Governors, staff and parents at Mallusk Primary are confident that a switch to integrated status will ensure a bright future for the village school.
Last week the North Eastern Education and Library Board published a proposal that the school move to controlled integrated status from September 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter.
The transformation proposal, put forward by the Board of Governors earlier this year, is aimed at securing the future of the school, which has suffered from a dramatic drop in pupil numbers over the past few years.
Speaking to the Times this week, the school’s acting principal, Susanne Kinsella, says there is a real need for an integrated school in the area due to the diverse religious and cultural make-up of the local population and the amount of new-build housing in the area. And she believes that the school can start small and grow over the next few years.
“It’s been a very busy few weeks. We’ve had loads of interest - lots of names down for next year and lots of really positive responses to the transformation procedure,” she said.
“The interest that we’ve got now through the expressions of interest shows that there is definitely a need and that we can meet the needs of the local community, which is our main concern for the future. The community needs to have a school at the heart of it.”
Mrs Kinsella, a teacher at Mallusk for 18 years, stressed that the educational provision at the school is “outstanding”.
“We believe a small school provides a really good educational experience for the children,” she added.
She described the proposed switch to integrated status as “a fantastic opportunity” to secure the future of the school - one that staff, governors and parents are keen to “grab with both hands.”
“We fully support the (NEELB) proposal and we think that it will provide excellent educational experiences for the children of the area,” she added.
Lindsay Peacocke, chairman of the Board of Governors, is well aware of the precarious position the school is in given the small number of pupils remaining. But he shares Mrs Kinsella’s optimism for the future.
Mr Peacocke, a retired accountant who has served as a governor for 20 years, stressed that the school is very much “open for business”, and he highlighted its “excellent facilities” and “A1 staff.”
The move towards integrated status has received widespread public support from the local community, including from Grange of Mallusk Steering Group, Mallusk Community Action Group and local politicians. It is also being backed by the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education.
Steering Group representative Wendy Nesbitt and governor Kate McVeigh say they and other parents want to “put the integration banner above the school to open it out to the whole community.”
A decision on whether or not the school is permitted to make the switch to controlled integrated status will be taken by the Education Minister.
Meanwhile, parents of prospective pupils are being invited to attend Mallusk Primary School’s open day on Saturday, November 29, 10am - 11am.