Dismay as Derry schools’ bid for ‘fresh start’ together on first ever proposed joint Irish language and integrated campus knocked back

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The heads of neighbouring Irish language and integrated schools in Ballymagroarty have expressed anger and disappointment after a bid for funding for a unique co-location project that could result in the first ever shared campus of its kind was knocked back by the Education Authority.

Oisín MacEó, of Gaelscoil na Daróige and Nick Tomlinson, of Groarty Integrated, expressed dismay after their application did not receive an endorsement from the local educational management authority.

The application was for share of a £500m fund for shared education, which was promised by the British Government after Stormont House and repledged at the ‘Fresh Start’ talks.

The money is coming from London for these purposes and will add no further strain in terms of capital commitments on the regional budget.

The recommended refusal also comes on the back of reports that £47 million of a £50 million pot earmarked for integrated and shared education - the first tranche of funding - has been handed back to the Treasury.

This £50m is the first roll-out in “a contribution of up to £500m over 10 years of new capital funding to support shared and integrated education subject to individual projects being agreed between the Executive and the UK Government”, which was agreed during the ‘Fresh Start’ talks.

People Before Profit candidate for Foyle, Eamonn McCann said: “The coming together of Groarty Integrated and Gaelscoil na Daróige would be a positive, innovative and imaginative development, reflecting the sort of society so many of us hope we are moving towards.

“Groarty is the only integrated primary school on the west bank of the Foyle. It provides an important resource for Protestant families.

“A coming together of the two schools would make all sorts of sense. And it’s very hard to see any downside.

“It will say something very depressing if this idea dies the death. It depends on all of us whether that happens.”

An EA spokesperson said: “Applications to the Shared Education Campuses Programme require the endorsement of the relevant managing and planning authorities.

“In deciding whether to endorse applications, EA refers to the gateway checks and essential criteria that will be used by DE in the final assessment process. EA will not endorse applications that, in its view, do not meet that criteria.

“EA forwards all applications, including those that have not been endorsed, to the Department of Education.”

More on this story to follow.