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Belfast schools 'on move' as part of education shake-up

By Lindsay Fergus

Some of Belfast's best known grammar schools could be moved outside the city under radical plans to overhaul the school's estate.

The Education Minister is concerned that more than 12,000 pupils, mainly from the South Eastern Education and Library Board area, commute to schools in the Belfast Education and Library Board area every day.

With some schools due to be replaced in the future, John O'Dowd yesterday outlined the next steps for a shake-up aimed at making them more viable.

Unveiling revised post-primary area plans at the Assembly, Mr O'Dowd said: "In Belfast we are faced with a particular situation around the number of young people travelling into the city. We need to ask ourselves is this what we want for the future? Is it sustainable economically, educationally and environmentally?"

Just 33% of pupils in the city's controlled grammar schools and 46% in voluntary grammars come from Belfast. In at least 11 grammar schools in the BELB area, less than half their pupils live in the city.

BELB's area plans state: "Strong connections between a school and its local community are one of the core components that make for a successful school."

In a bid to tackle the problem, several Belfast grammars, which have not yet been identified, could be closed and reopened in a new location outside the city.

The minister is commissioning research on the issue. However, some politicians have expressed concerns including the DUP's Michelle McIlveen, who said she was "speechless" and expressed fears that such a move would limit parental choice. Meanwhile, parent power has given integrated schools a major boost after education bosses were forced to abandon plans to downgrade the sector. The plans detail proposals to reduce the 85,000 empty desks in our schools. The wide-ranging plans include school closures, amalgamations and so-called 'super schools' with more than 1,000 pupils.

According to the area plans, which have been amended after public consultation on details published last July, the proposed mergers of several integrated post-primary schools with other schools have been shelved.

Among those saved are:

  • Sperrin Integrated College which was to amalgamate with Rainey Endowed;
  • North Coast Integrated College which was to merge with Coleraine Academical Institution, Coleraine High and Coleraine College;
  • Ulidia College which had been proposed to merge with Carrickfergus College and Downshire College.

There are also proposals to increase pupils numbers at:

  • Newbridge Integrated College;
  • Brownlow Integrated College;
  • Priory Integrated College;
  • Erne Integrated College;
  • Oakgrove Integrated College.

Tina Merron, chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund, has welcomed the proposals that were updated following a public consultation exercise that attracted almost 50,000 responses.

However, shared education was dealt a blow after plans to increase sharing of resources between Catholic maintained and controlled schools, attended predominantly by Protestant pupils, were rejected by parents.

The North Eastern Education and Library Board had proposed a shared management school incorporating Ballymoney High and Our Lady of Lourdes High. It had also proposed Cross and Passion College and Ballycastle High develop their current working relationship to lead to one jointly managed co-educational school. But the two Catholic maintained schools and two controlled schools will now continue as separate entities under the revised plans.

North Eastern Education and Library Board


• Antrim Grammar School will continue as an 11-19 co-educational school for 740 pupils.

• Parkhall Controlled Integrated College to continue as an 11-16 co-educational school for 735 pupils.

• A consultation process is under way at Crumlin Integrated College on the potential for the establishment of a shared management school with the Catholic sector.

• A partnership between St Louis' Grammar School (Ballymena), St Patrick's College (Ballymena) and St Benedict's (Randalstown) leading to the creation of one 11-19 Catholic managed post-primary school for the area for 1,950 pupils.


• Ballymena Academy will continue as an 11-19 grammar school with an enrolment of 1,230 pupils from 2014 extending to 1,375.

• Cambridge House Grammar School will become an 11-19 bi-lateral school of 1,030 pupils by 2014 and will then reduce to 935 pupils.

• Slemish College will continue as an 11-19 school with 800 pupils from 2014 to a maximum of 880.

• Cullybackey High School continues as an 11-19 school with 700 pupils in 2014 to a maximum of 770.

• Dunclug College continues as an 11-19 school with a maximum of 700 pupils in 2014 to a maximum of 935.

• Ballee Community High School to close from August 31, 2014.


• Magherafelt High is to continue as an 11-19 school for 825 pupils.

• Rainey Endowed to continue as an 11-19 school for 990 pupils.

• Sperrin Integrated College to continue as an 11-19 school for 660 pupils.

• The proposed amalgamation of St Mary's College (Clady) and St Paul's College (Kilrea) by September 2013, with the new college operating on the existing two sites.

• Proposal to establish Irish medium post-primary provision in Maghera.


• Ballymoney High will develop as an 11-19 school for 753 pupils.

• Dalriada Grammar will continue as an 11-19 school for 897 pupils.

• Further examination of opportunities to permit Our Lady of Lourdes High school to continue post-primary provision.


• Coleraine Academical Institution and Coleraine High School will combine to create two separate co-educational schools under the same school names and management types. One will select by academic ability while the other will be non-selective.

• North Coast Integrated College will continue as an 11-19 school with a maximum enrolment of 550.

• Dunluce School to continue as an 11-16 with a maximum enrolment of 550 pupils.

• Closure of Coleraine College

• The Commission for Catholic Education recommends two 11-19 Catholic post-primary schools, one in Coleraine and one in Portstewart. There are currently three – Loreto College, Dominican College and St Joseph's High School.


• Ballycastle High to continue as an 11-19 school for 550 pupils.

• Cross and Passion College to continue as an 11-19 school for 770 pupils.


• Carrickfergus Grammar School to continue as an 11-19 school for 880 pupils.

• Carrickfergus College and Downshire School to work towards becoming a single controlled school by 2017/18 for 1,430 pupils.

• Ulidia College to continue as an 11-19 school for 660 pupils.


• Larne Grammar School to continue as an 11-19 school for 770 pupils.

• Larne High School to continue as an 11-19 school for 650 pupils.

• St Killian's College will

continue as an 11-19 co-educational school.


• Ballyclare High School will continue as an 11-19 school to a maximum enrolment of 1,331 by 2025.

• Ballyclare Secondary School will continue as an 11-19 school to a maximum enrolment of 1,100 by 2025.

• Belfast High will continue as an 11-19 school to a maximum enrolment of 1,023 pupils by 2025.

• Glengormley High School will continue as an 11-19 school with a maximum of 1,650 pupils by 2025.

• Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High School will combine to form a single school from September 2014 to a maximum enrolment of 1,100 by 2025. The work of Rostulla School will

be closely aligned

with the combined school.

• Recommended there should be four 11-19 Catholic maintained post-primary schools in the North Belfast/Glengormley area.

See BELB also.

South Eastern Education and Library Board


Proposals include:

• A community college incorporating Glastry College and Strangford College with the potential for the inclusion of St Columba's College on the site of the new school – subject to funding and consultation. Glastry and Strangford schools have indicated willingness for this option.


• St Columba's College to be reviewed by CCMS.

• Consultation with Movilla High, Nendrum College and Regent House to explore potential models of provision to cover the greater Newtownards area to reduce the level of unfilled places and result in long-term sustainable schools.


Proposals include:

• The establishment of sustainable and viable post-primary schools at either end of the Knock Dual Carriageway with Ashfield Boys and Girls at one end and a single school at the other end. See BELB's plans.

• The amalgamation of Knockbreda and Newtownbreda High Schools from August 31, 2014.

• Our Lady and St Patrick's College to remain as is.

• The closure of Dundonald High School from August 2014 and Orangefield High School by August this year.


Proposals include:

• A strategic alliance between the High School, Ballynahinch and St Colman's High School and Assumption Grammar for sixth form provision.

• The creation of a partnership between St Mary's High, St Patrick's Grammar and De La Salle High School with a view to establishing a co-educational provider for the area.

• Better links between Saintfield High and Down High.

• Review provision of Shimna Integrated and Blackwater Integrated Colleges which may include the formation of a strategic alliance or collegiate.


Proposals include:

• The formation of a strategic alliance between Laurelhill Community College and Lisnagarvey High School for sixth form provision, with a view of one new build on a single site.

• St Patrick's High School to develop a partnership with Rathmore Grammar.

• St Colm's High School to develop a partnership with De La Salle/St Genevieve's.


Proposals include:

• Sullivan Upper to look at closer links with Priory College.

• Proposal to increase the enrolment at Priory.

Southern Education and Library Board


Proposals include:

• Further consultation on plans to amalgamate the City of Armagh and Markethill High Schools and build replacement buildings on the Markethill site for 700 pupils. Refurbish and extend the Royal School for 700 pupils.


• Amalgamate the City of Armagh High School and the Royal School. Refurbish and extend the existing Royal School for 850 pupils. Provide a new school at Markethill for 550 pupils.


• Amalgamate the City of Armagh and Markethill High Schools. Provide new buildings, co-located with the Royal School, for 700 pupils. Refurbish and extend the existing Royal School buildings for 700 pupils.


• Amalgamate all three schools and provide a new 11-19 all ability school on the Royal School site for 1,400 pupils.

• Closure of Drumcree College.

• 11-19 co-educational provision is retained in St Patrick's High School, Keady.

• Two single-sex 11-19 Catholic schools, inclusive of Irish-medium education, in Armagh city. Consultation for the establishment of one 11-19 boys' school with a potential phased implementation from September.


• Capital investment in Dromore High School will be progressed as a priority by SELB.

• Proposal to increase enrolment at Newbridge Integrated College. Decision to be made by the Department of Education.

• Rathfriland High School will continue to explore ways in which the school can deliver high-quality education through working with other partners.

• Retain provision in St Patrick's College, Banbridge.


• Both Cookstown High and Holy Trinity College to remain as 11-19 co-educational post-primary schools and continue to explore ways in which the current good working relationships can be further developed.


• Further consultation over reorganising the current five schools and campuses within Portadown and Tandragee into a Portadown and Tandragee Collegiate with a single board of governors and a single principal. A similar arrangement proposed in Lurgan.

*Retaining integrated choice for parents with the maintenance and growth of Brownlow College.

• The retention of an 11-19 co-educational, all-ability school in Lismore Comprehensive College.

• The creation of a new 11-19 co-educational, all-ability school on the current St Michael's Grammar School site in Lurgan through the amalgamation of St Mary's High School, St Paul's Junior High School and St Michael's Grammar School by September 2013.


• St Ciaran's College, Ballygawley, to continue to provide 11-19 post-primary education.

• Creation of a shared educational campus though further collaboration between St Patrick's Academy and St Patrick's College.

• Drumglass High School and Dungannon Integrated College to be retained.

• The proposed model for an 11-19 co-educational school – inclusive of Irish-medium provision – in St Joseph's Grammar School, Donaghmore, with an 11-16 co-educational school in St Joseph's High School, Coalisland.


• The retention of Newtownhamilton High School and to build on its current partnerships with other schools in the area.

• A new 11-19 co-educational all-ability Catholic school in Crossmaglen and the retention of an 11-19 all–ability Catholic co-educational school in Bessbrook.

• SELB to work with Kilkeel High School to ensure it can meet its obligation to pupils despite the downturn in enrolment.

• A new build to expand St Louis' Grammar, Kilkeel and phased closure of St Columban's College.

• Strengthening of 11-19 provision in St Mark's High School, Warrenpoint.

Belfast Education and Library Board

Proposals include:

• The closure of Orangefield High School from August 2013.

• Increasing enrolment numbers at Ashfield Boys and Ashfield Girls High schools, to accommodate Orangefield pupils.

• Ashfield Boys and Ashfield Girls working towards a combined 6th form from September.

• Recommendation to reduce seven Catholic schools into four to serve the north Belfast and Glengormley area, including: Dominican College, Edmund Rice College, Glengormley, Little Flower Girls' School, Our Lady of Mercy Girls' School, St Gemma's High School, St Malachy's College and St Patrick's College. At least two of those schools should be co-educational.

• The closure of St Gemma's from August.

• An 11-19 co-educational campus on the Ravenhill Road, including Aquinas Grammar School and St Joseph's College.

• The provision of eight 11-19 Catholic schools serving south and west Belfast and Lisburn. This is to include a new school in Crumlin/Glenavy/Lisburn, the retention of Rathmore as an 11-19 co-educational voluntary grammar, an 11-19 girls' campus under a single governance model to include St Dominic's Grammar School and St Rose's Dominican College and a single 11-19 provision to be created including St Mary's Christian Brothers' Grammar School and Christian Brothers' School. The other four schools would include Corpus Christi College, De La Salle College, St Colm's High, St Genevieve's High, St Louise's Comprehensive College and St Patrick's Academy, Lisburn.

• The phased development of St Louise's Comprehensive College to a co-educational provision.

• CCMS has also been in discussions with the NEELB about developing a shared cross-sectoral provision for the Crumlin/Glenavy/Lisburn area. See NEELB.

Western Education and Library Board


• Catholic schools in Londonderry moving towards co-educational provision and an end of academic selection.

• St Peter's High School will close in August 2013.

• A proposed increase in pupils at Oakgrove Integrated.


• Two large single-sex Catholic managed schools in Enniskillen.

• One new Catholic managed school through the amalgamation of St Aidan's High School, St Comhghall's College and St Eugene's College.

• Investigate feasibility of a rural academy for pupils living in the Irvinestown and Dromore areas.

• A new replacement grammar school on the Portora site for an amalgamated Portora Royal School and Collegiate Grammar School for 900 pupils.

• A new school on the Tempo Road site to replace Devenish College and Lisnaskea High School for 800 pupils.

• Closure of St Mary's High, Brollagh.

• A proposed increase in pupil numbers at Erne Integrated.


• Retention of an 11-19 co-educational college in Limavady.

• Establishment of an 11-19 co-educational college taking account of the needs along the Dungiven, Claudy and Glendermott corridor.


• Holy Cross College will continue to provide 11-19 co-educational provision.

• St Eugene's High School, Castlederg, will close from August 2013.

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