Plans to boost integrated schools sector by 1,000 pupils

Hazelwood Integrated College in north Belfast wants to increase its total enrolment number to 1,010

PLANS to increase the number of integrated school places by more than 1,000 are being considered by the education minister.

A total of 13 separate development proposals have been published in recent months, which aim to boost numbers from nursery through to sixth form.

Government focus in recent years appeared to be moving away from promoting integrated education in favour of shared models, although some schools have been given approval to transform from state to integrated status.

Typically, shared education involves neighbouring Catholic and non-Catholic schools working together. Integrated schools educate Catholic and Protestant children under one roof.

An independent review, which is yet to be made public, was asked to consider how best to develop and grow integrated education.

There are 63 grant-maintained or controlled integrated schools. Overall, growth of the number of schools with an integrated management type has slowed since 2000 and in particular during the last decade.

The total number of pupils in integrated schools increased from 14,140 in 2000/1 to 17,558 in 2005/6 but only to 21,956 by 2014/15.

While findings from various surveys suggest a high parental demand for integrated education, the numbers enrolling their children in integrated schools do not match this.

There are some schools, however, that are oversubscribed every year.

Popular post-primary schools are among those who want extra places. If all plans are approved, the numbers across the sector would rise by 1,160.

Hazelwood Integrated College in north Belfast has made a bid to increase its total enrolment number to 1,010 - 160 more than it is permitted to admit at present.

Lagan College, also in Belfast, is hoping to increase from 1,200 to 1,300 while Integrated College Dungannon wants an extra 240 places, which would allow it to educate 740. Slemish College in Ballymena hopes to gain an additional 160 places, which would see its enrolment figure rise to 880 while Parkhall College in Antrim has plans to open a new 130-pupil sixth form.

Among primary schools, Mill Strand IPS in Portrush wants to almost double in size from 232 to 420 pupils. It also hopes to open a nursery unit.

It is hoped that almost all the new places will be created by September this year.

The only longer-term projects involve Forge IPS, which has three separate proposals - one for a 52-pupil nursery, another for an autistic spectrum disorder and `general learning support' centre and the third for a relocation onto the site of the former Knockbreda High School.

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