We have written these questions and answers following conversations with school staff and governors whose schools have gone through or are considering the Transformation process.
If you have any additional questions or would like more information please contact Jill Caskey by email Jill@ief.org.uk
Integrate My School is a website where parents can register their interest in their child’s school becoming an integrated school. It is designed to empower parents to express their support for integrated education.
It is not a voting system, but a place where parents can register their support for Transformation. Once the registrations on the website reach 10% the IEF will contact the school just to keep them informed and to encourage engagement with key stakeholders.
When registrations reach over 20% the IEF will again advise the school and provide details of all those who have registered. The school will then check and verify that those registered are parents/guardians of 20% of pupils in the school. The Department of Education then requires the school to hold a parental ballot, as detailed in The Department of Education Integration Works Guidance, p. 20:
‘the Board of Governors receives a signed request to initiate a ballot of parents from at least 20 percent of parents of pupils registered at the school.’
The consultation process can be started by any group involved in the school. You can help to start the process by going to the website www.integratemyschool.com to register your support for your child’s school to become integrated. To move on to the ballot phase, parents/guardians of at least 20% of pupils must request the ballot or the Board of Governors must pass a resolution to hold a ballot.
The Board of Governors will then write to the managing authority, for example the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and/or the Education Authority, to notify them of this decision. The ballot must be held between 1-3 months of this happening.
The parental ballot is the opportunity for parents to vote on whether they want the school to transform. The ballot is postal and organised by an independent organisation known as the CIVICA formerly the Electoral Reform Service (ERS), therefore all responses remain confidential. Every adult registered as a parent / legal guardian of a child at the school will get a vote. (One vote per registered parent/guardian).
Yes. All schools except Special Schools and Hospital Schools can transform. Their admissions policy may however need to be changed to ensure that the transformed school is able to recruit 10% of their next year’s intake from whichever is their minority community.
For the result to be considered, at least 50% of parents must vote. If there is a turn-out of less than 50% then a second ballot will automatically take place. If 51% or more of those who have voted, vote in favour of transformation, then a development proposal for transformation must be submitted to the Education Authority (EA). The EA will then publish an advertisement in the press and there will be a two month consultation period during which time relevant supporting data from the school (including an Action Plan for Integration) will be lodged with the Department of Education.
The Development Proposal will be submitted to the Education Authority by the Board of Governors. It will be written by the principal with input from the senior staff and other support bodies such as the Education Authority itself and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE). Teachers and parents are likely to have some involvement at a consultative level. The Development Proposal and action plan must outline how the school will remain viable in future years, how and when changes will be made to ensure there is an integrated ethos and the school is open to all, and also how the school will ensure that the appropriate religious balance is achieved.
The final decision regarding the Transformation rests with the Minister for Education who will base their judgement on the information available to them. This will include data relating to long term viability, educational standards and the ability of the school to achieve and maintain religious balance. Schools must be able to demonstrate that they can achieve a minimum of 10% of their Year1/Year8 intake from the minority population within the school’s enrolment and also the potential to achieve a minimum of 30% in the longer term.
There are currently 65 integrated schools across Northern Ireland; 45 primary schools and 20 post-primary schools.
As of January 2019, 25 schools have already transformed into integrated schools thanks to the support of their parents. Principals, staff and parents of these schools are happy to share their experience with other interested schools - you can contact the IEF to arrange this.
The Integrated Education Fund (IEF), the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and the Education Authority (EA) will be available to offer guidance and support at all stages of the transformation process. The services and support offered by these organisations will continue even after integrated status has been achieved.
Transforming schools can choose to be either Grant Maintained Integrated or Controlled Integrated, but all transforming schools to date have been controlled schools which have decided to remain with the Education Authority and have taken on Controlled Integrated Status.
The Board of Governors will increase in size to reflect the interests of the minority community. Additional places will also be made available for ‘parent governors’ to allow greater parental involvement in the running of the school.
No. There is no guarantee that becoming integrated will result in an increase in pupil numbers, however it is possible that there will be an increase, as the school will be providing for, and open to, children from all backgrounds.
If the managing authority for the school has confirmed it will close, or has already closed it, it is not possible for the school to transform or re-open.
The process is made up of the following stages. In planning for Transformation, there will be an initial exploration phase. This will involve information gathering and awareness raising to develop a clearer understanding of:
The school will then prepare a Transformation Plan that details the actions, time and resources needed to progress integration effectively.
The Transformation Process can be formally initiated in one of two ways:
If the parents vote in favour of Transformation, the school submits a Development Proposal to the EA for publication.
The Department will then consider the Development Proposal. If the Minister for Education approves the Development Proposal, the effective date of Transformation will be the start of a given academic year (normally 1 September).
There is no set time frame for the process. However, before the effective date of Transformation, it is very important that a school has sufficient time to:
Consequently, a Development Proposal should be published at least 18 months before the proposed 1 September implementation date.
If a Development Proposal is published with a shorter time frame, the Department may modify the proposed implementation date after discussion with the proposer.
For a school to no longer be integrated, the Education Minister must approve a further Development Proposal to change the school’s management type. The religious balance within a school does not affect its legal position as a Grant-Maintained Integrated or Controlled Integrated school.
All transforming schools, including Catholic Maintained schools, can choose to be either Grant Maintained Integrated or Controlled Integrated. All transforming schools to date have been Controlled Schools that have become controlled integrated schools. In this case, the EA remains the managing authority for the school and there is no effect on ownership or employment.
Yes. The Board of Governors will be reconstituted to reflect the membership required by law of a Controlled Integrated or Grant Maintained Integrated school. The table on p. 37 of the DE Integration Works, Transforming Your School document sets out the required membership of school Boards of Governors by category. The table does not include membership of the principal and co-opted governors.
The Board of Governors sets the admissions criteria for each school. You can check out this link for more details.
“Every school has admissions criteria. Schools that are oversubscribed follow these criteria when allocating places. The school's Board of Governors set the criteria.”
In an Integrated school the Department of Education will recommend, alongside NICIE, that these are reviewed to offer a genuine commitment to integrated education.
The Department of Education have specified different criteria for existing schools wishing to change their status to integrated. They have stated that "schools must be able to demonstrate that they can achieve a minimum of 10% of their Year 1/Year 8 intake from the minority population within the school's enrolment”. The DE Integration Works Guidance document provides some further detail on P. 34.
All grant-aided schools are funded under the Common Funding Formula arrangements set out in the Common Funding Scheme, available on the Department’s website. Separately from the Common Funding Formula, the Department of Education provides additional earmarked funding to support schools considering Transformation and for up to five years after the formal implementation of Transformation for specific purposes.
A Development Proposal is required to increase or decrease the total approved enrolment of a grant-aided school.
When registrations reach over 20% the IEF will again advise the school and provide details of all those who have registered. The school will then check and verify that those registered make up parents/guardians of 20% of pupils in the school.
While the legislation refers only to reasonable numbers of Catholics and Protestants, the aim for transforming schools has been in the longer term to attract at least 30 percent of pupils from the minority tradition within the school’s enrolment. The Department recognises, however, that this can present challenges for individual schools, dependent on the demographics of the local area and also due to the increasing number of pupils designating as ‘other’ or ‘no religion’. The Department and NICIE will provide advice and support to schools with particularly low numbers of pupils from the minority community.
The NICIE Statement of Principles suggest an aspirational guideline of 40% catholic, 40% protestant and 20% of other pupils, however the demographic of the area would be taken into consideration when setting what a school should strive to attract. In its first year the Department of Education would suggest a school should aim to attract 10% of the minority community, in P1/Year 8 and should strive to get this to 30% longer time.
In terms of future pupils the Board of Governors would decide whether to adjust their admissions criteria to ensure that sufficient numbers of pupils are attracted from the minority community.
No. The 20% required to trigger a parental ballot refers to a petition by parents / guardians of at least 20% of pupils in the school. The parental ballot is the opportunity for parents to vote on whether they want the school to transform. The ballot is postal and organised by an independent organisation known as CIVICA, formerly the Electoral Reform Service (ERS) and therefore all responses remain confidential. Every adult registered as a parent/guardian of a child at the school will get a vote, (one vote per registered parent or guardian). The parental ballot will give all eligible parents/guardians the opportunity to vote, irrespective of whether or not they registered on the IMS website.