Co-ed plan for schools

Co-ed campus proposal for two local schools

By Stephen McVey

A leading Catholic grammar school and its neighbouring secondary counterpart could join together to create one co-educational campus.  The proposal contained in the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB)’s Area Plan for Post-Primary Education would see Aquinas Grammar and Saint Joseph’s college create one ‘co-educational campus’. Both schools are currently located on the Ravenhill Road.

Although specific details were not released in last week’s report on what shape the plans would take, it is thought that a new building would cater for both South Belfast schools.

The review, which has been looking at ways to save money by sharing resources and as a reaction to falling pupil numbers, states that the proposals would now be put out to consultation.

In Northern Ireland there are currently 85,000 school places unfilled. To deal with this the Minister for Education, John O’Dowd, said that bold decisions needed to be made.

“The plans map out the issues affecting education in local areas both now and in the future and put forward proposals to meet these challenges. If we are serious about raising educational standards; opening up new opportunities for our children; and helping drive economic growth in the future, we need to begin by making bold decisions. Today marks an important first step on that journey,” he said.

The BELB area plan, published on July 5, stated that: “A business case to establish the most appropriate model to deliver viable and sustainable provision for all pupils on the campus will be completed by December 2012 with consultation with stakeholders on the proposal as early as possible thereafter.”

The consultation will look at how the two schools can share resources and build upon their relationship to produce the best results for post primary students in South Belfast.

Gerry Lundy, Deputy Chief Executive, The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said the consultation process would allow the schools involved to make the best decisions on how to move forward.

“This is a further step in a process of moving to a network of high quality schools, accessible to all pupils, whose enrolments are sufficient both to make the school viable and sustainable,“ he said.

The CCMS and the Education minister have encouraged anyone with an interest in education to carefully consider the proposals and to make their views known through the consultation process.

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