Northern Ireland news

Catholic school hopes to become first to switch to integrated sector

Seaview PS in Glenarm

A SMALL Catholic primary is campaigning to be become the first faith school to transform to integrated status.

A ballot of parents at Seaview PS in Glenarm is due to end today.

The school boasts a mixed enrolment and is expecting numbers to increase substantially over the next three years.

No Catholic school in Northern Ireland has ever transformed.

A small number of ballots have been held at Catholic schools but just one - at Clintyclay PS in Tyrone - led to an official bid.

That proposal was turned down, however.

Seaview PS was one of three schools in the Glenarm and Carnlough area identified as having sustainability issues.

The wider area has been listed as a priority in all three of the Education Authority's (EA) annual action plans to date.

While no schools were singled out, the first plan in 2017 said managing authorities would consult on options for "shared education solutions" by March the following year.

In the second plan, this was changed to March 2019 and revised yet again in this year's plan to November 2019.

In the meantime, the EA has brought forward a proposal to close the state controlled Carnalbanagh by 2021. Its enrolment at has decreased over the past four years and it has just 31 pupils.

A case for change document outlining the reasons for its planned closure said there had been no consensus on an area solution involving the three schools.

The third school is Carnlough Controlled Integrated PS, which has just 27 pupils.

At present Seaview has 42 children but expressions of interest forms, completed by parents after it announced its intention to transform, suggest the number will rise to 65 in September, 75 next year and 85 by 2021.

Principal Barry Corr said he was pleased with the support adding that he was hopeful Seaview would be the first Catholic school to become integrated.

"We have been overwhelmed by the response from people who see us as being the main school that would represent integration in the Glens area," Mr Corr said.

Meanwhile, Harding Memorial PS in east Belfast has taken a major step towards becoming the first integrated school in the area. About 13 per cent of children at the state school are Catholic.

Parents voted overwhelmingly to take the school on the path to becoming officially integrated, through the transformation process.

Principal Stephen Cumper said he and the board of governors were very pleased.

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