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Two more rural schools to seek integrated status

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Thumbs up: Gillygooley PS in Omagh

Thumbs up: Gillygooley PS in Omagh

Sion Mills Primary School. Credit: Declan Roughan/PressEye

Sion Mills Primary School. Credit: Declan Roughan/PressEye

Mandatory Credit PressEye

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Thumbs up: Gillygooley PS in Omagh

Parents at two rural primary schools in Co Tyrone have voted overwhelmingly in favour of beginning the process of transformation to integrated status.

Sion Mills PS and Gillygooley PS in Omagh both held the parental ballots necessary to begin the procedure.

All parents were eligible to vote in the ballot, with 69% of Sion Mills PS parents casting a vote.

Some 98.7% voted yes to integrated status for the school, providing a resounding endorsement for their future plans.

In Gillygooley PS there was 100% turn out and 100% voted in favour of moving to the next stage of the transformation process.

There are currently 68 integrated schools in Northern Ireland with two more to follow in September this year, including Glengormley High School, which last month became the first post-primary school to transform to integrated status since 2009.

The news has been welcomed by Oonagh McNelis, principal at Sion Mills PS.

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“Sion Mills Primary School has had a long history of serving all parts of the community and surrounding area since the Herdman family set up a school in the village in 1879,” she said.

“Cross community education and inclusivity has been part of our ethos for almost 150 years. The natural next step for the school was to seek to formally integrate through the transformation process.

“In everything we do as a school, we put the children and families first.

“We’d like to thank the parents for pointing the way forward,” she added.

"We know through experience that learning together in an inclusive environment, even from this young age, is what is best for all children.”

And at Gillygooley PS acting principal Jayne Baird said the school was delighted at the unanimous support for integrated status.

“We have a long tradition of providing a high standard of education to the rural community on the outskirts of Omagh, and we pride ourselves in encouraging our pupils from all communities to respect and learn from each other.

“Everything we do within our school community has the overarching ethos of ‘Loving to Learn, Learning to Love’ and integrated status is an exciting next step for us.”

Tina Merron, chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund said the news is another major boost in the campaign for greater integration in education.

“This positive news coming so soon after the success of the Integrated Education Bill shows that parents are firmly behind the ideal of educating children together,” she said.

The next step for both schools will be compiling a development proposal, which will be submitted to the Department of Education.

The Minister for Education will then make the final decision.


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