Integrated school wins landmark ruling

Integrated school wins landmark ruling

The Principal of Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh has praised his school's legal victory over the Department of Education as a milestone for the integrated sector.

To meet a growing demand for integrated education in the area, Drumragh College submitted a proposal to increase their intake from 580 to 750 pupils two years ago.This was recommended for rejection by the Department of Education so the school went to the High Court.They argued the department was failing to support integrated education as it was the legal duty of his department under Article 64 1989 Education Reform Order and the Good Friday argument.Last week Lord Justice Treacy agreed and a landmark victory was secured.Principal Nigel Frith strongly believes integrated education has an important role in the region.He explained: "It seemed so obvious to us that the way to a better future is to have them sitting side by side in the classroom, where they are building friendships, where they are respecting each other's beliefs and traditions and where the barriers just come tumbling down."Members of the community have told us repeatedly that they are suffering what they would call the despair factor, in other words they have been saying to us 'it's too hard getting a place at Drumragh, it's too difficult, we are not going to put ourselves through it, we have almost given up hope I suppose'."This case has said that it is important, you can't fudge the issues, you can't blur the boundaries this is about integrated schools and you have a legal duty to promote integrated schools for the good of Northern Ireland.Principal Frith, Drumragh Integrated CollegeIn his judgement Mr Justice Treacy also criticised the Department of Education's area planning policy, which measures school needs in terms of facilities available and not on the desire for integrated education.Education Minister John O'Dowd insists he takes his legal duties in relation to supporting integrated education very seriously."I welcome the court's judgment that my decision making in this matter was not fettered," he said in a statement."I have given and will continue to give every due consideration to my duty in relation to decisions on proposals from the integrated sector, including in relation to my final decision in this case."Tina Merron, from the Integrated Education Fund, said she hoped the case would bring appropriate changes."What we hope it means is that the department will look at this at all levels including strategic level and apply it," she said."There have been numerous surveys over the last number of years that say somewhere between 70-80% of parents want integrated education so we are hoping now the department take that on board in their area planning and listen to parents and create more integrated places."


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