and be playing Gaelic football."

Mr Milligan told them that would not be the case at all.

He said: "Those things didn't happen. After all the work, we would be happy to recommend this to other schools."

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