Principal encourages positive response to Catholic education review
May 4, 2010
By Brónagh Murphy
In March the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) launched its review of post-primary education. As part of this shake up, radical new proposals on the future of Catholic education were put forward when the document went out to public consultation.
Although extensive changes have been proposed for some areas, just one option has been put forward for the south Armagh area. Here it is proposed St. Joseph’s High School in Crossmaglen should acquire a new-build school while St. Paul’s High School in Bessbrook will remain largely in its current form.
The public is invited to consider the proposal, or suggest alternative options, and respond before the consultation deadline at the end of next month.
In the coming days, parents of students attending St. Joseph’s will receive the consultation document. School Principal, Mr Kevin Scally, says he is satisfied with the proposal put forward by NICCE and is actively encouraging parents to respond positively to the consultation.
“I think the choice is a good choice,” he said. “It’s very important that parents respond to this consultation document. Even though there is just one proposal, it’s important that the public show support for it.”
At present the range of academic subjects on offer to post-16 students in St. Joseph’s is expanded considerably through the school’s collaboration with St. Paul’s. While on the flip side, some of the Bessbrook school’s students also study in St. Joseph’s.
Mr Scally says the two schools enjoy an excellent working relationship and sharing of resources, an alliance he expects to continue in the long term.
“In order to expand the range of subjects to our children here, we collaborate with St. Paul’s so that instead of having a choice of nine A’ Level subjects, that choice is extended to sixteen for our students. Also, there are students from St. Paul’s who are taking classes here.
“I would like parents to be aware that we do provide a broad range of subjects and are always striving to increase our range of courses,” Mr Scally explained.
If the current NICCE proposal is eventually adopted, St. Joseph’s will benefit from expansive and modern facilities in its new-build school.
Although it’s expected this development will see a marked increase in student intake and the range of subjects offered on-site, Mr Scally says he fully expects the current relationship his school shares with St. Paul’s to continue, albeit on a smaller scale.
“We don’t expect to be a competitive school with St.Paul’s, but rather a collaborative school, in order that we meet the needs of all the children in the south Armagh area. Being in a competitive environment is not in the interests of anyone because we want to give children more choice,” he said.
There is also an affiliation between St. Joseph’s and the Southern Regional College, which broadens the range of options for students whose interests lie in vocational studies. This association greatly benefits students who wish to pursue studies in careers such as engineering, construction or media, Mr Scally said.
“If you look at the range that is available at Key Stage 4 (14-16 years), it is vastly increased compared to what it was five years ago. This is as a result of our collaboration with SRC, while the big increase with St. Paul’s is at post-16,” he added.
All of the proposals right across Northern Ireland are based on the principle of non-selection and the proposed transition of grammar schools to all-ability, co-educational schools.
Mr Scally says that his school does provide an education that pro-grammar parents can be happy with.
“If the proposals are implemented then there will be a non-selective system right across the board and the schools in Newry will be the same as this one in Crossmaglen. One would assume, in that case, that parents would prefer to see their children educated close to home and we will ensure that we will continue provide a high standard of education, suitable for all children.”
Parents have until June 30th to submit their responses, responses that Mr Scally hopes will be positive and will lead to the children of south Armagh receiving a first-class education in their new purpose-built Crossmaglen school.