Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has approved proposals for the future of Coleraine and Portstewart Maintained Post Primary Schools.
From September 2017, Dominican College, Portstewart will move to a phased and complete transformation away from the use of academic selection. The school will also undergo a phased expansion up to 675 pupils. Loreto College, Coleraine will undergo a phased expansion up to 1,080 pupils. Furthermore, St Joseph’s College, Coleraine will undergo a phased closure over two years with effect from 1 September 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter.
Commenting on the decision, Minister O’Dowd said: “This is an exciting and progressive development for post-primary education in the Coleraine and Portstewart area. The evidence, both local and international, is clear – mixed ability schooling can deliver better outcomes for everyone. The top education systems around the world combine excellence with equality of access.
“We have already seen three schools – Loreto College in Coleraine, St Ronan’s in Lurgan, and St Patrick Grammar in Armagh – remove the use of academic criteria for the admission of pupils, and I commend the governors of Dominican College for taking this important step which will benefit all the young people of the North Coast.
“The time has long passed for grammar schools to begin the process of ending selection by academic means. The weight of evidence and opinion is gathering pace firmly against the practice, and I hope that more grammar schools will show the vision and fortitude to consider how they might make their school all inclusive.”
The Minister continued: “In considering these proposals it was clear from the evidence that, although it has provided an excellent education to children from the local community for generations, St Joseph’s college is not sustainable. In recent years the school has suffered from declining enrolments, with only 292 children enrolled in 2014/15.
“The proposal to close St Joseph’s was put forward together with a recommendation to increase the capacity at both Loreto and Dominican Colleges. Having examined all three proposals I am satisfied that this course of action is in the best educational interest of the pupils, both now and into the future.”
The Minister added: “I am sure that all those involved, including parents and school staff, will work hard to ensure a smooth transition and I wish them all the best in the future. I would also like to pay tribute to everyone connected with St Joseph’s College, who over many years have shown great commitment and dedication to the school and its pupils.”