Integrated school plan

Integrated school plan

15 September 2021

PARENTS have until tomorrow to support proposals for Northern Ireland’s first post primary integrated school in two decades to be built locally.

If the proposed new 600-pupil Mid Down College goes ahead, those supporting the proposal say it will address a lack of sixth form places and also allow pupils with special educational needs the opportunity to access their education in a mainstream setting in their local area.

There is speculation that if the new integrated college is given the green light, the ultra-modern new campus could be located between Crossgar and Saintfield.

A submission from a parental steering group has been submitted to the Education Authority to establish the new integrated school which would incorporate all pupils and staff at Downpatrick’s Blackwater Integrated College pupils on the new site.

Confirmation that parents have until tomorrow to support the proposed new school comes as Northern Ireland celebrates 40 years of integrated education.

Those campaigning for the new school say a recent survey revealed that support for integrated education is growing, with 71 per cent believing it should be the ‘main model’ for Northern Ireland’s education system.

Currently, only seven per cent of children attend integrated schools and out of 1,136 schools in Northern Ireland, there are only 72 formally integrated schools and colleges.

The co-chair of the Mid Down College parental steering group said its members are delighted with the support the development proposal has received to date from hundreds of parents.

Frances Lowry said the support only “reinforces the need and the demand” for a new integrated post primary school in the Mid Down area. 

“As a parent whose children have had an integrated education, I know first-hand of the extensive benefits it provides,” she continued.

“An integrated education provides a child-centred education and is for children of all abilities, from all religious, social and cultural backgrounds. It champions equality and inclusivity and provides a broad and balanced curriculum to promote academic success for all students, including those with special educational needs.”

She added: “We are encouraging parents to visit the Council for Integrated Education Northern Ireland’s website and show their support before the deadline which is tomorrow, September 16.”

The parental steering group’s other co-chair, Tim Jackson, said members were delighted last week to welcome support from Alliance and Green Party councillors Patrick Brown, Michele Guy and Deborah Girvan and Simon Lee to their meeting.

He added: “They have been very receptive of the development proposal as they recognise the extensive benefits that a new integrated post primary school would provide for the children and families in the Mid Down area.”

Cllr Brown said he was delighted to attend the recent briefing session from the Mid Down Integrated College Steering Group held at Millennium Integrated Primary outside Saintfield.

“This group of parents and integrated education advocates have done incredible work since starting up and their vision for a fully integrated new school with special education needs provision serving the Mid Down area right up to sixth form has my full support,” he added.

Former world boxing champion, Carl Frampton — who is an ambassador for the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education — is backing the new Mid Down College proposal.

He said he is a “strong supporter” of integrated education in Northern Ireland and believes that children from all backgrounds and religions should have the opportunity to learn together from a young age.

“My own integrated education came through boxing from a young age, which gave me a solid foundation and enabled me to meet and build friendships with people from other religious backgrounds that I might not have been fortunate of making until I left school.”

He added: “I am pleased to support the proposal for the new Mid Down Integrated College. We need more projects like this around the province to grow and develop integrated education and help our children build a society together that is more tolerant, respectful and understanding.”

• Parents wishing to express their support for the new Mid Down Integrated College proposal must complete an expression of interest form by tomorrow, while others wishing to show support can complete a community support. Both forms are available by logging on at