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Four Catholic schools to lose grammar status

By Victoria O'Hara

Four top Catholic grammars will be forced to stop using academic selection under new plans unveiled by the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE).



The Catholic Church is aiming to outlaw selection from its schools completely by 2012. However, it is already known that some schools are planning to rebel against this plan.

NICCE has revealed plans for five areas which have emerged from its post-primary review. More detail is due to follow on other areas over the next few weeks.

If the proposals are accepted, St Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt would amalgamate with St Pius X in the town to create a 2,000-pupil all-ability school.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, said the decisions taken at the end of the process “will shape the delivery” of Catholic education in Northern Ireland.

The school would be on a split site and “incorporate the ethos, pastoral care and teaching expertise of the two current schools”.

Proposals and options for Catholic post primary schools in Antrim, Greater Dungannon, South Derry and Ballygawley have also been published.

Among the options put forward in Co Antrim was that St Patrick’s College, Ballymena, would be a school for 11-14 year-olds, St Louis’ Grammar School, Ballymena, a school for 14 to 19-year-olds and St Benedict’s College, Randalstown, for 11 to 19-year-olds.

In South Derrry four schools were featured in the document— St Colm’s High School, Draperstown, St Mary’s College, Clady, St Patrick’s College, Maghera, and St Paul’s College, Kilrea .

Among the two proposals suggested was that “a formal collaborative partnership” of the three schools be developed to provide an “all-ability” education for 2,300 11-19 -year olds, while a second proposal suggested that two of the schools should be located in Maghera and Draperstown.

And a third school — located at a new site — would be created through a merger to cater for the pupils of Kilrea and Clady areas.

Similar radical reform has been proposed for St Joseph’s Convent Grammar in Donaghmore and St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon.

The public consultation ends on May 31.

Gerry Lundy, Director of the Post-primary Review, urged all those with an interest in the provision of education to respond.

“The post-primary sector faces a number of significant challenges including declining demographics, the debate over the ending of academic selection, changes in the curriculum as well as the development of area-based planning,” he said.

Speaking at St Catherine’s College, Armagh, Cardinal Brady said:

“This is an initial consultation and an inclusive consultation.

“The Catholic Trustees want to explore with stakeholders, including other school providers, how we can co-operate in new and creative ways to provide the best possible education for every child.

“The decisions we reach at the conclusion of this consultation process will shape the delivery of Catholic education in Northern Ireland and I would urge everyone with an interest to respond.”

Copies will be distributed to parents in feeder primary schools as well as teachers, principals, governors and other school staff and can be downloaded at www.pprce.org

A consultation with post-primary pupils will also take place.

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