Belfast Telegraph

We will not stop using tests, say the governors of Catholic college

By Rebecca Black

The board of governors of a Catholic grammar school under pressure to abandon academic selection has spoken out in defiance, saying the school will continue to use it.

St Mary's Christian Brothers' School on the Glen Road in west Belfast is refusing to bow to pressure from Education Minister John O'Dowd and the Catholic Church to abandon using tests to determine its Year 8 intake.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the school said: "The board of governors of St Mary's CB Grammar School has no plans to end academic selection."

The school was oversubscribed last year, with 205 applications for 175 places. It accepted A-D grades in the GL assessments.

St Mary's statement comes after two Catholic grammars in Omagh promised to end their use of academic selection by 2020.

Loreto and the Christian Brothers' School in the Co Tyrone town were both oversubscribed last year with 144 applications for 125 places and 166 applications for 135 places.

They told the Belfast Telegraph they will use academic selection for their 2016 intake, but in a statement issued online last week said they will stop using the tests by 2020.

The phasing out of testing will begin in 2017.

Both schools are due to receive new buildings as part of a relocation on to the massive Strule shared campus at the former Lisanelly Army base in Omagh.

The Catholic Church urged its grammar schools seven years ago to stop using academic selection, while the Catholic Principals' Association claimed grammar schools which use entrance exams are doing serious and lasting damage to the ethos and reputation of Catholic education.

But so far only two grammar schools have stopped using academic selection - Loreto College in Coleraine and St Patrick's College in Armagh.

St Michael's in Lurgan previously used tests but was amalgamated into the new comprehensive St Ronan's.

Loreto College in Coleraine selected the pupils it admitted to Year 8 last September mostly based on which applicants had siblings at the school.

It told the Belfast Telegraph that 189 pupils applied for the school's 120 places last year.

The largest number (72) secured a place because they had a sibling at the school; five got a place because a sibling was a past pupil; 16 got a place because their parents had attended, and the remaining 27 were selected using randomised letter of surname based on being eldest children.

Belfast Telegraph


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