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Impact Update: IEF & Strangford Integrated College – September 2021

Cast your mind back to April 2021. You might remember PILS shared the happy news that Strangford Integrated College (supported by our NGO member IEF and NICIE) had secured a ministerial reconsideration.

Backed by legal expertise from the PILS Pro Bono Register, the school had successfully challenged then Education Minister Peter Weir’s refusal of its Development Proposal. The original decision was completely reversed and the school’s dreams of growing its enrolment numbers became a reality.


As the weather turns more autumnal and families across Northern Ireland are making daily trips to the school gates once again, PILS checked back in with IEF and SIC to see how the new academic year is shaping up for all the new Strangfordians.

And the news is incredibly positive.

According to Clare Foster, SIC’s principal, it’s a very exciting time for the whole school community.

  • The school now has 830 students on its register.
  • Sixth Form at SIC alone has 135 students
  • This increase in student numbers has allowed the school to develop its curriculum
  • …and recruit new members of teaching staff, refreshing the workforce.

With plans to modernise the school’s building in the pipeline too, things really are moving at pace in Strangford.

By collaborating on the issues affecting SIC, The PILS Project got the opportunity to work with IEF once again. Tina Merron, IEF CEO, reflected on the success at Strangford but also on the history of solidarity between both our organisations:


“...The IEF were delighted to once again to work with PILS to help ensure that the Department of Education fulfil their statutory duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education. It is a major step for any school to seek to challenge a Development Proposal decision.

The use of strategic litigation to strengthen the statutory duty for integrated education has had a profound impact on the development of a number of integrated schools in recent years. It has enabled it to become the fastest growing form of education in Northern Ireland.

The IEF is delighted that in September 2021 four more schools transformed to integrated status – Seaview Primary (the first former Catholic school), Brefne (the first standalone Nursery School), Central Integrated Primary and Harding Memorial Primary in Belfast. There are currently two more schools awaiting a decision from the Minister, namely Bangor Central Nursery and Glengormley High School. The IEF is supporting more parents and schools than ever before following the development of its ‘Integrate My School’ campaign :”


***For more discussion on the power of pro bono to support human rights work in Northern Ireland, put UK Pro Bono Week 2021 in your diary: 1 – 5 November 2021.***