North Belfast school (Brefne) is the fourth school to be approved for transformation to integrated status this year
The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) in Northern Ireland has welcomed the announcement that Brefne Nursery School in north Belfast will become the first standalone nursery school to transform to integrated status here.
The transformation will complete in September 2021, making the school the fourth to be approved to transform to integrated status in four months.
The move represents the largest growth in integrated education through the school transformation process in over three decades.
An overwhelming 92% of Brefne parents voted in favour of the integrated move in September 2019 and yesterday (Thursday 10 June 2021) the Education Minister, Peter Weir, ratified the proposal for change.
Tina Merron, Chief Executive of IEF, discusses the news:
“We are delighted to welcome Brefne Nursery School as the first ever transformed Nursery. There has been a huge surge in demand for transformation to integrated status from parents and schools over the last few years. The IEF has been working closely with the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education to provide support to Brefne Nursery School and indeed all the schools where parents have voted in favour of integration.
“The vote at Brefne echoes the evidence from successive opinion polls which show a growing desire for integrated education throughout Northern Ireland. With this latest announcement the Minister has acknowledged and fulfilled his statutory duty to ‘encourage and facilitate’ integrated education in Northern Ireland.”
Outlining what the development means for the school, Victoria McGimpsey, Principal of Brefne Nursery School, says:
“I am absolutely delighted to hear the fantastic news that the Education Minister has approved our Development Proposal to transform to controlled integrated status. We are extremely proud to be the first Nursery School in Northern Ireland to transform and believe this marks a bright and exciting future for nursery education in Northern Ireland. At Brefne Nursery our focus is always the children. They are at the centre of everything we do.
“We have always encouraged children and families to come together to celebrate their differences in the hope that we are giving the children a positive beginning to their lifelong educational journey, both inside and outside of the school building. We cannot thank everyone enough who has supported and guided us throughout this process and look forward to sharing the celebrations with all involved over the coming weeks.”
Elaine Crozier, Chairperson of the Board of Governors, added:
“We are all delighted and encouraged that from September 2021, Brefne Nursery School will become Northern Ireland’s first standalone integrated nursery school. This is the formal recognition of the complexion of our school community, which has seen children of all backgrounds being educated together for the past 50 years. It is a great reward for decades of hard work and a marvellous way to end the school year!”
The IEF’s ‘Integrate My School’ Campaign has contributed to an increased desire for more integrated schooling in Northern Ireland. Brefne Nursery School is just one of eight schools where parental ballots have been held in support of a move to formal integration, with the percentage of parents voting in favour of such a development, ranging from 71% to 100%.
The Education Minister also recently approved integrated status for Seaview Primary School in Glenarm, Carrickfergus Central Primary School and Harding Memorial Primary School in Belfast. Two more schools are awaiting a Ministerial decision on their proposal to move to integrated status namely; Glengormley High School and Bangor Central Nursery School.
The total number of integrated schools in Northern Ireland now stands at 68 (as of September 2021).
Parents in Northern Ireland can express support for their child’s school to become officially integrated on the Integrate My School platform: www.integratemyschool.com