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Significant judgment in favour of integrated education

On 15th May the High Court delivered its judgment in the judicial review action brought by Drumragh Integrated College.  The case concerned a challenge to the approach taken by the Department of Education (DE) to the school’s development plan to increase pupil numbers.  One of our stakeholders, The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) supported this case.  We are proud of our involvement having provided both legal and financial assistance to allow the case to be brought.

The Court clarified the statutory duty to ‘encourage and facilitate integrated education’, enshrined in both Article 64 of the Education Reform (NI) Order 1989 and the Good Friday Agreement. The Court held that integrated education was a standalone concept and plainly envisages education together at the same school. It also held that an integrated school strives to achieve an equal balance in relation to worship, celebration and exposure to both faiths. This is reflected in its constitution, and the Board of Governors must strive in its ethos to achieve this.  The statutory duty in Article 64 applies to education that is integrated throughout and not education that is delivered by a ‘partisan board.’

The Court described DE’s ‘Needs Model’, which is the basis for long-term education planning, as ‘inflexible’ and provides an ‘additional difficulty’ impeding the progress of expansion in integrated schools.  This creation of an ‘additional difficulty’ is the opposite of ‘…facilitating and encouraging (integrated education).’ The Court ruled that DE needed to be ‘…alive to its Article 64 duty at all levels, including the strategic one.’

This is an extremely important judgment.  We hope to bring you more on this case in the near future.  In the meantime you can read the Court’s press summary here and the Belfast Telegraph coverage here.