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Three Catholic grammar schools vow to bin academic selection

By Lindsay Fergus

Three Catholic grammar schools in Northern Ireland have backed plans by the Church’s bishops to phase out academic selection at the age of 11.

They are Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar, Newry; Omagh Christian Brothers Grammar and St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar, Belfast.

The trio — under the stewardship of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust — are the first grammar schools to throw their weight behind the bishops’ June 21 call to gradually end selection.

Under the plans signed by the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady (below left), Catholic grammar schools are being asked to admit at least one in four pupils without having to sit the Post Primary Transfer Consortium’s GL Assessment test.

Loreto College in Coleraine is the only Catholic grammar school to have abandoned academic selection so far.

But yesterday’s endorsement by the Edmund Rice Schools Trust will put pressure on the other 24 Catholic grammar schools who have signed up for a new year of GL tests to follow suit — particularly as bishops who endorsed the plans are on the boards of governors of many of the schools.

They include bishops Noel Treanor, Liam McDaid, John McAreavey, Leo O’Reilly, Monsignor Eamon Martin and auxillary bishops Gerard Clifford, Anthony Farquhar and Donal McKeown.

In a statement, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust said it is “fully supportive of the policy of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) that academic selection at 11 years of age be phased out over a limited period, with appropriate evaluation and monitoring of the impact as the process moves forward”.

It continued: “We welcome the statement of the Northern Catholic Bishops setting out clearly their collective stance in relation to the ending of academic selection at this early age.

“The Edmund Rice Trustees have recognised the concerns expressed by governors of grammar schools about the implementation of the policy, and we believe that the latest NICCE proposal is a reasonable response to these concerns.

“Specifically, we support the proposal that all grammar schools move away from the use of academic selection for 100% of enrolments to a maximum of 75% of enrolments in time for the school intakes in 2014.

“The Edmund Rice Trustees will work with school governors and with other trustees in each local area to facilitate this first phase of transition.”


The Catholic grammar schools that have supported bishops’ plans to phase out academic selection at 11 are:

  • Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar, Newry.
  • Omagh Christian Brothers Grammar.
  • St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar, Belfast.
  • Loreto College, Coleraine.

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