We have written these questions and answers following conversations with parents / guardians whose children's schools have gone through or are considering the Transformation process.
If you have any additional questions or would like more information, please contact IEF's Parental Engagement Outreach Officer Andrew Norrie by email: Andrew@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).
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.
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.
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.
Your school will try to cater for the cultural interests, including games, of both the main traditions of Northern Ireland. All pupils will be able to participate or not, as they wish.
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.
The process of Transformation can take less than a year or it can take three years or more. Each school moves forward at its own pace but in each case the process includes the same stages:
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. In the absence of a Minister for Education then this decision will be taken by the permanent secretary.
All schools, including integrated schools, are required to follow a core RE curriculum agreed by the four main churches. The Board of Governors will ensure that provision is made for Catholic children whose parents wish them to be prepared for the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Financial support may be available from the Department of Education to help school’s access specialist teaching for sacramental preparation.
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.
Integrated status will not diminish the quality of education provided at your school. In fact it will enhance it by providing new educational, social and cultural experiences. Many schools in Northern Ireland recognise the positive value of this and have engaged in cross community initiatives. Moving to integrated status will make these benefits permanent and at no extra cost.
Not necessarily. Some schools do decide, with the support of the school community, to introduce the term ‘integrated’ into their title or choose a new logo or even a completely new name to reflect their new status.
Area Planning is the process through which the Department of Education’s Sustainable Schools Policy is implemented. It aims to identify the need for all types of education provision in an area and to plan to meet that need. The Education Authority working in conjunction with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and the other sectoral support bodies, including representatives of the integrated sector, are involved in the planning process. Transformation is a process through which a sustainable school changes its management type and ethos to become integrated. This presents a valuable opportunity to increase the level of integrated education in an area to meet parental demand.
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 first person to ask about Transformation should be your school principal, or your Board of Governors. If you would like more information about what Transformation is before contacting your school, you can contact the IEF, NICIE, or the Education Authority, who should all be able to provide you with some more information. If you decide that you do want your school to transform, you can use the Integrate My School website to register your support.
The information you provide when you register your support on the Integrate My School website will be stored confidentially and securely by the Integrated Education Fund, a registered charity in Northern Ireland. Your support will remain completely anonymous until parents / guardians of 20% of pupils at the same school register their support. Then and only then will your school be informed of your preference. This will take the form of a private petition to the school on behalf of all the parents of your school who have registered on this website. You will be provided with regular updates and further information only if you have given your permission.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The current arrangements for providing home to school transport came into operation in September 1997 (Circular 1996/41) and were last updated in September 2009. A pupil is only eligible for transport assistance if they enrol at a school that is beyond qualifying distance from their home (two miles for primary pupils or three miles for post-primary pupils) and they have been unsuccessful in gaining a place at all suitable schools within statutory walking distance. Where there is no suitable school within statutory walking distance from a child’s home, the EA may provide transport to any suitable school, provided an EA or public transport service to or in the vicinity of that school is already available.
A suitable school is a grant-aided school in any of the following categories.
Catholic Maintained, Controlled or other voluntary, Integrated, Irish Medium
Denominational, Non Denominational
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.