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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK

Special Report

Hostility claim over integrated schools

Bangor Central primary is changing to become an integrated school

By Maggie Taggart, BBC Northern Ireland Education Correspondent

The integrated schools movement has said it is still facing hostility from both catholics and protestants as it tries to expand its number of schools.

On the one hand, the Catholic church has refused to nominate anyone to represent their congregations in integrated schools and on the other the Democratic Unionist Party has said integration is a threat to protestant jobs.

BBC's Maggie Taggart: "Concern over integrated schools has sparked misinformation and rumour"
Some County Down controlled schools such as Bangor Central primary and Priory College are changing from mostly protestant to become integrated.

The rule is that two of the four protestant clergy on the boards of governors should be replaced by catholics.

But the South Eastern Board ran into problems when the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor refused to nominate anyone.

[ image: Michael Wardlow:
Michael Wardlow: "Unfortunate church is not represented"
However, Nicie, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education said it is essential that catholic families and staff in the transformed schools are represented.

Mr Michael Wardlow, from the council, said: "It is unfortunate because if this school was to change its ethos and bring in catholic teachers, pupils, ancillary staff and parents, the fact that the established church is not represented on the board is a retrograde step."

[ image: Fr Donal McKeown:
Fr Donal McKeown: "I can understand the situation"
But a spokesman for the bishop says the church is very happy with catholic or maintained schools and is willing to pass up the chance to have influence on transformed schools.

It can't be seen to be formally associated with integrated schools which are in competition with them.

Father Donal McKeown, Principal of St Malachy's College, said: "I can understand the situation in a local community where the parish is already responsible for providing a number of the members on the board of governors on a local maintained primary school, feeling unhappy formally endorsing another primary school in the same town or village which would end up competing with the local maintained primary school for pupils and staffing levels."

It is not only the catholic side which is hostile to integrated schools.

The unionist dominated Castlereagh council has a history of opposing developments at integrated schools in its area.

On Thursday, 22 July, members of the planning committee are likely to voice their opposition again, on safety grounds, to changes at Lough View integrated primary school.

And in the same borough, unionist councillors are also vehemently opposed to any suggestion that Carryduff Primary School should transform to integrated.

This idea cropped up when local parents began to lobby support for a new integrated school.

[ image: Iris Robinson:
Iris Robinson: "Decline in protestant jobs"
Former Castlereagh Mayor and the local DUP assembly member Iris Robinson is worried that protestant teaching jobs would be at risk.

Mrs Robinson said: "The integrated sector is targeting established control schools to transform to integrated status, so you automatically have a decline in jobs for protestant teachers because your control schools are becoming less and less as the integrated take over."

The spread of integrated schools is worrying both sides. That concern has sparked misinformation and rumour.

The integrated movement has heard a number of far fetched claims. The latest about an alleged plan to build an integrated school on the flat roof of Carryduff Primary school. The movement says it is a complete myth.

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