Schools write to parents over concerns around integrated schools plan

Some schools are reported to have written to parents, expressing concerns that proposed legislation on integrated education will disadvantage other sectors.

By Mark Rainey
Monday, 14th February 2022, 7:23 pm
Updated Monday, 14th February 2022, 11:02 pm
Classroom generic
Classroom generic

Both Catholic and controlled schools have issued letters saying that one particular school type should “not be elevated” above another.

They are a direct response to the Integrated Education Bill, proposed by Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong, which is passing through its consideration stages at Stormont.

In the letter issued by some Catholic schools, parents are told the bill “aims to elevate integrated schools above every other type of school,” the BBC has reported.

The letter adds: “The bill as introduced will put education bodies in an impossible position by placing additional duties that will create conflict with their existing duties.

“Concerningly, if this bill is passed in its current form, the legislation will potentially advantage the integrated sector over all other sectors on a range of educational issues.

“This bill ignores the diversity of Catholic schools and assumes diversity is only possible in an integrated school.”

The wording is similar on the letter sent out by a number of controlled schools.

It states: “If this bill is passed in its current form, it means that integrated schools will have advantages and will benefit from more opportunities for extra places, additional funding and resources as well as priority for new builds,” it claimed.

“There has been no direct consultation with schools, parents or the community.”

On Monday, DUP MLA Diane Dodds urged all MLAs with concerns to sign a petition of concern aimed at blocking the passage of the bill.

She said: “The Integrated Education Bill does nothing to deliver greater integration or better education. It is a rushed piece of legislation which is aimed at boosting one sector our education system whilst leaving 93% of pupils disadvantaged.

“Possibly because of the failure to carry out any proper consultation, many people were initially unaware of its contents. However over the last few weeks parents, teachers and the wider public have been voicing their opposition to this bill and its impact on all schools outside of the Integrated sector.”

There are currently 65 grant-aided integrated schools in NI. Last year there were 10,665 primary and 13,467 post-primary children attending integrated schools.

Following criticism of the bill from DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson last week, the bill’s proposer Ms Armstrong hit back at the DUP’s claims, telling the News Letter that her bill “does not take funding from any other school or children, nor does it put integrated education above any other sectors”.

She added: “Rather it is about making provision for its support and ensuring parents who want to send their children to integrated schools are given the opportunity.”

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