Principals are upbeat about the schools plan

New era as St Mary’s and CBS merge

By Francesca Ryan

The principals of Glen Road schools St Mary’s CBGS and CBS have welcomed the merging of the two schools as an opportunity to maximise the educational prospects of their pupils.

Jim Sheerin and Tom Armstrong were speaking after the Edmund Rice Schools Trust revealed its consolidation plan that will see both schools begin to amalgamate in 2015, a transition that will be complete by 2017.

The process comes following a Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education report that contained recommendations for the future provision of post-primary education in Catholic-managed schools here.

The recommendations were shaped by data analysis and responses made during a consultation process earlier this year and concluded that the two schools should merge.

The Edmund Rice plan  revealed the business case for a single education provision for both schools.

“The Consolidation Plan envisages that we move as rapidly as practicable to a single entity by incorporating the pupils of CBS Glen Road into an expanded St Mary’s Grammar School,” it reads.  “The plan involves the development of an expanded curriculum programme at St  Mary’s to meet the needs of the expanding student population over a period of three years, commencing in September 2015.

“The planned expansion of enrolments in the consolidated school will require that St Mary’s Grammar school modify its selection procedures for enrolment from 100 per cent by academic criteria to a maximum of 75 per cent by September 2015. This is consistent with the Trustees’ (and NICCE) policy for a phased transition from academic selection criteria.”

The process of transition will begin for the intake of Year 8 enrolments at St   Mary’s Grammar School in September 2015 and will be complete by September 2017.

At that point, all remaining students of CBS Glen Road will be enrolled in the expanded St Mary’s.  CBS Glen Road will consequently cease operations, although the facilities of the school will continue to be used to meet the expanded needs of the consolidated school.

St Mary’s Principal Jim Sheerin said the school will remain a voluntary grammar.

“I would like to recognise the contribution of Governors and staff of CBS Secondary School to the West Belfast community over the past 50 years,” he said. “It is always sad to see a local institution disappear but this Trustee decision brings exciting prospects for the future.

“In order to maximise parental choice for parents who wish to have children educated in the Edmund Rice tradition we will amend our entrance criteria to include a 75 per cent academic selection and 25 per cent by further criteria.

“St Mary’s will remain a Voluntary Grammar School, enlarge its intake, acquire a new-build on our existing site and will offer the sole Edmund Rice provision on the Glen Road.”

CBS Principal Tom Armstrong said the new school will work for all pupils.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the people of West Belfast to have a school that offers the best of all types of awards, both academic and skills based,” Mr Armstrong told the Andersonstown News.

“It’s a unique opportunity which has taken a display of courage from the Trustees and also the Board of Governors.

“It will look at the merging of skills and expertise of staff and pupils into a new model of education that will offer the best for all pupils.”

No plans for staffing at the consolidated school have been outlined as yet.

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