News

Schools to merge by next year

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A PROPOSAL has been formally submitted to the Education Authority to expand St Louis Grammar School and close St Columban's College in Kilkeel next August.

The public consultation issued by the Education Authority is the next stage in the process to merge the two Mourne schools.

 The provisional consultation back in April  included members of staff and Board of Governors from both schools.

Speaking about the proposal which is published in this paper, St Louis principal Kevin Martin said: "At the heart of this proposal is doing what is best for our children.We had productive meetings back in April and this is now the next step in the process. People have been positive and they have good faith in our school moving forward."

The idea to merge  the two schools dates back to 2012. South Down MLA at the time and former St Louis principal, Sťan Rogers posed the question: "Can both academic and vocational be done in one school? Yes, they can; in one all-abilities school, to meet the needs of all our children. I have every confidence that it can happen, but it will take time."

Former Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said: "The proposed merger between St Columban's and St Louis, I believe is the best way forward and amalgamation will allow us to push for a new school fit for the 21st century."

The proposal, in respect of St Louis Voluntary Grammar School states that the school "will increase admissions and enrolment numbers from 80 to 130 and 570 to 860 respectively, with effect from September 2018, or as soon as possible thereafter. The criteria for admissions to the school will be bilateral."

 The statement continues: "The proposed new criteria will ensure that children from the local area of Lower and Upper Mourne will access the school through non-academic criteria while up to 40 per cent of Year 8 admissions will be available to children from the wider region by means of academic selection."

The development proposal published on page nine in respect of St Columban's College states that the school "including the Learning Support Centre at the school, will discontinue with effect from 31 August 2018, or as soon as possible thereafter".

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