HC Deb 16 November 1989 vol 160 c400W
Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what definition he intends to make of what constitutes an integrated school; what provision he intends to make to secure balanced enrolment in an integrated school; what provision for balance between both traditions in Northern Ireland he intends to provide on the governing bodies of integrated schools; what representations he has received about the definition and appointment of foundation governors and schemes of management for schools which opt for grant-maintained integrated status; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Mawhinney

It is clearly inherent in the concept of integrated schooling that substantial numbers of Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils should be educated together. It is also vital that the management and ethos of an integrated school should be such as to ensure that parents perceive the school as guaranteeing equality of respect and treatment for all pupils regardless of their religious denomination. To require a balanced enrolment would, however, imply the enrolment of Protestants and Roman Catholics in roughly equal numbers. This would have the effect of denying integrated status to all but a few schools, defeating the Government's objective of enabling as many parents as possible to aspire to have their children educated with children from both traditions.

A distinctive constitution will be introduced for the board of governors of a grant-maintained integrated school. There will be two categories of directly appointed governors, namely, foundation governors and Department of Education appointees, together with two categories of elected governors, representing parents and teachers. For the Department's part, it will be required to choose persons committed to the viability of the school as an integrated school and it will seek to ensure that there is a broad balance of interests among those appointed.

Some representations have been made that, where an existing school with an integrated ethos acquired grant-maintained integrated status, the legislation should ensure that existing practice for the appointment of foundation governors and the existing provisions of its instrument of government should continue to apply. However, since integrated status will be available to a wide range of schools, with different constitutions, it would be inappropriate to seek to make detailed statutory provision for the definition and appointment of foundation governors or for schemes of management. 'The Government, nevertheless, fully intend that the transition to grant-maintained integrated status for a school should be made with the maximum degree of continuity consistent with its former status. In particular, it will be for the school governors themselves to draw up a scheme of management for the school for approval by the Department.