Belfast Telegraph

Plan to merge a Co Down grammar with three other schools is facing backlash


By Rebecca Black

A plan by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to merge four schools in south Down has been slammed as "intransigent folly".

The proposal would see Downpatrick's De La Salle High, St Mary's High and St Patrick's Grammar, as well as St Columba's College in Portaferry, become a single 'super school' by 2021.

If the plans come to fruition, the new campus would accommodate around 1,600 pupils in the town.

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

The CCMS has indicated that it prefers the third option.

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

St Patrick's Grammar School - known locally as The Red High - is academically selective, while the other three are not.

There are opposing opinions from the schools over the CCMS proposals.

The Red High Parents & Friends Association held a meeting earlier this week, after which it issued a statement rejecting the merger plan.

"At a meeting last night at St Patrick's Grammar School, teachers and the PFA committee were joined by a significant number of parents and supporters to reaffirm our rejection of the CCMS/Trustees proposal to amalgamate St Patrick's Grammar School into a 'super school'," the group said.

"Parents were particularly vocal in their rejection of this and voiced their condemnation of the CCMS presentation as lacking substance, evidential academic research, including published statistics, financial and environmental impact study, as well as the supercilious manner of the presentation."

A steering committee was formed to collate and distribute information for and on behalf of parents.

"This committee will, with the continued support of parents, teachers, friends and the wider community, lobby all relevant parties to prevent this intransigent folly of a proposal from doing serious damage to educational standards not only in our school, but far beyond!"

The group added that members would remain "resolute in their unwavering rejection of this proposal and, with the support of the board of governors, call upon the CCMS and Trustees to review this decision as a matter of urgency".

Earlier this month SDLP MLA Colin McGrath, who is a governor at of St Mary's High School, welcomed the proposals from CCMS, saying a merger would increase the variation in the pupils' curriculum.

Belfast Telegraph

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