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Grammar schools to end 11-plus tests as part of shake-up

St Fanchea's in Enniskillen is among the schools involved in a proposed shake-up

TWO Catholic grammars are to abandon 11-plus tests and become non-selective in a move that will see two other schools shut down.

Four schools are involved in a proposed shake-up of post-primary education in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

It is expected that plans will go out to consultation next year and, if approved, will see academic selection end in the town's Catholic schools.

Meetings have been taking place this week with the schools concerned.

It is understood that two non-selective schools - St Fanchea's for girls and St Joseph's for boys - will be discontinued. Two grammar schools - St Michael's for boys and Mount Lourdes for girls - would then increase in size.

It is expected that the new schools would operate on split sites initially. St Fanchea's only received a new £7.2 million new build in recent years.

Schools in Fermanagh have experienced significant upheaval since the area-based planning exercise was launched.

It has been proposed that St Comhghall's in Lisnaskea and St Eugene's in Roslea shut down and a new 650-pupil school open in Lisnaskea. The state-controlled Lisnaskea High School was also closed.

In addition, Portora Royal and the all girls' Collegiate Grammar in Enniskillen are to be discontinued and replaced by a new 900-pupil, co-ed grammar school.

The plan for Enniskillen is similar to one already published for Catholic schools on the north coast, where Dominican College Portstewart will end selection and increase enrolment and St Joseph's in Coleraine will close.

In Enniskillen, two single-sex `voluntary grammar' schools of about 1,000 pupils each would open in place of the four existing providers.

At present, St Fanchea's has about 325 pupils and St Joseph's 266. The Department of Education's sustainable schools policy recommends at least 500 pupils should be enrolled in a post-primary school.

The plans are very much at an early stage, and no decisions have been taken.

Members of the INTO union were among those to attend the meetings this week. It is not expected that the reorgansation will lead to widespread job losses, although it is likely that some staff will be relocated.

"INTO welcomes the fact that two more grammar schools are moving away from selection and hopes to see that trend continue," said northern secretary Gerry Murphy.

"However, we are concerned that the voluntary grammar school model continues to gather pace. We believe it would be in the best interests of the system as a whole that all schools would fit within the existing management structures."

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