Parents in Northern Ireland who want to see Protestant and Catholic children go to school together have received a significant boost from a judgment in the High Court in Belfast.

Most schools in Northern Ireland draw the vast majority of their pupils from one side of the community or the other.  Around seven percent of children go to integrated schools, which teach children of all faiths and none together.

Yet it took a challenge to education chiefs and politicians from an integrated school in Omagh to secure a ruling which has clarified the Stormont government’s duty to support and promote such schools. Drumragh Integrated College brought a successful judicial review against Northern Ireland’s Department of Education when its application to expand and meet local demand for places was turned down.

In his ruling Mr Justice Treacy advised the Department of Education to be “alive” to the statutory duty “to encourage and facilitate integrated education” as set out in a 1989 Act.  He said this should apply at all levels, including strategic planning for delivery of education in the future. 

The case concluded with a formal order that “integrated education” is a standalone concept – applying to schools with a specific ethos rather than to any cross-community activity undertaken by the wider spectrum of schools.

Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the Integrated Education Fund, welcoming the ruling, “The recent judgment of Mr Justice Treacy was a landmark event for integrated education and for the families who wish to see children of all backgrounds educated together in the classroom every day.

"We are now looking forward to seeing how the Department of Education and Education Minister John O’Dowd will take on board the High Court ruling.”