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Single sex Catholic schools to go in Co Down

By Kathryn Torney

There will be no single sex Catholic secondary or grammar schools left in Co Down under the final proposals unveiled as part of a shake up of schools across Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) has published its plans for the Co Down and north Belfast/Glengormley areas.

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.

The Co Down options are also designed on the basis that all of the schools will be mixed sex and could result in the number of schools in the area being reduced from 10 to four.

Currently, the co-ed schools are: St Colmcille’s High in Crossgar, St Colman’s High in Ballynahinch, St Columba’s College in Portaferry, St Malachy’s High in Castlewellan and St Columban’s College in Kilkeel.

Single sex secondaries are: De La Salle High (boys) and St Mary’s High (girls), both in Downpatrick.

There are also three grammar schools — Assumption Grammar in Ballynahinch (girls), St Patrick’s Grammar in Downpatrick (a boys’ school with co-ed sixth form) and St Louis’ Grammar in Kilkeel (co-ed).

There is just one proposal for the Castlewellan area which is for St Malachy’s High to remain.

There are two proposals for the Kilkeel area. That St Louis’ Grammar and St Columban’s College work together as separate schools in a partnership or for one 11 to 19 co-ed school.

The proposals for the Ballynahinch, Crossgar, Downpatrick and Portaferry project area are for two (Ballynahinch and Downpatrick) or three (Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and Crossgar) 11-19 co-ed schools.

Under both options, Portaferry would be used as a site for education for 11-14s from the wider Portaferry area and would be part of the Downpatrick school (one board of governors, one principal and one uniform).

The review team’s document states: “The transitional planning aspect of this project will need to focus on the move from single sex to co-education, to ensure it happens smoothly.”

Meanwhile, two options have been put forward for the north Belfast and Glengormley project area where there are seven 11-19 single sex schools.

They are grammars St Malachy’s College (boys) and Dominican College (girls) and secondary schools Our Lady of Mercy Girls’ School, St Gemma’s High (girls), Little Flower Girls’ School, St Patrick’s College (boys) and Edmund Rice College (boys).

The first option put forward is for four all-ability 11-19 schools — a boys’ school at the St Malachy’s College site, a girls’ school at the Dominican College site, a co-ed school at the current Little Flower Girls’ School/St Patrick’s College sites and another co-ed school at the Edmund Rice College site. The second option would be for these four schools and also a co-ed school in the Oldpark/Ligoniel/Ardoyne area.

A preferred option in each local area will then go forward to a further stage of consultation.

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