Parents Urged To Support Nursery Integration

School parents are being encouraged to support the integration of nursery schools in Northern Ireland.

A campaign launched by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is aiming to integrate the early years and promote widespread all-inclusive educational environments from as early as possible.

It follows the successful ballots of two local nurseries, Bangor Central Nursery School and Brefne Nursery School in north Belfast, to become integrated last year.

Some 97.6% of Bangor Central parents said yes to integration, while 92.6% voted to accept the change at Brefne.

Last year also saw four primary schools begin the process of exploring integration after positive parental ballots. These include Carrickfergus Central Primary School, Harding Memorial Primary School in Belfast, Ballyhackett Primary School in Castlerock and Seaview Primary School in Glenarm.

More nursery schools are also expected to begin the process in 2020.

Now, the IEF has initiated a campaign to encourage more of the 92 standalone nursery schools in Northern Ireland to get on board.

"The Integrating in the early years initiative aims to help break down barriers, nurture and improve community relations among children, families and communities and support schools to become actively welcoming to children of all backgrounds and traditions," said Jill Caskey, Parental Engagement Campaign Manager at the IEF.

"There are 95 standalone nursery schools in Northern Ireland, all of which are either Controlled or Catholic maintained but more parents are requesting integrated education for their children from an earlier age, wanting their family to enjoy the opportunity to learn alongside others from diverse community backgrounds.

"Becoming integrated, and declaring your integration to the wider population, sends a strong message to the communities which the school serves. Parents can make a practical contribution to the process of change in our society through promotion of integrated education."

The IEF has successfully supported more than 65 integrated primary and post primary schools in Northern Ireland.
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The option of becoming integrated is available to any school or nursery in the region, with the exception of special schools and those established in hospitals.

Either the schools or the parents can initiate the process, with a voting procedure taking place in the latter. If a majority votes in favour of transformation then the school will submit a proposal to become integrated which will be considered by the Education Authority and Department for Education, followed by a final decision by the Minister.

Speaking about the vote at Bangor Central Nursery, Principal Pamela Algie said: "The Governors and staff of Bangor Central Nursery School are delighted that so many of our parents have chosen to go on this journey towards integration. This is a great opportunity for very young children from all communities to learn together daily. The children can make friends and get to know each other no matter what their background is.

"This nursery school has always welcomed families from all traditions and backgrounds, transformation to integrated is a natural next step for us as a school. We have been providing pre-school education in Bangor since 1942, and now, with overwhelming parental approval and support, we are on the path to become one of the first stand-alone integrated nursery schools in Northern Ireland."

Principal of north-Belfast based Brefne Nursery School, Victoria McGimpsey, added: "Brefne Nursery School has always welcomed children from all backgrounds and religions, supporting our ethos of 'every child's uniqueness catered for'. This official step towards transforming into an integrated Nursery School demonstrates the support we have from the local and wider community. We have been providing pre-school education in the area for over 50 years and we look forward to this new, exciting chapter of becoming the first standalone integrated nursery school in Belfast and one of the first in Northern Ireland."

All nurseries, primaries and post primaries exploring integration will receive support at each stage of the transformation process from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE), the Shared Education and Sectoral Support Team within the Education Authority (EA), and the Integrated Education Fund (IEF).


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