What can be done about over-subscription of integrated schools, asks director of ATL Northern Ireland Mark Langhammer.
How to deal fairly with over-subscribed schools? Integrated schools are among the most over-subscribed in Northern Ireland. So it is unsurprising that the integrated sector is articulating new, non-selective solutions.
This year, the two most over-subscribed schools in Northern Ireland were both integrated: Slemish College turned 93 children away and Lagan College 87. More than half of post-primary integrated colleges were over-subscribed. One answer, to build more integrated schools, is unlikely in the current fiscal climate.
The integrated sector is also, predominantly, an all-ability sector. Only a small number of integrated colleges promote a grammar stream.
As a means of managing over-subscription, the chief executive of Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, Noreen Campbell, articulated the concept of 'fair banding' when speaking in the Irish news.
"Using this method, oversubscribed schools select their students from four broad ability bands, 25 per cent from each band, determined by key stage 2 assessment tests. Parents will have the confidence that they have a choice of schools able to meet the needs of the full range of abilities, children will be spared the torture of testing and the stigma of failure, and its concomitant impact on achievement will be lifted from schools and families alike."
Fair banding is another way of achieving socially balanced intakes. Better than unregulated testing? Or drawing lots? Or a postcode lottery? Will many integrated schools adopt banding? An experiment worth trying in an increasingly popular sector.
Building more integrated schools is unlikely in the current fiscal climate