First Integrated Nursery School approved by Minister

10 June, 2021

First Integrated Nursery School approved by Education Minister.

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) welcomes the announcement from the Department of Education that Brefne Nursery School, Belfast has been successful in their proposal to Transform to Integrated status. Brefne Nursery School become the first Nursery School to Transform to Integrated status.

NICIE CEO Roisin Marshall at Early Years and Foundation Stage – Summer Conference – 30th August 2018

Photograph by Declan Roughan

Chief Executive Officer of NICIE, Roisin Marshall stated: “This is a big achievement for Brefne Nursery School as they become the first freestanding Integrated Nursery School. We offer warm congratulations to the whole school community. They not only supported children and families through the pandemic, but also finalised their proposal for submission to the Minister. It is great to see their hard work pay off”.

Principal of Brefne Nursery School, Mrs Victoria McGimpsey stated: “…We are extremely proud to be the first Nursery School to transform and believe this marks a bright and exciting future for nursery education in Northern Ireland. At Brefne Nursery our focus is always the children. They are at the centre of everything we do. We have always encouraged children & families to come together to celebrate their differences in the hope that we are giving the children a positive beginning to their lifelong educational journey, both inside and outside of the school building. We cannot thank everyone enough who has supported and guided us throughout this process and look forward to sharing the celebrations with all involved over the coming weeks”.

The Chairperson of Brefne N.S Board of Governors, Mrs Elaine Crozier added: “This is the formal recognition of the complexion of our school community, which has seen children of all backgrounds being educated together for the past 50 years. It is a great reward for decades of hard work and a marvellous way to end the school year”.

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) has been providing support alongside the Integrated Education Fund to Brefne Nursery School since 2018, leading to the proposal being published by the Department of Education in March 2021.

The 1989 Education Reform (NI) Order contains the legislation that enables a school to Transform to Integrated status. Originally, this did not include Nursery Schools until the Education (NI) Order 1998 changed this position. The proposal submitted by Brefne NS represents the first time the amended legislation has been utilised. Roisin Marshall outlined the significance of this landmark decision: “It is often stated that pre-school provision is open to children of all backgrounds. However, we know from the statistics that there are high levels of separation across the system. The recent ‘Fair Start’ report has again highlighted the importance of early years provision in supporting our children and young people’s attainment. We believe that early years’ settings that intentionally educate children together to learn about diversity and inclusion will provide a firm foundation for our children as they move through education and beyond. Many of our Integrated Primary Schools include successful Nursery Units or have a playgroup attached to them. We warmly welcome the first Integrated Nursery School and look forward to learning together for a shared society”.

Brefne N.S will Transform to Integrated status from September 2021, with 26 places available for children in the local community. They join Seaview P.S, Glenarm, Carrickfergus Central P.S and Harding Memorial P.S who have all been approved by the Minister this year. Bangor Central Nursery School are also seeking to Transform, with their proposal currently out for public consultation.

NICIE welcomes engagement with schools of any sector or management type that wish to explore how Integrated Education can enable them to build an intentionally diverse, inclusive and sustainable school.