Establishing an integrated school

Details on how to establish an integrated school and the criteria used for the approval process.

How to establish an integrated school

There are two ways in which an integrated school can be established.


Transformation is a process of change of status of an existing school to integrated status arising from a desire to provide an integrated school in an area.  If enough parents in a particular school would like integrated education in that school then they can seek a parental ballot to transform.

More information on transformation can be found from the Department's website at Integration Works – Transforming your School Guidance or by contacting Irish Medium and Integrated Education Project Team.

The purpose of this pack is to explain what is meant by integrated education and transformation, identify key issues which are likely to arise and how they might be addressed, outline the legal and administrative processes and requirements and provide details of the various sources of advice and assistance available. The pack is primarily intended for use by Boards of Governors of schools and school Principals either considering or in the process of transformation.

The Integrated Education Fund’s website (IEF) “Integrate My School” provides further information on transformation, and is designed to enable parents to register their support for their child’s school to become an integrated school. 

Establishment of a new grant-maintained school

If transformation is not a viable option parents can form a Parent Steering Group.  A Parent Steering Group is a group of individuals who come together to push for Integrated Education in their community.  For more information about starting a new school please vist the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE).

Criteria for the approval of a new integrated school


To qualify for public funding, all new schools have to satisfy a number of statutory and other requirements.  Most of these are mandatory and any request for funding cannot be met unless these are satisfied. The viability criteria include:

Minimum pupil intake figures:

  • a 15-pupil intake in year 1 for new primary schools in Belfast and Londonderry
  • a 12-pupil intake in year 1 in primary schools elsewhere
  • a 50-pupil intake in year 8 for secondary schools

Religious Balance

While the legislation refers only to reasonable numbers of Catholics and Protestants, the aim for new integrated schools, and those schools wishing to transform to integrated status, has been to attract at least 30% of pupils from the minority tradition within the school’s enrolment. The Department recognises, however, that this can present challenges for individual schools, including the demographics of the local area, and the increasing number of pupils designating as ‘other’ or ‘no religion’. As a consequence, the Department will not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to what defines a reasonable number of Catholic and Protestant pupils. Each proposal shall be considered on its own merits.  

Other criteria

Curriculum – there is a specific statutory requirement under the Education Reform (NI) Order 1989 that in order to qualify for grant-aid a school must teach the Northern Ireland School Curriculum.

School Management – the school must have a scheme of management under Article 123 of the Education Reform (NI) Order 1989 and a Board of Governors constituted under Article 11 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986. (Excluding 11(6), which was repealed by a subsequent Order).

Teachers – teachers must be properly qualified under Article 70(1) of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986 (as amended by Article 42 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1993) and observe days of operation under the Teachers’ Regulations.

Other requirements include:

  • Open Enrolment (Part III of Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1997 (the school could not charge fees)
  • Assessment of Performance at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4
  • Accommodation for pupils must meet laid down standards (normally inspected by the Department)
  • Satisfactory record keeping and publication of information

It must however be noted that new schools that fulfil these criteria will not necessarily be automatically eligible for grant-aid from the Department. Interested parties should approach the Department for further advice and information.

Capital grant

New schools are not normally eligible for capital grant from the Department until they have been established for a period of at least 2-3 years.

Back to top