St. Peter’s High School in Derry’s Creggan Estate has been earmarked for closure as part of a major review of Catholic education.
The Commission on Catholic Education (CCE) report also confirms that Immaculate Conception College in the city’s Waterside is to remain open.
Martin Bowen, principal of St. Peter’s, says that, if his school does close, there is a “guarantee” that existing pupils will be given places in other Catholic post-primary schools in the city.
Mr. Bowen - who says he plans to consult with parents, pupils, teachers and Governors in the very near future - added: “At this stage, these are recommendations only and no final decision will be made until the consultation process is complete. I am also sure that, if the Minister eventually decides to close this school, my colleagues in other schools will assist me in making provision for our pupils’ education to continue in our other excellent Catholic post primary schools.”
The North’s Education Minister, John O’Dowd, says discussions on the recommended closure of St. Peter’s will take place immediately and are to be completed by June of this year.
He added: “Stakeholders will obviously be concerned at the recommendation by the Commission to close a number of Catholic post-primary schools, in particular those teachers, staff and pupils in these particular schools. As Minister, I will only endorse a recommendation to close a school following consultation with relevant stakeholders and if it is proven that it benefits the needs of pupils both now and in the future.”
The North’s largest teaching union, the INTO, believes the report - which, it says, lacks sufficient detail or timescales to allay fears - will “create a climate of uncertainty for pupils, parents and teachers as to the long term sustainability of their school.”
Foyle MP Mark Durkan and his party colleague in Creggan, Councillor Jim Clifford, expressed their sadness at the decision to recommend St Peter’s closure and said “hard-working staff – teaching and non-teaching – deserve the strongest support and appreciation at this difficult time for them.”
Sinn Fein’s Kevin Campbell said the closure and transfer of pupils to other schools was in the “best educational interests of the pupils.” “It’s very important that parents, pupils and staff are fully consulted at every stage of this process,” he added.
The Commission also proposes to establish a Derry City Foundation which will “build upon existing close relationships between schools.”
The Foundation schools - which will be all-ability schools for 11-19 year-olds - will, said the CEE, provide for a long-term enrolment of up to 7,000 young people.