Education news

New integrated primary school in Co Antrim doubles in size

Mallusk Integrated PS, which has seen enrolments rise since transforming to integrated status

A SCHOOL allowed to become integrated to halt a "terminal decline" has more than doubled in size.

Pupil numbers have been on the rise at Mallusk IPS in Co Antrim since it 'transformed' from state-controlled to integrated status last year.

The decision to approve the switch by then education minister John O'Dowd was seen by some as a gamble as numbers had been tumbling.

Just 10 pupils were enrolled two years ago. Now, it has close to 30.

Department of Education officials supported the transformation, saying it would provide additional integrated places in an area of increasing demand.

It added, however, that how the situation at Mallusk would develop "cannot be predicted with complete confidence".

One of the strengths of the proposal, officials said, was the number and religious balance of expressions of interest (EOIs) from parents.

There were enough EOIs to suggest that the school would be sustainable, they told the minister, "but only if they are translated into actual applications for places".

The school received 24 EOIs for the 2015/16 year - but just one child applied and was admitted.

Principal Susanne Kinsella said this was largely due to uncertainty over whether or not the school would be allowed to transform.

With integrated status now secured, she said, interest and applications spiralled with the school welcoming eight new P1s this year, as well as six more children in other age groups.

Ms Kinsella said the change from the state-controlled to the integrated had been a great success.

"There is demand in the area for integrated education. We have over 30 expressions of interest already for next year. It is going to take a while for the school to grow but we are very pleased," she said.

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