Belfast Telegraph

Four Catholic Schools may merge in Downpatrick and Portaferry

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) is considering merging post-primary schools in Co Down.

The schools involved in the plan are De La Salle High School, St Mary's High School, St Patrick's Grammar School, in Downpatrick, and St Columba's College, in Portaferry.

If the plans are successful the new school would accommodate around 1,600 pupils.

It is understood that three proposals are on the table, leaving things as they are, merging the schools into two separate schools or merging them all into one large school.

The CCMS have indicted that their preferred option would be merging all the schools together.

A consultation process for parents is currently underway and is scheduled to finish on May 18.

If it is successful it will then be passed on to the Education Authority who will conduct their own public consultation with all relevant groups.

Following a successful consultation it would then be passed to the Department of Education who would come up with a development proposal.

A final decision on the plans are set to be made early next year and if the plans are successful it is envisioned any new school would open in September 2021.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath is a Governor of St Mary's High School and urged parents to participate in the consultation regarding the merger of four local schools in the Down Area.

“I welcome this move to re-shape the school provision in the Down and Lecale area," he said.

“The bottom line is that many children in our area are not accessing a varied enough curriculum because of the restriction of small staff teams located across multiple sites. The suggested proposals maximise the opportunities children have and will provide multiple educational pathways – many more than are currently on offer which will result in improved educational experiences and outcomes.

“I welcome that Academic Selection will not be used for local children as a means of entry to any proposed new school. This antiquated method of selecting children is simply cruel.

“The consultation is open until mid-May and I would encourage parents and local people that are interested to appraise themselves with the consultation and to participate in the process to ensure their views are made known.”

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) have declined to comment on the plans.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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