Schools to merge in new building

Hannah Toal, St Mary's HS, Michel McKenna, St Michael's Grammar and Pearse McKay, St Paul's JHS whose schools are to be amalgamated. INLM0413-144gc
Hannah Toal, St Mary's HS, Michel McKenna, St Michael's Grammar and Pearse McKay, St Paul's JHS whose schools are to be amalgamated. INLM0413-144gc
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THREE Lurgan schools are set to become one with the announcement of a major school building project by the Education Minister.

The new build, which will encompass St Michael’s, St Mary’s and St Paul’s, could mean the end of grammar school education in the Catholic Maintained sector in Lurgan.

The plans, which have been discussed and debated at length within the three schools, became reality on Tuesday when Education Minister John O’Dowd announced that 22 school building projects would proceed as part of a potential £220 million investment.

The three schools will come together on one site, likely to be St Michael’s, whose principal Gerard Adams said the plan to amalgamate the schools in a new build was the “only realistic option”.

He told the ‘MAIL’: “We’ve got three schools here, each of which are totally unsuitable to deliver the curriculum.

“The reality is we could continue fighting for grammar school status for the foreseeable future with no outcome or we could move into a state of the art facility and provide a quality education for our children.

“I recognise a lot of people might be unhappy but being pragmatic it is the only realistic option that is open to us.

“The Minister has made it clear that funding for grammar schools isn’t going to happen.

“We either continue with what we have and watch it crumble down around us or we think of the welfare of our pupils.”

St Mary’s High School Principal Deirdre McNally commented: “We’re absolutely delighted at this project.”

Ms McNally said St Mary’s suffered from a shortfall in accommodation at the school, though the problem there wasn’t quite as bad as that at St Michael’s where leaking roofs and cracking walls had been cited as major concerns.

She added: “The idea of a brand new school is very exciting. There’s a great buzz about the school.”

St Paul’s Junior High School Principal Sean Flanagan said the new build was very welcome news.

He commented: “It will provide a much needed facility in relation to the schools’ estate in the town of Lurgan.

“Both St Mary’s and ourselves have served our time - celebrating our 50th anniversaries in recent years. It’s good to see a more modern provision on the way.”

The location of the new facility will come down to final development proposals though the most likely option is understood to be St Michael’s Cornakinnegar Road site.

Within Mr O’Dowd’s school building projects announcement there was no mention of new builds at Lurgan College or Portadown College. The DUP have claimed the Sinn Fein Education Minister is “obsessed with promoting the Irish medium, comprehensive and integrated sectors at the expense of the controlled sector in Upper Bann”.

While Lurgan and Portadown College await approval for new builds, the SELB have put forward plans to amalgamate post-primary schools in both area to form ‘collegiates’.

What’s your view on the Education Minister’s announcement?

Should controlled schools follow the example of schools in the maintained sector and settle for amalgamation?

Text us to 84555, starting with LMCOMMENT.