The event, hosted by IEF Campaign Chair Baroness May Blood and Lord Dubs, was sponsored by the entrepreneur and long-standing supporter of integrated education, Tony Carson – son of comedian Frank Carson.
Friends of the IEF attending the dinner included business leaders, entertainers and writers as well as politicians and past pupils of integrated schools. Addressing the guests, Baroness Blood reflected on a significant year for the growth and development of integrated education in Northern Ireland: “In 2019 seven schools held a democratic ballot of their parents on whether they should become integrated – the percentage of ‘yes’ votes ranged from 86% to 100%. Just a few years ago not a single parental ballot on integrated education had ever taken place in a Catholic school, yet this year alone there have been three. I am also delighted to report that integrated education is the fastest-growing form of education in Northern Ireland. Each year around 500 more integrated school places are being created. However, we know this is nowhere near enough to meet demand.”
Anne Anderson, principal of the over-subscribed New-Bridge Integrated College in Loughbrickland, was the guest speaker for the dinner. New-Bridge Integrated College was established by parents in 1995 in response to local demand for an integrated school. It now has more than 600 pupils and exciting plans for a new school build by 2023.
“I am immensely proud to be a principal of an integrated school, which provides our young people with the opportunity to come together every day sharing and learning together, regardless of ability or religious beliefs. The inclusive and restorative practices in our school which promote peace education have been recognised at European level, as the proud recipients of the Evens Peace Education Award. I am very proud to be part of the integrated education movement and I am so grateful for the support of the Integrated Education Fund.”