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Disappointment as Weir rejects bid to increase numbers at integrated college in North Down


Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) has said it's bitterly disappointed after the DUP Education Minister refused a proposal to increase the number of pupils at a North Down college.

Strangford Integrated College had hoped to bring in an extra 20 pupils each year to go some way to offset the excess demand for places at the school.

The extra pupils would have brought the number admitted to the Newtownards school each year to 130.

NICIE said there was disappointment all round at the refusal of what would have been a modest increase in school numbers at the college.

"Over recent years the level of demand for integrated education at Strangford College has led to a series of temporary variations being granted by the Department of Education to help meet strong parental preference.

"The demand for integrated education can be seen across Northern Ireland. In the 2018/19 academic year, 21% of pupils who had placed an integrated post primary school as their first choice could not be accommodated. This proposal would have gone some way towards meeting this demand in the Ards and North Down area."

The only means of appeal would be through judicial review.

"The reasons cited by the Minister for rejection were outlined as the negative impact on other non-selective schools and the need for a wider area solution," NICIE said.

"NICIE would question the consistency of how these reasons have been applied, given the same rationale was not utilised when the Minister gave approval to increase admissions for another school in the same area.

"The rejection of Strangford College's proposal would appear to be at odds with the Department's statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education."

The Education Minister has said the proposal was refused as he believes the change in admissions and enrolment numbers would have "a clear detrimental impact on non selective education provision within schools in the Ards and North Down area".

"I believe that any decision of this nature should be part of a wider plan for the area rather than judged in isolation," Mr Weir said.

Belfast Telegraph

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