Belfast Telegraph

Minister closes girls' school after 45 years

St GEMMA'S High School in north Belfast will close at the end of August after Education Minister John O'Dowd concluded it is no longer "sustainable".

A proposal to close the all-girls' Catholic secondary school, which has served the Ardoyne area since 1967, was included in the NI Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) review of post-primary education for the north Belfast and Glengormley area and also in the Belfast Education and Library Board's post-primary plan.

Commenting on the decision, Mr O'Dowd said: "I appreciate that St Gemma's High School has forged very close links with the Ardoyne community which it has served over the past 45 years and that its closure will be a disappointment to those who have been closely associated with the school during this time.

"In making my decision, however, the educational interests of the pupils were at the forefront of my considerations," he added.

Attributing his decision to "sharply declining" enrolments at the school, Mr O'Dowd said the school was "increasingly unable to provide the full range and quality of curricular offer that is required," particularly at the GCSE and post-16 phases.

"Having considered all of the evidence, I have therefore concluded that St Gemma's is no longer sustainable and that closure is the only option," he said.

The school has been in formal intervention since April 2011. There are just 110 pupils enrolled, with no one enrolled in year 8.

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