Small Glenarm primary school first to make jump from Catholic to integrated sector
A small Co Antrim primary is to become the first Catholic school to join the integrated sector.
Education minister Peter Weir approved a proposal for Seaview PS in Glenarm to 'transform' from September.
Mr Weir also rejected a separate plan to shut down the school.
The Catholic maintained school has been operating on its current site in the village of Glenarm since the mid-1960s.
It was under threat of closure after being identified as one of three schools in the Glenarm and Carnlough areas with sustainability issues.
The wider area was listed as a priority in all three of the Education Authority's annual action plans to date.
Seaview's enrolments dropped to just 33 pupils in 2015.
The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools later brought forward a proposal for closure, at the same time as a transformation bid was launched.
Pupil numbers have risen significantly since - 80 are enrolled this year.
It has also achieved a better religious mix in recent years.
While the number of Catholic children has remained steady at between 30-35, enrolment of Protestant pupils has risen from just six in 2017 to 24 this year.
There are also 22 children whose religion is listed as `other'.
The Department of Education noted that Seaview's promotion campaign in recent years had resulted in increased overall enrolments; increased numbers of pupils from a Protestant background; and continued Year 1 applications for September 2021 - despite the threat of closure.
It said it acknowledged that approval of the plan would "not in itself immediately resolve the sustainability issues".
However, the department said the evidence gathered suggested that transformation - rather than closure - had potential.
"The retention and transformation of education provision at the Seaview setting will allow the school and community to progress with certainty and to build on the progress made since the transformation proposal was promoted," the department said.
Tina Merron, CEO of the Integrated Education Fund, said it was a "great day for the parents, pupils and the wider school community who have campaigned for a number of years to have an integrated primary school in their village".
Seaview is the first Catholic school in four decades of integrated education to switch sectors.
Previous bids by Clintyclay PS in Tyrone and St Mary's High School in Brollagh were rejected.
A decision on Ballyhacket PS in Co Derry, which is also threatened with closure, is expected to be made soon.