Belfast Telegraph

Stormont must heed groundswell of support for integration

By Tina Merron

Once again we have evidence that the public wish to see children of all communities educated together.

LucidTalk carried out a micro-poll focusing on the views of parents within a 12-mile radius of Clintyclay Primary School in County Tyrone.

This is the school which is challenging tradition as the first Catholic maintained school to apply to become formally integrated through the Department of Education's transformation process.

This is the school which, having always played an important role in the local community, is one of the latest representatives of a citizen-led movement to create an education landscape which meets the needs and demands of local parents.

The results in support of integrated education should not surprise us; they echo the results of earlier, Northern Ireland-wide surveys which showed not only approval of the idea of integrated education, but also that almost 80% of parents would support their local school if it, like Clintyclay Primary and others, sought to transform to integrated status.

There is no reason that any good school cannot offer the added value of becoming integrated because the process to transform is there.

As the earlier surveys showed, however, not everyone is aware of the possibility, never mind the process.

Parents – the major stakeholders in education, who entrust their children to the system every day – apparently feel left out of education when it comes to strategic planning.

The majority of those questioned by LucidTalk were not aware of the move to transform Clintyclay even though a public consultation has been carried out (as is the case for every school development proposal). Several respondents commented on a lack of engagement when it comes to education planning.

The department has been carrying out an initiative to increase parental involvement in their child's schooling under the banner Education Works; a very laudable aim but surely it is time to engage parents further: by properly acknowledging their views when it comes to strategic planning.

It is time for a planning process which both informs and consults communities over the crucial issue of education delivery.

Tina Merron is chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund

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