A proposal which will allow Portadown Integrated Primary School to double in size has been approved by Education Minister John O’Dowd.
Principal Feargal Magee said the school was delighted at the announcement, which will enable it to increase the number of classes from seven to 14.
The school has been consistently over-subscribed for a number of years, with many children having had to be turned away.
From September 2016, the school will be able to take 58 pupils into Primary 1, as opposed to the current 29.
And the school’s approved enrolment will increase on a phased basis from 203 to 406 children.
Approval for a school building was granted at the beginning of this year on a site understood to be “very close to the present one”, with construction is set to begin in January 2017.
The new announcement means the school will be big enough for 14 classes rather than the seven first approved by the department.
Said Mr Magee, “We are all delighted that we will now be able to accommodate more children in our school and the whole school community is looking forward to this exciting development.
“We have spent 25 years in sub-standard accommodation and now we are going to be getting something that’s state-of-the-art, close to pedestrian and cycling paths, which will allow us to meet the demand in the area for integrated places.”
He added that the school will no longer have to ask for ‘temporary variation’ each year, under which the school is permitted to extend its enrolment - at the moment it is 278.
Making the announcement, the Minister said, “The evidence shows there is a consistent and increasing demand for integrated places in the area. An increase in the approved enrolment at Portadown Integrated Primary School will help cater for this demand.
“The proposal is also consistent with the area planning proposals contained in the Primary Area Plan and in line with my statutory duty with regards integrated education.”
The announcement is a welcome U-turn from the Department of Education which, in March, turned down the same request from the school.
At that stage, Mr O’Dowd had cited the plans already under way for the new build but said he would be instructing the Southern Education and Library Board and the NI Council for Integrated Education to carry out a review and consider how best to meet the demand for integrated places.