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Northern Ireland school merger plan dropped - not enough room on ferry

The plans would have seen St Columba's College in Portaferry merge with three schools in Downpatrick. Credit: Google Maps
The plans would have seen St Columba's College in Portaferry merge with three schools in Downpatrick. Credit: Google Maps

Plans to amalgamate a school in Portaferry with three others have been dropped due to concerns over transport.

In 2018, it was announced that St Columba's College would merge with De La Salle High School, St Mary's High School and St Patrick's Grammar, which are all in Downpatrick, for financial reasons.

Concerns were raised by parents in Portaferry, however, such as how the 170 St Columba's pupils would travel to Downpatrick each morning.

Options included either taking a ferry trip of less than a mile across Strangford Lough, or 41-mile bus journey lasting more than an hour.

It was suggested that the current ferry service would not have the capacity to get all the pupils to school on time.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), which manages the schools involved in the plans, has now announced the merger will not go ahead.

"CCMS, and the Trustees of the Downpatrick/Portaferry Post-primary Project Board, have completed the review of the stakeholder consultation on the future of post-primary education in Downpatrick and Portaferry," they said in a statement.

Breaking News - no amalgamation for St. Columba's We have learned this evening that St. Columba's College is not going...

Posted by St. Columba's College Portaferry on Monday, April 15, 2019

"All responses to the consultation process have been given due consideration and the aim of improving educational opportunities for pupils in the area remains central to the project.

"CCMS and the trustees have concluded that unique challenges face pupils from Portaferry in terms of requiring additional ferry places to transport pupils to Downpatrick.

"As a result, CCMS and the Trustees are withdrawing St Columba’s College, Portaferry from the proposed amalgamation."

St Columba's said their Board of Governor's welcomes the decision and parents would be informed on Tuesday.

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