Belfast Telegraph

Expansion for integrated school

The Enniskillen Integrated primary school visited by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year is to establish a new class following a charitable donation.

An extra 12 pupils will be enrolled into P1, allowing the number of first years to double.

Mr Obama and Mr Cameron paid a whistle stop call to the Co Fermanagh school ahead of the G8 summit of world leaders in June at the Lough Erne golf resort. In Belfast the President told an audience made up largely of schoolchildren that separate Catholic and Protestant schools encouraged division.

Enniskillen principal Adele Kerr said: "There is so much desire for integrated education in Northern Ireland."

At school, helping pupils paint a banner, the president was concerned about the punishment he would receive from the teacher for painting outside the lines.

But he struck a more serious note while addressing a youthful audience in Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

"If towns remain divided, if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs...that too encourages division. It discourages co-operation."

Enniskillen Integrated Primary is one of 62 cross-community schools in Northern Ireland, educating children of all religions and backgrounds together.

It was founded 24 years ago in response to the IRA Poppy Day bomb in the town which killed 11 people and injured dozens more.

The Department of Education has allowed the school to take on more P1 children this September and funded an additional teacher.

The Integrated Education Fund (IEF), a charity, has helped provide extra classroom space.

Ms Kerr said: "I'm confident we can show the demand is there to grow this thriving school and progress to full government funding to accommodate our pupils, eliminating the need for charitable help."

Recently First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness unveiled shared future plans to bring Catholic and Protestant children together in schemes rather than planning a fully integrated education system.

Catholic Archbishop Sean Brady has said reconciliation and peace building is an inherent part of church education.

Catholic schools generally outperformed other sectors in GCSE scores, post-16 staying rates, A-level results and the percentage of their school leavers going on to university, the primate added.

The grant was part of a total of £600,000 the IEF has distributed this year to integrated schools around Northern Ireland to help meet demand for places. Around 230 additional pupils have been accommodated and the fund had to turn down other requests for funding which would have seen around 400 additional places created.

Baroness May Blood, campaign chairwoman of the fund, said: "We are proud to be able to help provide more places in integrated schools to meet the growing demand from families who believe children of all backgrounds should go to school together in an environment of respect and understanding."

She added: "I look forward to the day when our education system is configured to meet fully the public desire to see children learning together."


From Belfast Telegraph