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Catholic schools meet to discuss shake-up plans

By Donna Deeney

The majority of post-primary school principals in the Derry diocese have lent their initial support to plans for a radical shake-up of Catholic education.

The diocesan administrator, Monsignor Eamon Martin, published his Together Towards Tomorrow document last week, setting out his vision for second level education in Londonderry.

The proposals include ending academic selection, single sex education, and the establishment of a sixth form college.

Monsignor Martin stressed that the paper was a discussion document and he was keen to hear from all schools during the consultation period which ends in May.

The first engagement took place in St Cecilia’s College in Derry with every post-primary school in the diocese present.

Sean McGinty, principal of St Columb's College, said he had no difficulty with the proposals.

He said: “It is an unnatural break to divide boys and girls who have been together at primary level once they reach 11.

“We do have a certain amount of mixed education at St Columb's already where girls from St Mary's, St Cecilia’s and Thornhill come here for some courses at A2 level through the Foyle Learning programme, and certainly the boys at this school don't have any difficulty with that.”

But Kathleen Gormley, principal of St Cecilia's, said: “We have the third largest sixth from in the city and the girls feel very protective, and certainly this is the area that I will need convinced on.

“I have looked at sixth form models elsewhere and I am not convinced it is the way forward.”

Monsignor Martin said this initial meeting served its purpose which was to give schools more information about the document.

“This is the beginning of a process of engagement. I don't think there is anything to lose.”

Background

The proposals ask Derry's Catholic grammars to begin reducing the proportion of pupils selected for admission by academic ability. Schools would then apply to become a 'bilateral' school for a period. They would then reduce selection by academic ability to 45% of intake for three more years before a review.

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