Business

Charity behind integrated schools to receive £1m from home-builder

James Hagan (centre) from Hagan Homes with Paul Caskey (left), IEF's head of campaign, and the charity's former fund-raising manager Brian Small. Picture: Declan Roughan

THE man at the helm of a home-building business in the north is to donate £1 million to the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) for the growth and development of integrated schools.

James Hagan, chair and founder of Ballyclare-based Hagan Homes, will commit the funds over a three-year period in what will be the IEF's largest ever corporate donation since its inception in 1992.

The donation follows on from 30 years of support Hagan Homes has given the charity since its inception.

This includes subsidising a classroom at Carnlough Controlled Integrated Primary School by building the facility 50 per cent below budget almost 15 years ago. In addition, it delivered a ‘free of charge' classroom to Omagh Integrated Primary School 18 years ago.

The business chief has also donated more than £150,000 to the IEF to support its projects and inspired by the team's tireless efforts to reconcile the Northern Ireland community through more integrated education schools, he has pledged a further £1m.

The funds will go towards the charity's targets laid out within its Strategy 2022-2025 published earlier this year. This includes its mission to see 30 more schools become Integrated through the Transformation process.

That will bring the total number of integrated education schools and colleges in Northern Ireland to 100.

The Hagan Homes donation will also go towards supporting a number of specific grant programmes that will benefit pupils and schools such as integration through sport, supporting children with additional educational needs as well as helping those existing integrated schools with opportunities for further growth, including new preschool provision.

Mr Hagan said he has greatly admired the charity's efforts over the past 30 years and says his additional donation this year is in honour of Baroness May Blood, who has served as the charity's voluntary campaign chair since 2001, and the IEF's former fundraising manager Brian Small who has recently retired.

Mr Hagan was introduced to Brian 30 years ago.

He said: “I have always been an advocate of integrated education here. It is wrong that so many children are still divided into different schools according to their religious and cultural backgrounds and the impact of that division can have financial and societal implications not just in our immediate future but for generations to come.

“The IEF is the backbone to making sure opportunities are there in educational settings that bring our children together. It is the voice and the supporter of the cause and any funding that goes to this drive can only help shape a better society here in Northern Ireland.

“The organisation recently published its new Strategy 2022-25 – Towards 100 Schools, which will ensure it takes even bigger strides in creating a more cohesive education system here. We are honoured to be able to support them on that mission.

“I have been particularly inspired by the admirable efforts both Baroness May Blood and Brian Small have invested into the charity. Their tireless fundraising efforts have been instrumental in bringing the number of Integrated schools to 70. That is no mean feat. I pledge this further financial support in honour of their work and have every confidence they will continue to drive our communities forward.”

The IEF's head of campaign Paul Caskey said: “To receive a donation of this size from one of Northern Ireland's most successful companies is an incredible act of generosity and will make such a huge difference to our work.

“The direct beneficiaries will of course be the children experiencing an Integrated Education in the schools and the donation will enable the IEF to launch a series of grant programmes aimed at supporting the development of their inclusive ethos and growth.”

Recent achievements for the integrated movement include the first transformation of a former Catholic school to integrated status when Seaview Primary School became integrated in September 2021. Since then, there have been a further five additional schools transforming after successful parental ballots in support of such a move.

The charity has also been encouraged by the passing of the recent Integrated Education Act which, among other things, will place a duty on the Department of Education and other bodies to support, as well as encourage and facilitate, the development of Integrated Education by assessing demand for Integrated Education.