Larne High School urges parents to 'use their vote' as ballot on integration begins

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The principal of Larne High has urged parents to use their vote as a ballot begins on proposals to integrate the school.

Dr Stephen Reid was speaking following a series of information sessions on April 30, during which parents were invited to raise any concerns about what integration could mean for the school.

Several well-known local faces have previously recorded their own messages of support over the proposals, including Larne FC's Kenny Bruce and fashion designer Geraldine Connon.

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The decision to hold a formal ballot was made by the school's Board of Governors following earlier approaches by a number of parents, Dr Reid said.

A formal parental ballot on integration proposals at Larne High School has begun. Photo: GoogleA formal parental ballot on integration proposals at Larne High School has begun. Photo: Google
A formal parental ballot on integration proposals at Larne High School has begun. Photo: Google

"Ballot papers will have been arriving with parents over the weekend and yesterday [May 7], and the ballot will close on May 31," the principal added.

"The parental information sessions on April 30 were well attended; one big concern was whether pupils that traditionally transfer to us would be at a disadvantage of getting a place if the school then had to prioritise children at an integrated primary school, or through 'positive discrimination'.

"The school's current criteria already prioritises children who attend a school deemed local to the Larne area, and that has always included two CCMS primary schools and an integrated primary school."

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Some parents also indicated that they currently send their children to integrated schools outside of the town, suggesting a desire for an integrated option in Larne, Dr Reid added.

Meanwhile, guidance from the Integrated Education Fund notes that the Education Authority may be able to provide transport to another suitable school for those who do not wish to send their child to an integrated school.

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"Integration in this sense means educating children from all backgrounds, nationalities and abilities rather than just the religious aspect," Dr Reid added.

"When they grow up and go out into the world of work, they meet people from all over, but in education we may not bring children together as much as we should."

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Other concerns raised by some parents included pupils being forced to take part in sports or lessons, such as the Irish language, that they did not want to participate in should the school switch to integrated status.

However, the school has previously stressed that while it may offer such classes if enough pupils register an interest, pupils will not be compelled to take part in them.

"I am still happy to meet with any parents who wish to discuss concerns, but whatever your view of integration, I would encourage you to use your vote, as it is only the outcome of the ballot that may actually transform the school," Dr Reid added.

The legislative basis for parental ballots is defined in the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.

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The process currently allows only for parents of pupils registered at the school to have the right to vote.

Guidance from the Department of Education notes: “If a simple majority of those who vote in the ballot is in favour of applying for the proposed new status and at least 50 percent of those eligible to vote have done so, the Board of Governors must submit a Development Proposal for Transformation to integrated status to the Education Authority.”