Northern Ireland news

West Belfast Catholic education shake-up heaps pressure on girls' schools

The popular St Genevieve's is the last non-selective all girls post-primary school in west Belfast

A SHAKE-up of Catholic post-primary education in west Belfast has heaped massive pressure on schools for girls.

Three single-sex, post-primaries have been merged into one new 1,000-pupil college.

In addition, St Louise's Comprehensive College, once the largest school for girls in Europe, is admitting boys and decreasing its pupil numbers.

The loss of two girls' schools means those that remain are struggling to meet demand this year.

Almost 1,300 more children are transferring from P7 to post-primary this year compared to last across the north.

In west Belfast St Dominic's Grammar School has already been awarded 25 more places and it is understood the non-selective St Genevieve's is seeking up to 40.

Up until this year, there was no real danger that St Louise's would be oversubscribed, due to its historically large admissions number of 356.

It was, therefore, able to admit 235 and 243 girls in the last two years.

However as part of the overhaul of Catholic education, St Louise's has had its admissions number reduced to just 220, and that figure includes both boys and girls.

Parents of some girls who missed out are among those turning their attention to nearby St Genevieve's, which has been oversubscribed in each of the last three years.

This year it has been even more in-demand and is understood girls from traditional feeder primaries, who gave it first preference on their transfer forms, are among those yet to be placed.

In the wider area, there remain places at De La Salle for boys and two co-educational schools, Malone Integrated College and the new All Saints, which is an amalgamation of St Rose's for girls and Christian Brothers' School and Corpus Christi for boys.

It is not just west Belfast that is feeling the squeeze.

More than 1,000 additional places have been made available for September 2019 to respond to a spike in the birth rate with almost 1,300 more children transferring from P7 to post-primary this year compared to last.

The Irish News has obtained a breakdown of the schools that benefited which is published below.

In the east of the city there remain unplaced children in an area where four controlled schools shut in recent years.

Four schools in Magherafelt have had to be expanded to cope with demand while two non-selective girls schools in Derry have also been told they can admit more pupils than usual.

And in south Armagh, the all-abilities St Paul's in Bessbrook has been given 64 extra places to allow it to admit children living in its four feeder parishes.

Gerry Murphy, northern secretary of the INTO union, said there was a need for a cross-sectoral approach to future planning.

"Everyone is addressing their own particular considerations from their own silo. There needs to be an approach that includes all stakeholders, and that also has to include the teaching unions who are currently excluded from participating in the process," he said.

"We cannot deal with planning the schools estate in isolation."

SCHOOL EXTRA PLACES FOR 2019

Ashfield Girls', Belfast 18

Ashfield Boys', Belfast 33

Belfast Model School for Girls 20

Hazelwood College, Belfast 40

Strathearn School, Belfast 10

Aquinas Grammar, Belfast 20

Mercy College, Belfast 17

Bloomfield Collegiate, Belfast 6

Methodist College, Belfast 10

RBAI 5

St Dominic's, Belfast 25

St Malachy's College, Belfast 20

Dominican College, Belfast 10

Victoria College, Belfast 5

Hunterhouse College, Belfast 15

Limavady High 6

Lisneal College, Derry 5

St Mary's College, Derry 18

St Fanchea's, Enniskillen 1

Dean Maguirc, Carrickmore 4

St Cecilia's College, Derry 3

Antrim Grammar School 24

Ballymoney High School 3

Ballyclare Secondary School 13

Cullybackey College 2

Dunclug College, Ballymena 27

St Colm's High, Draperstown 14

St Pius X College, Magherafelt 31

Edmund Rice, Glengormley 21

St Patrick's College, Maghera 21

St Killian's College, Carnlough 10

Parkhall IC, Antrim 32

Slemish College, Ballymena 5

Ulidia IC, Carrickfergus 10

Sperrin IC, Magherafelt 27

St Louis Grammar, Ballymena 2

Dalriada School, Ballymoney 4

Rainey Endowed, Magherafelt 15

St Mary's, Magherafelt 13

Nendrum College, Comber 3

Glastry College, Newtownards 10

Lisnagarvey High, Lisburn 30

Strangford Integrated College 40

St Columbanus', Bangor 15

Priory IC, Holywood 23

Lagan College, Belfast 20

Regent House, Newtownards 30

Bangor Academy 55

Down High, Downpatrick 8

Glenlola Collegiate, Bangor 2

Bangor Grammar School 5

Wallace High School, Lisburn 5

Assumption, Ballynahinch 11

Our Lady & St Patrick's, Belfast 10

Dromore High School 12

St Patrick's College, Dungannon 20

St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon 15

Newtownhamilton High School 4

Markethill High School 7

St Mary's High School, Newry 1

St Mark's High School, Warrenpoint 9

St Ciaran's High, Ballygawley 9

St Paul's High School, Bessbrook 64

St Joseph's High, Crossmaglen 10

St Patrick's High, Keady 7

St Catherine's College, Armagh 21

New-Bridge IC, Banbridge 5

Integrated College Dungannon 4

Abbey CB Grammar, Newry 6

St Joseph's Grammar, Donaghmore 14

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