David Ford said: “I did not want to get involved in the details of the parental ballot, which ought to be left to parents and governors. However, I believe it is important that the statements of the DUP are challenged. The leaflet distributed by DUP members, though it didn’t say it was published by the DUP, is totally ‘over the top’ in allegations about bullying.
“It is time the facts were spelt out clearly.
“As a Governor of Round Tower Integrated Primary School, I have seen how transformation has created one of the most popular local primary schools. Not only does Round Tower provide a good local school for the greater Springfarm area, it also attracts those who want an integrated option from across Antrim.
“Round Tower remains a ‘controlled school’ under the North-Eastern Education Board, but does so in a way that provides an open, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for children and families form every section of the local community.
“Not only is there a demand for integration at Primary level, the same applies at post-primary level. If Parkhall College transforms, it has the opportunity to continue as a good school, under Board control with a larger student number. This would put the College in the same position as Round Tower.
“Transformation poses no threat to anyone, nor to their religious beliefs or ethics. Round Tower proves how a variety of religious beliefs can be accommodated in a single good school.
“It is absolutely clear and plain that if Parkhall does not become the integrated post-primary school for Antrim, the existing action group will be perfectly entitled to re-engage on their proposals for a new integrated college. To state that this will affect potential numbers at Parkhall is simply fact.
“Either Parkhall attracts those who want an integrated education – Catholic, Protestant or neither – or they go somewhere else. That is a sizeable number of potential students.
“To claim that stating simple facts like this is ‘bullying’ illustrates that the DUP is totally out of touch on the issue. To use a term like ‘bullying’ suggests that they are prepared to see the issue confused in sectarian terms. DUP representatives ought to make it clear who they allege is being bullied and by whom.
“As an Alliance representative, I am committed to integrated education as an option for the growing number who want it for their children. I will continue to support all reasonable means of ensuring that this is available for Antrim pupils and students.”