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ANALYSIS: New integrated school a long time coming

Simon Doyle

INTEGRATED education HQ yesterday was probably a bit like NASA control when the Apollo 11 lunar module touched down.

Not even the most hopeful optimist looking at a glass so full it was overflowing thought this would happen. It has been a long time coming - five years since any school became integrated and recent ministerial decisions rejecting expansion of the sector left many fearing `it's over'.

The decision, while being celebrated, has still raised eyebrows although many have given up trying to predict which proposals the minister will approve or reject.

Loughries PS has never had significant numbers of Catholic pupils. There were fewer than five Catholics on the roll both last year and the year before that. Before that again, there were none.

But the small, rural school is being given a fantastic opportunity to prove it can be integrated, and can now go out and attract Catholic pupils.

The minister was quick to point out that by approving the proposal, he was doing so in line with his statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education, something he has been accused of failing to fulfil when decisions have not gone the sector's way.

There are other, arguably bigger, decisions he still has to take - the possible transformation of Mallusk PS, the re-visiting of the decision not to approve the transformation of the Catholic Clintyclay PS and the opening of a new integrated college in Crumlin.

There are concerns that this shot of good news may be followed by more of the bad variety - but you wouldn't want to second guess the minister.

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