Belfast Telegraph

Integrated college wins right to expand after judicial review

By Donna Deeney

An integrated college in Co Tyrone has won a legal challenge to expand its enrolment after being refused twice by the Department of Education.

Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh first submitted an application to grow its student numbers in 2012. However, the application was refused by the then Education Minister John O’Dowd.

Yesterday, principal Nigel Frith said he felt the legal challenge was the only option the school had after two refusals.

“This is the only integrated post primary school in the area and our main goal was that we just didn’t want to refuse a child who wanted an integrated education. It’s not as if there is another integrated college nearby.

“Judge Tracey did find in our favour and to be fair since that ruling the department has made huge changes. The delightful news now is that our third proposal has been approved.

“This will permit the college to increase its year 8 admissions from 96 to 105 each year, and also to increase the sixth form from 100 to 120 students. If we increase our year 8, year-on-year for the next five years the school will grow from 580 to 645.”

He said that at the heart of the legal challenge was the desire to  “meet significant demand from parents and children within the college’s wide catchment area” for integrated education.

Drumragh Integrated College had turned down the opportunity to be part of the huge Strule Shared Education Campus, which some viewed as one possible reason for the refusal of its development plans.

Mr Frith said the college decided to remain apart from Strule, saying that at the time it was “a concept with no certainty of going ahead.”

“We made the only realistic decision possible, to press on with our much-needed new site, and we moved in, in 2009,” he said. “From that decision forward, there was no possibility of Drumragh being invited into the Strule Campus.”

The Department of Education said: “The Permanent Secretary approved this Development Proposal based on the evidence provided and being mindful of the statutory duty in relation to encouraging and facilitating integrated education.

“The proposal was modified to reflect the evidence of the need for additional integrated places within the local area.”

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