Northern Ireland

Parents seek another legal challenge against three-school merger

The `Red High' in Downpatrick will be discontinued
The `Red High' in Downpatrick will be discontinued

A GROUP of parents unwilling to accept a three-school merger are seeking another legal challenge.

The approved amalgamation involves St Patrick's Grammar School, known locally as the Red High, De La Salle High School and St Mary's High School in Downpatrick.

It has been in development for several years. The proposal was already held up by a legal challenge. A judicial review against the merger was dismissed in 2020. A judge rejected all grounds advanced, including claims that a consultation process had been unfair.

Governors, staff, parents and pupils at St Patrick's continue to express strong opposition to the new institution, which would be a grammar school.

The Red High Parents and Friends Association (PFA) is now supporting a judicial review by a primary school parent. It described the decision by former minister Michelle McIlveen, was put out to consultation in January 2021 and approved in October 2022, as "hasty".

PFA Member Colin Bell said parents were "left with no choice but to support a legal challenge".

"This move has the potential to ruin pupils' futures and has been entirely thrust upon them. We as the Red High PFA stand in complete opposition to the amalgamation and are united in our belief that this will severely impact educational outcomes for our children," he said.

The Department of Education said the proposal represented a plan for the re-shaping of post-primary provision in Downpatrick to address sustainability and provide high quality education long into the future.

"Any decision in relation to the discontinuance of a school is not taken lightly and it is recognised that closures are emotive and unsettling for parents and children. All evidence on which the decisions were taken has been published to the department's website," it added.