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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 17:29 GMT
Plans for mixed schools refused
Plans for four integrated schools have been refused
Plans for four integrated schools have been refused
Proposals for four integrated schools have been turned down by Education Minister Angela Smith.

The plans were for schools in Clogher Valley, Moira/Hillsborough, Saintfield and funding an existing independent primary school in Ballycastle.

Ms Smith said the new schools have been proposed for areas which already have surplus capacity.

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education said it was "stunned" all the plans were rejected.

Michael Wardlow, NICIE chief executive, said they would meet with the minister to ask if the government's policy on integrated education had changed.

"In the absence of any other alternative choice, Angela Smith has abandoned these children and their parents and effectively forced these children and their parents into a segregated school system against their wishes," he said.

Integrated education has been promoted as a way to break down Northern Ireland's sectarian divisions.

The minister said that she realised this would be disappointing news for the parents' groups involved, but that it was important to provide clarity now as parents are choosing schools for their children in September.

"Government is committed to integrated education, but we also have a responsibility to manage the schools estate in the light of falling enrolments," she said.

Ms Smith said the "education sector faces a real challenge in addressing parental choice for integrated schools against the impact of falling rolls".

The first integrated school in Northern Ireland was Lagan College which opened near Belfast in 1981 and there are now 58 integrated schools with more than 18,000 pupils on the roll books.

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18 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland
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20 Oct 04 |  Northern Ireland
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10 Dec 98 |  Education

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