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Principal's dismay at plan to merge two grammar schools

By John Porter

Education Minister John O'Dowd has approved plans to close two historic grammar schools in Enniskillen to create a new one.

However, the new school to replace both Portora Royal School and Collegiate Grammar will accommodate 100 fewer pupils than the existing combined enrolment of the schools.

Despite a petition signed by 7,000 people against the proposal, the Education Minister said he was focusing on the needs of children and not of the institutions in coming to his decision.

Collegiate principal Elizabeth Armstrong said the minister's decision was a matter of "grave concern and deep disappointment".

She said: "We have consistently called on the minister to reject these controversial proposals which have caused significant division in the community and to give the leadership all our school communities and our wider community need in order to find a truly inclusive way forward for the good of all our young people."

She added: "This call has clearly been ignored and the minister has approved the closure of an oversubscribed controlled grammar school reducing further the number of post-primary schools in the controlled/voluntary sector from the original six to two in Co Fermanagh.

"If this can happen to the Collegiate Grammar School, is any grammar school or indeed any school in Northern Ireland safe from closure? This is by no means over and we'll explore all possible options to overturn this decision."

Portora, which is more than 400 years old, welcomed the decision, saying it would benefit pupils and secure a sustainable grammar school education for children in the county.

Mr O'Dowd said: "My vision for education is that all our young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential and are encouraged to do so, regardless of which sector they attend. These proposals put the needs of the pupils first."

The schools will operate on split sites from September next year until a new site is identified and money is made available for a new build.

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