Parents are to be balloted on a proposal to transform Glengormley High School to integrated status.
The school commmunity was informed of the process in the run up to Christmas as were parents of prospective pupils at Wednesday night’s open evening.
Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times, principal Richard Massey said: “This would be a major development for the school.
I raised the topic with the board of governors three months ago and the pros and cons were assessed. The governors have now passed a resolution to take it to a legal ballot.
“Parents will take part in a postal ballot in early March. A 50 per cent turn out is needed for the vote to be recognised. If the proposal is backed, we then create a case for change. We envisage this will be a lengthy process, possibly up to two and a half years, before official transformation will be recognised.”
Mr Massey, who became principal at the Ballyclare Road school in April 2018, continued: “When I took up the post at Glengormley High, I didn’t come in with an agenda to make it an integrated school. My focus was to revive Glengormley High which was in a difficult situation and make it an amazing educational institution. Within a year and a half, we were placed second for UK School of the Year and my ambition for improving the school has been realised.
“Now, I want to transform the school to integrated status so that every child in the locality, no matter their religion, can feel welcome to grow together and learn together and experience our fantastic school. We are preparing our children for universities and workplaces where such segregation is alien.
“Glengormley High School already educates children who are Hindu, Muslim, Roman Catholic and Protestant and our pupils are not the slightest bit concerned about the religious diversity in the school.”
He added: “If the move is backed, we would be a controlled integrated school and the budget we receive will remain the same. The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) are in place to help schools going through transformation and the costs will be supported by them.
“The lack of funding in education in Northern Ireland is well known, and one of the major causes of this is our segregated system, resulting in too many empty desks in our schools across the province.
“My staff and I believe that this is the right direction and we are excited for our future, but we need parents to take the time to use their vote for the ballot.
“We have been inundated with positive messages from our parents and the local community about this decision. I am happy to speak to the local community about the plans and a number of parental engagement opportunities will be taking place over the next few weeks.”
The IEF says it understands the school management team at Glengormley High has decided to ballot parents on a proposal to become a controlled integrated school and this will be carried out independently by Civica Election Services (formerly Electoral Reform Services).
Tina Merron, IEF chief executive, said: “We are a very pleased to learn of the decision to seek parental endorsement for Glengormley High School’s proposal to become officially integrated.
“The IEF works with school communities to ensure that everyone is fully informed about integration and the transformation process and we look forward to supporting Glengormley High in further strengthening their school’s inclusive ethos.
“Successive opinion polls have shown that the majority of parents in Northern Ireland would welcome a move to make their school officially integrated and the success of schools such as Glengormley Integrated Primary School, which made the transformation to integration 15 years ago, shows the appetite in the area for education provision which brings children and young people of all backgrounds, traditions and abilities together in an environment which nurtures identity and celebrates diversity.”