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Nine Northern Ireland Catholic schools to lose grammar status

By Kathryn Torney

Nine more schools face losing their grammar status under the latest plans to be announced by the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education.

NICCE today published details of its proposals for five areas following work carried out during a review of Catholic post-primary schools across the province.

Proposals and options for  schools in Antrim, Greater Dungannon, South Derry and Ballygawley were published last week and included four grammars no longer being permitted to use academic selection.

More detail is due to follow on other areas over the next few weeks.

All of the proposals are based on a key directive from NICCE that all Catholic grammars should stop using academic selection by 2012 - however, it is known that some schools are currently planning to rebel against this.

The proposals unveiled today cover Greater Newry & District, Greater Armagh & District, South Armagh, Ballymoney/Coleraine/Portstewart and West Tyrone.

In the Greater Armagh and district area, there is currently one grammar and four secondary schools for 3,364 pupils.

The four options put forward by NICCE include having three co-educational schools in Keady, Armagh and Portadown; two co-ed in Keady and Portadown and two single sex schools in Armagh; one co-ed in Keady and two single sex in Armagh and, finally, one co-ed in Keady and another in Armagh.

They include a commitment to continue to expand Irish-medium post-primary education in Armagh.

Five options have been put forward for the Newry area where there are currently eight post-primary schools, including four grammars, catering for 5,800 pupils.

The options include having two all-ability, co-ed schools in Banbridge and Warrenpoint and two, three or four all-ability, co-ed schools in Newry.

The fifth option includes some of the Newry schools being single sex.

In the Ballymoney/Coleraine/Portstewart area there are currently 1,847 pupils in four schools - two grammar and two secondary.

Five options have been put forward and include having just one 11-19 school in Coleraine; two all-ability schools in Coleraine and Portstewart; one 11-16 school in Ballymoney and two 11-19 schools in Coleraine and Portstewart, and two or three all-ability 11-16 schools with one sixth form college in Coleraine.

There is just one proposal in the South Armagh project.

NICCE has said that the two secondaries - St Paul’s High in Bessbrook and St Joseph’s High in Crossmaglen - should remain with expansion and a new build at Crossmaglen.

In West Tyrone there are two grammar schools, four secondary schools and one comprehensive bi-lateral school (accepting some of its students based on academic results).

NICCE has proposed that there should be schools in Carrickmore, Omagh and Strabane. There are currently also high schools in Castlederg and Dromore.

Gerry Lundy, director of the Post-primary Review, urged parents, teachers, pupils and others with an interest in education to respond to the NICCE consultation.

* More information on the proposals can be found at

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