ARMAGH city councillor Roy McCartney has said that CCMS proposals to close St Brigid’s High School are “not in the best interests of local children’s education”.
There was, he said, a consensus that a single school for post primary boys in Armagh city was the correct way forward and a realisation that St Brigid’s as an entity was not viable.
The Sinn Fein representative said: “It is not viable because St Patrick’s Grammar have for many years been taking young people with Ds and Es in the 11+ and in their own unnecessary entrance exams. It can be argued that St Patrick’s has only been a grammar school in name for many years and it has drained the life blood out of St Brigids making that school unsustainable.
“What was supposed to be a proposed merger of both schools has turned into a hostile takeover’of St Brigid’s by St Patrick’s – a takeover, which is being handled wrongly, and has left parents and staff angry and demoralised and pupils bewildered and uncertain.”
Councillor McCartney continued: “We now find ourselves in a situation where a perfectly good school building in St Brigid’s, a building which has recently seen a lot of money spent on a new boiler system, and, in recent years, an excellent Home Economics suite – ironically enough used by pupils from St Patrick’s – being prepared for closure, while St Patrick’s will be spending vast amounts of money to refurbish and extend its school to accommodate boys from St Brigid’s – a totally unnecessary spend of money when a fit for purpose building is in place.
“These renovations which are proposed to take place in St Patrick’s have also raised concerns of segregation of pupils. Statements made at meetings have indicated pupils from St Brigid’s will not be treated equally in terms of accommodation and access, which has led to concerns about equality of education.
“I believe CCMS and ultimately the Catholic Church – who have the overall responsibility for the education of Catholic children – need to step in and review this proposal. What is of utmost importance is the fair and equitable education of all our young people.
“They need to challenge the architect of these proposals, and they need to end this farce of St Patrick’s being a grammar school. They cannot continue to ride two horses of being all ability and a grammar at the same time. They must recognise that education of our young people overrides someone being precious about the title of their school and look at a full merger on a two site basis. St Brigid’s could be used for years 1, 2, 3 while St Patrick’s can prepare boys for GCSE and A level in years 4, 5 and 6.
“Beyond that, if they, for whatever unknown reason at this stage, are certain the St Brigid’s site cannot be used, then they must ensure the transfer of staff with the pupils – staff, who know the boys, and are well aware of the needs of individual pupils.
“Finally, the Boards of Governors of both schools, the Principals and CCMS, need to have a public meeting with staff, parents and the local community to debate this issue. Reassurances need to be given that any new arrangements are built on equality and all post primary boys will receive the best possible education.”