One of Northern Ireland’s most heavily over-subscribed grammar schools will have to abandon academic selection under the latest proposals to be unveiled by the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE).
The Commission was publishing its plans for the future of schools in Belfast, Lisburn and north Down today.
The 11 Catholic post-primary schools in the South and West Belfast and Lisburn area currently cater for 9,756 pupils and include three grammars — Rathmore, St Dominic’s and St Mary’s Christian Brothers.
Rathmore Grammar in Belfast had to turn away 41 A-grade students last year due to very strong competition for its 180 places for pupils starting at the school in September 2009. The popular Finaghy school resorted to a lottery to determine which young people would be allocated the final Year 8 places for the start of the 2008/09 school year and in that year had to turn away 77 students awarded the top 11-plus grade.
The long-term enrolment projection for the area indicates the need for approximately 8,000-8,200 school places by 2018.
The review concluded that there is a need for eight all-ability 11-19 ‘educational sites’ and that this will require four new buildings.
The options suggest co-educational schools at Rathmore and St Colm’s High and single sex schools at De La Salle College, Edmund Rice, St Genevieve’s High School at the Dominican education provision on the Falls Road, St Louise’s Comprehensive and then either a boys’ school at Corpus Christi College or a new co-educational school in the Crumlin/Glenavy/Lisburn area.
Meanwhile, the South and East Belfast and North Down area project involves four schools — Aquinas Grammar and Our Lady and St Patrick’s College in Knock and secondary schools St Joseph’s College in Belfast and St Columbanus’ College in Bangor.
There are currently 3,208 pupils in the four schools which have the capacity for 3,195 pupils. It is expected that there will need to be places for approximately 3,000-3,200 pupils by the year 2018.
The one proposal put forward by NICCE is for the four schools to remain but all to become co-educational and non-academically selective for admissions at age 11.
NICCE is putting forward proposals for Catholic schools across Northern Ireland — all are based on the key directive from the commission that every grammar school should begin phasing out academic selection and stop using it completely by 2012.
Copies of all the consultation documents can be downloaded at www.pprce.org
Consultation on all of the projects ends on May 31.