First Catholic school conversion to integrated is blocked

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Efforts to convert first Catholic school in Northern Ireland to integrated status has been blocked by the Department of Education permanent secretary.

Clintyclay Primary, near Dungannon in County Tyrone is a small rural school which had 36 pupils in 2017/18.

Education Permenant Secretary Derek Baker said it was a complex case with a number of “sustainability issues”.

“This is a complex case, which has been complicated and drawn out by Judicial Review proceedings,” he told the BBC.

“The evidence available demonstrates a number of sustainability issues, which clearly need to be addressed.”

It will now be up to the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) to decide the school’s future.

However, Mr Baker has also left open the possibility for school governors to try again for integhrated status.

A letter from the chair of the governors, Gerard Cunningham, to Department of Education (DE) indicates that is something that they are considering.

Parents voted to change to integrated status in 2014 however that move was rejected at the time, which led to legal action.

The then Education Minister John O’Dowd in turn appealed the decision to quash his order to close the school.

Following further legal hearings the DE undertook to look again at the proposal.

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) backed the conversion. In a submission to DE in February 2018 it said that “integrated status in the long term would have positive benefits for the school and the community”.

However, the department announced that it has again rejected the conversion.