Belfast Telegraph

Education in Northern Ireland: Integration the key to our future

By Gerard Cunningham

The community around Clintyclay Primary School is awaiting, hopefully, the decision of the Education Minister John O'Dowd regarding the future of our school. It is, admittedly, a small school but I can proudly say that we meet the official sustainability criteria in all other respects. The budget is safe, the academic performance sound, and the role played in the neighbourhood is significant.

Yet we are under threat. The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools has put forward a development proposal to the department that Clintyclay PS should close – that the good management, good teaching and high local regard for our school should go. John O'Dowd is considering this proposal.

However, the school community has another idea. We could transform and become an integrated school. This would mean a change of management and we would no longer be a direct concern of the CCMS – although the new ethos would certainly not mean severing links with the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church.

So John O'Dowd is also considering this proposal. The campaign is following the statutory procedure for transformation. A ballot found that all parents involved in the school support the move. Further, a public meeting showed wider community support for the idea. And, importantly, an independent poll researched the views of parents in the Clintyclay, Loughgall and Dungannon area and found that the majority would like to see integrated education available locally. Campaigners are thus confident that Clintyclay, which already educates Protestant children, is an ideal candidate for transformation. Nearby schools – controlled and integrated – are full and a Clintyclay integrated school would ensure that primary education provision genuinely meets local needs.

This is surely the aim of area planning for education? Yet we are unusual and lucky to have a snapshot of what parents around us want; surely this should be rolled out throughout Northern Ireland?

The 1986 Act says children should be educated (if practicable) according to the wishes of their parents. Permission to transform Clintyclay would meet those wishes locally.

Gerard Cunningham is governor of Clintyclay Primary School in Dungannon

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