Mid Down Project Press Release May 2021

Exciting New Integrated College Proposal Submitted for Mid Down Area

Summary Key Points:

  • A proposal has been submitted by a Parental Steering Group in the Mid Down area to establish a new Integrated Post Primary school.
  • There is a demonstrated need for the school due to the expansion of the population in the area, with many young families and children seeking places at an Integrated school.
  • In 2018-2019 more than a fifth of Primary 7 pupils in Northern Ireland who applied for a place in a Post Primary Integrated College were not offered a place. The following year this rose to almost a quarter of pupils not getting a place.
  • This initiative seeks to provide opportunities for the many families who currently cannot access the Post Primary education of their choice.
  • You can show your support for the new school proposal by completing an Expression of Interest or Community support form at nicie.org/mid-down-project/eoi/

A proposal has been submitted by a Parental Steering Group in the Mid Down area to establish a new Integrated Post Primary school.

Frances Lowry, Co-Chair of Mid Down Integrated College Parental Steering Group; Ann Toman, Chair of the Board of Governors for Blackwater Integrated College; Roisin Marshall, CEO of Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education; Paul Caskey, Head of Campaigns at Integrated Education Fund; Tim Jackson, Co-Chair of Mid Down Integrated College Parental Steering Group and Hilary Crichton, Principal of Cedar Integrated Primary School are pictured with pupils Nora Ellison and Felix Jackson
Photograph by Declan Roughan

Roisin Marshall, CEO NICIE stated: 

“I am delighted to see this proposal being brought forward by a group of parents. This presents a real opportunity to provide much sought after Post Primary Integrated Education for the Mid Down area. NICIE’s role is to support initiatives and create opportunities for children to be educated together. The demographics of the area have highlighted a very significant level of unmet demand for Integrated Education. This will ensure more choice in the area and allow families the possibility of accessing Integrated Education from age of 3 to 18.”

The putting together of this proposal has demonstrated the need for the school due to the expansion of the population in the area, with many young families and children seeking places at an Integrated school.

Amanda McNamee, Principal of Lagan College Belfast highlighted:

 “We welcome this initiative to develop a new 11-18 Integrated College. At Lagan College, we have been very fortunate to be a very popular school in South Belfast but as a consequence this has resulted in us being forced to sadly, turn away hundreds of children which has meant that many families who are seeking a Post Primary Integrated Educational experience regrettably miss out. Unmet demand is a well-documented problem in the Greater Belfast and Mid Down area, and as a school community we are fully supportive to see this proposal being brought forward and offering a solution to the growing number of families who wish to send their child/children to an Integrated Post Primary School.” 

The applications and admissions process for 2018-2019 highlighted that more than a fifth of Primary 7 pupils in Northern Ireland who applied for a place in a Post Primary Integrated school were not offered a place. The following year this rose to almost a quarter of pupils. This initiative seeks to provide an opportunity for the many families who cannot currently access the Post Primary education of their choice.

Frances Lowry and Tim Jackson, Co-Chairs of the Parental Steering Group commented:

“For the last 2 years the steering group have been gathering expressions of interest with the view to submitting a Development Proposal for a new 11-18 Integrated school in the Mid Down area. Our engagements with the local community have highlighted the fact that there is very substantial demand for a school of this type. With the support of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), we have now submitted a Case for Change to the Education Authority which will then progress to the Minister for Education. There is a real hope, desire and appetite for fresh opportunities for our children to be educated together in a new Integrated College.”

Stephen Taylor, Principal, Blackwater Integrated College reflected:

“We are delighted to be involved in this project which seeks to provide a solution for children at Blackwater Integrated College and meet the needs of families new to Integrated Education. Due to the limitations of our current site we cannot expand as we need to. This proposal offers great opportunity for our school to become part of an exciting new initiative, in what will be, eventually, a state of the art facility for children of all abilities and backgrounds. The inclusion of a Sixth Form from an early stage within the project is exciting, and a welcomed opportunity for progression for young people. It is our expectation that the size of the school, which is projected to be for a minimum of 600 pupils, will facilitate the delivery of a curriculum, which will meet the needs of all students.”

Sandra Patterson a teacher at an Integrated Post Primary School and member of the parental steering group commented:

“As a teacher within an Integrated College, I have witnessed first-hand the benefits to young people of being educated within an Integrated environment. This is what I want for my children. I was disappointed that 11-18 Integrated Education is not currently on offer in my locality. As such I have taken inspiration to be part of the change. I fully support this Development Proposal and look forward to having the opportunity to send my children to an 11-18 Integrated College in the Mid Down area. Integrated Education, in my opinion, is the way forward for our community.”  

Anyone wishing to show their support for the new school proposal as a parent should complete an Expression of Interest form. Others wishing to show support can complete a Community Support form, these can be found at:

www.nicie.org/mid-down-project/eoi/

For further information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson from NICIE please contact Lorna McAlpine, Senior Development Officer at NICIE on 07789 809445 (mobile) or via email to lmcalpine@nicie.org.uk