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Lisburn school put on watch makes the grade after five years

By Rebecca Black

Five years ago a Lisburn high school was placed in formal intervention - this year it has doubled the percentage of its students achieving five good GCSEs.

It has been a remarkable transformation from 2011 when Lisnagarvey High School, along with Dunmurry High School and St Gemma's, were all put on watch.

Four years ago the Belfast Telegraph reported on the standards crisis in the area and how just 7% of pupils were obtaining five or more good GCSEs including English and maths - more than 25 percentage points below the Northern Ireland average.

Since then Lisnagarvey has flourished and is now in the top 15% of our schools, while the other two schools have closed.

The number of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs has soared to 84% this year, placing Lisnagarvey among Northern Ireland's top schools.

The school's enrolment has also almost doubled from 280 in 2008 to 512 in this school year.

The icing on the cake came in January when the school officially exited formal intervention.

Principal Jim Sheerin has put the transformation down to setting targets, booster classes, involving parents and finding courses that inspire pupils.

"The school has been open evenings and weekends for the last five years. Different clubs use it and children can come in for things like GCSE revision courses and general study sessions," he said."

Schools are placed into formal intervention when they are deemed unsatisfactory by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

Ten schools are currently in formal intervention. Three of them - Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn, Springhill Primary in Belfast and Tullygally Primary in Lurgan - have been so since 2011. The remaining schools are Dundonald High School, Dunluce School in Bushmills, Monkstown Community School, Wheatfield Primary School, Euston Street Primary School and Movilla High School in Newtownards.

The latest school to be placed into formal intervention was Fleming Fulton Special School last June.

Background

Just four years ago Lisnagarvey High School was placed into formal intervention, but now it is thriving. The Lisburn school has been serving the city and surrounding countryside for almost 60 years. Initially it was an all-boys school, before starting to admit girls in the 1990s. But enrolment fell from almost 1,000 in the late 1970s to just 280 in 2006. The school was placed into formal intervention in 2011, but has turned around its fortunes dramatically and is now achieving its best-ever GCSE and A-Level results.

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