A number of Northern Ireland's Integrated Schools are schools that have transformed. Below are some of their stories. Many of the schools that have been through the transformation process are happy to share their experiences with you and answer any questions you may have.
For more information, contact the IEF Parental Engagement Campaign Manager Jill Caskey by email: Jill@ief.org.uk
Holywood High School transformed to become Priory Integrated College in 1997.
The process of becoming integrated began with a consultation with parents and pupils, including information evenings where everyone was encouraged to raise any concerns and queries so that these could be addressed. The next stage was a confidential ballot of all parents, run by Electoral Reform Services.
The parents of Holywood High School voted overwhelmingly in favour of transformation and the necessary development proposal was submitted to the authorities – at that time, the Education and Library Board and the Department of Education. The proposal was approved with the usual condition that the school should work to attract 30% of its enrolment from the minority community in the school’s catchment area.
A former principal, Peter McCreadie, noted that the move towards integration had an impact on the way staff and students interact with each other: “We wanted to involve our students in the development of their school... We also understood that developing pupil voice within our school community would develop the skills in our pupils that would enable them to work with others to make a positive difference to the community outside school."
“Today Priory Integrated College is a welcoming environment for pupils of all religions and none, from all backgrounds and of all abilities, with well over 30% of our pupil intake from minority communities throughout the area. We’re proud of our academic results and the rise in applications for admissions shows that we are providing what families in this area want.”
Jackie Magennis (Former Principal)
Errol Lemon, former Principal of Brownlow Integrated College, recalls:
“In more than 30 years of teaching, steering a school through the transformation to integrated status was the biggest but also the most satisfying challenge of my professional life. Our school shows that contentious issues can be resolved if there is goodwill – and in my experience there is plenty of goodwill among our young people. As one past pupil said to me, ‘If I hadn’t gone to Brownlow, I would never have met my best friend.’“
“…. there has to be give and take on both sides. But there was no hassle.
You’ll see the hallway at the minute – there is every kind of flag from around the world. All the colours you need! The school routine has changed a bit; we have the First Communion and a party here afterwards. All the staff and the parents get involved... that’s what I like about it; everyone just gets on.”
Roberta Forsyth (Caretaker, Glengormley Integrated Primary School)
“I feel we’re setting a good example of how children can grow up together, beginning at an early age, discovering that they are just children together. Hopefully those friendships will develop over the years.”
Jim Williamson (Governor, Cliftonville Integrated Primary School)