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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Schools open despite funding snub
Rowallane
Rowallane Integrated College in the old Belvoir hospital site
Two proposed integrated schools which were turned down for funding have opened with financial help from the Integrated Education Fund.

It is believed Rowallane Integrated College, situated on the old Belvoir hospital site in south Belfast, received 500,000 from the fund.

Clogher Valley Primary School was given 250,000.

The schools are opening despite the Department of Education's decision to refuse them funding earlier this year.

Two other integrated schools were also refused funding by the education minister at the time, Angela Smith.

Ms Smith said the new schools were turned down because they were proposed for areas which already had surplus capacity.

Defending the decision, the current education minister, Maria Eagle, said on Monday that the government supported integrated education.

However, there were a number of factors which had to be taken into account when the funding decision was made.

Maria Eagle
Education minister Maria Eagle defended the decision

"The number of pupils attending integrated schools has more than doubled in 10 years," she said.

"The support that the government has given where there has been parental demand and where there have been new schools established or old schools transformed into integrated schools has been significant."

Ms Eagle said it was not the case that government did not support either the concept or reality of integrated education.

However, in the particular case of Rowallane, she said there were objections from other schools.

Baroness May Blood from the IEF said their decision to fund the new schools was "not an easy one".

"The decision was made by both boards of governors from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, our sister organisation, and the IEF, but I have to tell you it was not an easy decision," she said.

"We were furious with the government because these schools had met the criteria that the government had set down and then we had to go out and find another 1m to support two of these schools for the next year."

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

The Integrated Education Fund is a charity established in 1992 to promote the development and growth of integrated education in Northern Ireland.

The first integrated school in Northern Ireland was Lagan College which opened near Belfast in 1981 and there are now 61 integrated schools with more than 18,500 pupils on the roll books.

Five per cent of children in Northern Ireland attend integrated schools.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Inside an integrated school in Northern Ireland



SEE ALSO
Integrated schools given go ahead
20 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Plans for mixed schools refused
02 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Mixed schools 'not as sectarian'
18 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland

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