Belfast Telegraph

Sector wins its first legal challenge

By Rebecca Black

A decision by Education Minister John O'Dowd to prevent an integrated school expanding - despite the ruling of a judicial review - has sparked anger.

Drumragh Integrated College first applied in 2012 to expand from 580 pupils to 750.

This was turned down by Mr O'Dowd who said he felt it would have a negative impact on other schools in the area.

Omagh is set to be the location of the first major shared education campus project, with six schools preparing to move on to the Lisanelly site. A parent of a child at Drumragh Integrated College took a judicial review of the minister's decision in 2013.

Last May, Mr Justice Treacy said the department had failed in its legal duty to "facilitate and encourage" integrated education.

He also criticised the department's 'area-based' planning policy that has been used to determine which schools will remain open, expand, close or amalgamate to meet future demand.

Handing down his 13-page judgment - the first legal challenge of its kind by the integrated sector - the judge described the department's approach as "inflexible" and the "opposite of encouraging and facilitating" integrated education.

Following this judgment in September 2014, Drumragh again applied to expand to 750 pupils.

But Tina Merron, the chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund, said the matter will not be allowed to rest, and that they will be seeking further legal advice.

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