Public consultation on Glengormley High School’s integrated request
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Ricky Massey, who became head at the Ballyclare Road School, Newtownabbey, in April 2018, believes there is “a growing appetite and demand from parents to have their children educated in an integrated school.”
He was speaking as plans to change the school to an integrated set up reached the public consultation stage.
Parents were balloted on the proposal to transform Glengormley High to integrated status in March 2020. Following the vote, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education said: “Glengormley High School is celebrating the fantastic outcome of their recent parental ballot which has resulted in a resounding ‘Yes’ from parents for the school to begin the journey of working towards achieving integrated status.”
Speaking to this newspaper today (Friday), Mr Massey, said: “We submitted our ‘Case for Change’ to the Department of Education a number of months ago. This was then sent out for consultation to schools and that short period of consultation ended on February 25.
“We are now at the public consultation stage which has literally only commenced. This will take place over a two-month statutory period, managed by the Department of Education. Following this two-month period, the Minister of Education will consider his response - which we hope and believe will be a yes.
“The pandemic has not held up our transformation plans as we have been working away in the background in preparation for this statutory period. We believe that following the public consultation period, the minister will have enough time to consider consultation responses in time for meeting our expected transformation date of September 2022.
“There is a growing appetite and demand from parents to have their children educated in an integrated school. Remember, the aim of integrated education is very simple - it brings children and staff from Catholic and Protestant traditions, as well as those of other beliefs, cultures and communities together in one school.
“This is not about minimising culture or heritage, but rather it is about joining young people from different cultures and traditions to learn together, to learn from each other, to train in sport together, to eat lunch together and to walk to and from school together - no matter their religious or traditional background. In actual fact, integrated education helps us to understand and appreciate the different perspectives within our own community.
“I regularly interview students to get their views on their experience of life in Glengormley High School. When I start to discuss integrated education during these sessions - the most common response is ‘why are we only doing this now?’ This is a very good question to ask!”
The Education Authority (EA) has welcomed the latest development, but stressed “work is required to achieve a religious balance in the school”.
A spokesperson for the EA explained: “The Education Authority recognises its duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education under the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. Glengormley High School has seen an increase in its enrolment in the last two years, 2019/20 and 2020/21, with a marked increase in Year 8 numbers in September 2020.
“The Education Authority notes that while the 2011 Census records the demographic profile of Glengormley as 42.35 per cent belonging to or were brought up in the Catholic religion and 49.56 per cent belonging to or being brought up as Protestant, the school’s current religious balance does not currently reflect the area.
Some work is required to increase the religious balance within the school should approval be granted to transform to controlled integrated status.
“It is acknowledged that the two closest integrated post-primary schools are oversubscribed on an annual basis.
“The Education Authority supports the proposal to transform Glengormley High School to controlled integrated status while noting that work is required to achieve a religious balance within the school.”
Click here to read Glengormley High progressing plans for integrated status
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