West Belfast school merger delayed by one year

CBS School on Glen Road is the preferred site for the new school. Picture by Mal McCann

A PLAN to overhaul Catholic secondary schools in west Belfast is being pushed back by a year due to a lack of money for new buildings.

Three single-sex post-primary schools are to be merged to form one new 1,000-pupil college.

In addition, St Louise's Comprehensive College, once the largest school for girls in Europe, will admit boys.

It was hoped the new arrangements would be in place by next year, however, the they have been deferred until September 2019.

The four schools have all now published their own admissions criteria for pupils seeking places in 2018.

The new school - All Saints College - will be in effect an amalgamation involving St Rose's Dominican College for girls and Corpus Christi College and Christian Brothers' School (CBS) for boys.

A single site was the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools' (CCMS) preferred option. It was estimated that modular accommodation, toilets and site works would cost £3 million.

An interim split site option would be cheaper as it would only require toilet block conversion costing £80,000 for the amalgamated schools and £40,000 for St Louise's.

In a paper, Department of Education officials warned that the 2018 start date was unlikely "given the level of additional accommodation required to implement the single site option".

Kate Magee, chair of the interim board of governors, said considerable progress had been made by the leaders of the three schools on key aspects of the amalgamation, which was being pushed back to 2019.

Governors, CCMS and the Department of Education, she said, agreed that pupils should be housed on the CBS site at Glen Road "as soon as possible as this best supports educational cohesion and stability".

"Planning for investment on the Glen Road site is in progress. It is anticipated that the site will be ready by September 2019 to accommodate all Key Stage 3 and 4 pupils, with a view to bringing the remaining pupils (Post 16) on to the site once there has been a substantial capital investment. It is envisaged that the school will run on two sites for a period, in order to maximise capital investment," she said.

"There should be a phased approach to the forming of the new school with the planning and preparation stage continuing from now until August 2019, and the full amalgamation commencing in September 2019."

CCMS added that there was a need for capital investment to accommodate boys on the St Louise's site and this could only be guaranteed to be in place by 2019.

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