Northern Ireland news

High school with low Catholic enrolment moves step closer to becoming integrated

Glengormley High School said the future of Northern Ireland lies in children from all backgrounds and cultures being educated together

A HIGH school with traditionally low Catholic pupil numbers has taken the next step towards becoming integrated.

The state-controlled Glengormley High is seeking to transform from September next year.

A `pre-publication consultation' detailing the plan has been released by the Education Authority (EA).

The EA said the proposal was being made in response to parental demand for integrated places in the area.

The school is about three miles away from Hazelwood Integrated College, which is significantly oversubscribed every year.

In a ballot last year, 71 per cent of parents voted ‘yes' in favour of transformation. The plan was also backed by boxer Carl Frampton.

The school said it embarked on the integrated journey because its believes the future of Northern Ireland lies in children from all backgrounds and cultures being educated together.

It is hoped integration will see the school become even more diverse.

The number of Catholic pupils, and the proportion of Catholic parents expressing interest in sending their children there in future, are low.

All transformed schools must achieve 10 per cent of their first year intake drawn from the minority tradition. In the longer term, this must increase to 30 per cent of the total enrolment.

Department of Education statistics show that Glengormley High had 13 Catholic children out of about 700 pupils last year - up from nine and seven in 2018 and 2019.

It has close to 200 that designate as `other'. The statutory definition of integrated education concerns Protestants and Catholics only. Pupils recorded as not belonging to either of these traditions are recorded as 'other' and are not included in the consideration of religious balance. A school with 100 Muslim children, 100 Catholic pupils and 20 Protestants, while being diverse, would fail to meet the existing criteria.

The EA noted that enrolment comprised children from diverse backgrounds, "including pupils from a range of cultures and nationalities such as, Syrian, Nepalese, Chinese, Polish and African".

"There are currently 26 newcomer children enrolled from Year 8 to Year 12. This is consistent with the changing demographics in the area. The school has also seen an increased number of families openly declaring that they are of Catholic religion."

The case for change recognised that the school served a wide catchment area.

"Thus Glengormley High School is providing a very valuable service to this area which can only be enhanced by the provision of integrated post-primary places to support families who wish to avail of places. This is particularly important given the high levels of oversubscription at both Hazelwood Integrated College and Ulidia Integrated College," it said.

"This demonstrates the strong desire for much needed additional integrated education provision in the area."

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Northern Ireland news