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Bishop sees ‘real need’ for thriving BT14 school

By Kieran Hughes

A North Belfast secondary school risks closure if numbers continue to fall, a local bishop has said.

Speaking to pupils and staff at Our Lady of Mercy Girls School last week Bishop Donal McKeown said despite the recent success of the school, including winning the Aisling Award for Outstanding Achievement in Education this year, there is a risk of closure if numbers keep dropping.

But he did say that there is a real need for a thriving post-primary school in the BT14 area of North Belfast

The community-based Education Task Group (ETG) have been campaigning for a new all-ability school in Ardoyne, Ligoniel and Oldpark areas.

Earlier this year it was revealed that St Gemma’s School on Oldpark has been recommended for closure at the end of this academic year.

“I think it is vital that this area, St Vincent de Paul parish, Sacred Heart Parish, Holy Cross Parish, continues to provide the best possible education for all the young people in the area,” said Donal McKeown.

“Data from the parishes indicates there is more than enough children in this area to provide a very sustainable post-primary school. There is no evidence whatever that a new school, properly promoted, would not be successful into the future.

“But despite all that you have achieved there still are people who choose to go to other schools and I know and you know that if too many choose to go elsewhere that the Department of Education risks pulling the carpet even from a school that has achieved so many things this year and that would be an awful loss for the area.

“I think there is a real need for a thriving, co-educational post-primary school in this area.”

He encouraged pupils of Our Lady of Mercy to celebrate the success of the school.

“You have to look forward to the future with confidence. Go out and make known the good news about this school and tell at least some of your neighbours and relations to apply for here next year and the year after and the year after,” he said.

“Sing the praises of your school and be proud of what you have achieved, help this community that has suffered so much to keep believing itself.”

Martin Moreland, principal  of Our Lady of Maercy said of the comments:

“I am very pleased with the bishop’s endorsement of the work of Our Lady of Mercy School and his generous praise regarding our Ashling Award for outstanding achievement in education.

“We are all greatly encouraged by his encouraging and positive comments about the future of our school, especially when he talked in terms of looking foward with hope to the next 50 years and celebrating 100 of Our Lady of Mercy School.”


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