Catholic schools may close in shake up

Published Monday, 13 February 2012
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A major new report into Catholic education is recommending the closure of a number of post primary schools in Northern Ireland.

Catholic schools may close in shake up
The NICCE has been working on a review since 2006. (© UTV)

The earmarked sites include St Gemma's in Belfast, St Peter's in Londonderry, St Mary's in Belleek and Drumcree College in Portadown and St Eugene's in Castlederg.

Gerry Lundy, director of the Commission on Catholic Education review, explained the reasons at the launch in west Belfast on Monday.

He said: "The rationale is that the schools have had a significant decline in pupil numbers and are facing a significant challenge in delivering the curriculum.

"What we are saying is, going forward, they will not be able to do that.

"We believe it is in the best interests of the young pupils to manage closures and regrettably in some areas the option we have recommended is the schools should cease to provide education on that site."

The NICEE report also recommends that other schools, both grammar and secondary, should be amalgamated.

No deadline has been given for getting rid of academic selection.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said the needs of the pupils, rather than the institution, must be at the forefront of any new arrangements.

"We need to establish a sustainable schools' estate for the benefit of our young people," the Sinn Féin minister said.

"We have currently 85,000 empty school desks, and this cannot be allowed to continue as it presents a major drain on resources to all schools.

"There are recommendations for immediate action and sensibly, there are other recommendations that will be brought forward on a longer timeframe because they require other changes to facilitate them.

"All institutional interests need to be set aside at all times in deference to the needs of pupils and the educational outcomes delivered for them. Changes need to be made in a planned and managed way and I will continue to work with the Catholic sector to ensure that this happens."

While the Church is against academic selection, Catholic grammar schools in NI have fought a long battle in favour of the use of 11-plus style tests.

However the Catholic Primate, Sean Brady, told UTV that change cannot be avoided.

Dr Brady said: "We know that schools are very treasured possessions in any community and to close one is a hard decision.

"But it is something that has to be faced at this time and the changes have to be planned. It is not just for the sake of change, it is to ensure the future for all in the sector."

The Catholic Principals Association said it is "disappointed" that the report does not specify its intentions for ending academic selection.

A statement said: "The CPA is disappointed that there is no time scale to end academic selection.

"We regard this omission as the major fault in the proposals, and a reversal of all previous commitments by NICCE. NICCE have always pledged to end selection in a specific time period.

"Regrettably, they have now abandoned that commitment."

Meanwhile the Fermanagh Trust, where a number of schools could be amalgamated as part of the shake-up, said cross-community options should be explored.

Director Lauri McCusker said: "Cross-community, shared education options across Northern Ireland, which would include children from all backgrounds, should be explored as a response to the Catholic post primary review.

"We urge all sectors and people of influence to put children first and see shared education as part of the solution to the pressing needs of the education estate and system in this part of Fermanagh."

© UTV News
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12 Comments
Frosty in Here wrote (888 days ago):
OAP, am sure they've come a long way since they used to beat left-handedness out of the kids. At least I hope so, my son is going to one in September and he's a Protestant. Their curriculum does look well balanced and the school has a good reputation, unlike the local state grammar school, which I went to in the days of corporal punishment and which has been in the news in more recent times for drugs and all sorts of miscreant behaviour. By the way, a moot point but, Mouncey, it's "your" not "you're" spelling and grammar - if you're going to correct someone, at least get it right yourself please. :)
Mouncey in North Belfast wrote (888 days ago):
OAP I take it you didn't go to a Catholic school. You're spelling and grammar are atrocious!
Lauren A in ballymena wrote (889 days ago):
OAP, your comment is a disgrace. I had an excellent education and upbringing in a Catholic education system and am not sectarian in the slightest. Your comment branding Catholic schools and anyone who attends them as "sectarian" is indeed in itself sectarian! You are a hypocrite and do not know what you are talking about.
Jamesbelfast in Belfast wrote (889 days ago):
Let's look at the hard facts - there are 85,000 too many desks. Now whatever way you look at it that is a disgraceful waste of money and resources which could be put to much better use for the future of our children. If a school has seriously reduced numbers then it will not be able to deliver the needs of the curriculum thus failing the pupils. If parents wish these schools to remain open are they prepared to pay extra out of their own pockets. We have to accept there is a cost factor to each and every tax payer in Northern Ireland and it can't be ignored.
what???? in belfast wrote (889 days ago):
@OAP...What it sectarian about a Catholic school????????? Honestly,your comment has baffled me. Why are you so bitter?? The education of children is far more important and parents only want the best for them...after all THE CHILDREN are the future.Lets just be thankful that small-minded people like you are not.
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