Drumragh Integrated College, in Omagh, is to expand from September after the DE (Department of Education) approved a proposal to welcome more pupils at Year 8 and at sixth form. The DE has permitted an increased admission of nine places from 96 to 105 – slightly fewer than the College had requested – with the sixth form provision increasing from 100 to 120 students. This will eventually bring the overall enrolment at Drumragh IC to 645.
The announcement was welcome news after years of campaigning by the school. At one stage, Drumragh IC was at the centre of a judicial review against the then Education Minister after an earlier development proposal was turned down. The DE offered to look at the proposal again (and again rejected the school’s proposal) and Mr Justice Treacy reminded the Department of its statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education.
Announcing the DE decision, the Permanent Secretary Derek Baker remarked that
“…there is evidence of unmet demand, over a period, for integrated education in the area, and there is no alternative integrated education provision within reasonable travelling distance… there is a strong case for permitting the school, on the basis of that demand, to reach the threshold for the Sustainable Schools Policy.”
However, he also said growth for Drumragh IC could impact on pupil numbers at the Strule Shared Education Campus which is under construction in Omagh, and therefore decided to approve a lesser degree of expansion for the integrated college.
Tina Merron, Chief Executive of the IEF, said she was delighted by the news:
“Year after year, Drumragh Integrated College has proved itself a popular and successful school. The decision by the department to approve additional places will ensure that more families who wish to choose integrated education will be able to do so. Drumragh’s success has shown that integrated education is very important for families in this area and I am delighted that they will no longer have to turn any families away.”
Drumragh IC was established by campaigning parents in 1995, in the grounds of the old Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital and moved into its current purpose-built accommodation in 2009. The College has been regularly oversubscribed for many years.