Catholic church planning for drop in school numbers

According to Father John McManus the Catholic Church is preparing for amalgamations of its schools in some areas of Northern Ireland: “There is a projected 16% decline. In the Larne area, that is 23% and in the Moyle area it’s 9% and in the Ballymena area it’s about 5%. So it is against that background that this preferred option is being presented. This is the establishment of a new 11-18 voluntary school to meet the post-primary needs of all of the children in the Glens and east Antrim area.”

  • David

    According to the interview I heard this morning it wasnt ‘to meet the needs of all of the children in the Glens and east Antrim area, but rather the needs of all catholic children. A crucial difference which shows the catholic church are not as willing to embrace all religions as they would like to claim.

  • fair_deal

    I think I heard a Catholic primary school in Tandragee had to close recently because of low numbers.

    As far as I can find out amalgamations are going to have to occur in Belfast too for all types of schools. The stats I were quoted were 40% underoccupancy in controlled schools and 25% under-occupancy in maintained. The approach until now has been has been to reduce staffing levels (like the schools mentioned above) but it seems that is no longer a tenable situation.

    Does anyone know if these figures are correct?

  • Keith M

    The birth rate in NI has been steadily declining for the past two decades, so this is long overdue. The implications for any demographic changes probably don’t need to be repeated here.

  • Daisy

    Decreasing numbers in the schools mentioned are hardly suprising. Catholics in Larne are moving out as quickly as they can because it’s not a particularly nice place to be Catholic in and the school in Cushendall is aimed at “low achievers”, so few parents want their children going there particularly when there are other options in the surrounding area.

    David, Catholic schools are for the upholding and maintenance of the Catholic faith; it’s not rocket science. However, they do also educate children from other faiths when asked. I’ve never known them to turn anyone away.

  • Blackadder

    School numbers are dropping across the board, it’s basically following a trend in the developed world.

    I expect a good few controlled schools to amalgamate or shut, and to a lesser extent, mainatined schools as well.

  • Alan

    As I have said before, amalgamations are the way forward here. CCMS have stolen a march on the other sectors by getting their amalgamations in first. That is running against the decision by the Assembly PAC, agreed by the DE, that a round table of sectoral interests be pulled together to agree amalgamations, and that integration should be an option considered at those discussions.

    CCMS actions are a real threat to small local schools in rural areas, both protestant and catholic. They are likely to lead to a further loss of the minority population in areas which have one predominant community, leading to greater segregation. Why are they allowed to do this unchallenged? Why will the Church not accept that if people can live in peace together they can also be educated together, particularly in small communities?

    It was interesting that the spokesperson this morning failed on a number of occasions to admit that this action means the ending of selection and the establishment of St McNissi’s as a comprehensive school. How can it be a grammar school, if it cannot refuse to accept pupils on the basis of supposed academic ability?

  • Jo

    …all down to defiance of the Catholic teaching on contraception? 🙂

  • qubol

    alan – its St MacNissi’s
    this is unfortunate but good that the almagamation will be towards Garron Tower – a great school and it’ll provide a good education for all the kids now along the coast.

  • Donnie

    This has been coming for a long-time as many grammar schools, including Garron Tower, have had to lower their 11+ entry requirements to get the numbers. St. Aloysius’ has a lot of competition from bigger and arguably better schools in the catchment area between Ballycastle and Ballymena.

    I predict that schools in the controlled sector such as The Royal School Armagh will follow suit.

    I’m sure there are many older teacher in Garron Tower who will retire rather than teach “less able” pupils but it shouldn’t be too difficult to fill the places.

  • fair_deal

    Think it may be time to test the non-sectarian attitudes of a few on here so here goes:

    Bring back the 1924 education act – the state should provide a single secular system of education for everyone.

  • donnie

    FD,

    If the schools are only expected to be educators rather than educator, spiritual advisor, social worker etc. etc. then religion should be left at home. However the ethos of most if not all schools is to educate and provide guidance in personal and spiritual development.

  • mnob

    Guidance in personal development can be done in a secular manner. Guidance in spiritual development should be done outside of school.

    Are you saying the advantage of having Catholics educated in a Catholic manner overrides the disadvantage that means that Catholics and Protestants are effectively isolated from each other during their formative years ?

  • mnob

    apologies what i meant was that Catholics are effectively isloated from every one else during their formative years.

  • David

    Daisy I wasnt saying that catholic schools wouldnt educate children of a different faith I was saying that given the chocie they would prefer to only have to teach catholics. My own experience of catholic schools is that although they claim to treat all pupils of any religion equally, they do not do so.

  • Donald

    “I predict that schools in the controlled sector such as The Royal School Armagh will follow suit.”

    This school is certainly not a controlled sector school! Its in the Voluntary sector.

  • moyle rover

    Cushendall certainly needed to close as its numbers have been low for a long time, not so sure about Larne a real blow for the local catholic community. I also heard a rumour that St Malachys in Antrim was to close/amalgamate with St Olcans in Randalstown. Another blow to a small isolated community as mentioned above by Alan

  • Minesapint

    I’m not involved in N Ireland education. It’s often struck me that it must be difficult for every town to run 2 schools (1 for ‘each side of the house’) at each level, where 1 would do. While I know why it happens, anyone want to comment on the consequences – am I right to suppose that there were and are difficulties not faced elsewhere?

  • irishman

    An excellent move by CCMS, undoubtedly at the prompting of the Bishops, who have adopted a refreshingly far-sighted approach to the challenge presented by Costello and the declining birth rate.

    This follows on the back of a similar merger – in Omagh I think- and I fully expect a number of Belfast schools to be similarly amalgamated, thereby isolating the rejectionist elitists within the Catholic Maintained sector to a manageable few.

    It also confirms the likelihood of a real divergence in how our children transfer from primary to post-primary sectors in the future. I say this because I fully expect the Maintained sector to follow the route laid out in Garron Tower and simply remove the option of selection- except for the very wealthy few, who will fight tooth and nail to preserve a handful of ‘private’ catholic grammars, which will be compelled in time to survive on fees (and rightly so- selection should come with a price, as in any other society.)

    For the controlled schools, I fear there is not a similar groundswell of opinion in favour of removing selection- all Unionist parties oppose removing selection, and the protestant churches haven’t really given great leadership on the matter.

    The net result is likely to be a more comprehensive catholic maintained sector alongside a retention of grammar/ secondary controlled schools, until the grammar heavy-hitters are picked off one by one as their numbers (in terms of actual schools) decreases.

  • Sam Maguire

    Throw in the Larne and Cushendall schools and Garrion Tower will be prohibitive favourites for the Mageean every year 😉

  • Donnie

    Aye Donald voluntary/controlled whatever. There is already talk of tying Royal School Armagh with other local schools. Only a matter of time.

    The Tower will certainly pick up a few good players from C’dall for the Mageean but the balance of power has shifted from the glens.

  • willowfield

    This highlights the nonsensical and wasteful NI education system. First, it is ridiculous that RC advocates of comprehensive education (and presumably, then, opponents of class division) see no irony in defending religious division. How can a school be comprehensive if it it excludes non-Roman Catholics?

    Second, surely this demonstrates the waste of providing a dual schools system. As Alan says, unless we have a truly integrated schools system, falling populations mean that minority populations in many areas will no longer be able to sustain their own separate schools. The result will be increasing sectarian polarisation as such minority populations move away to areas where their children can go to school.

  • Daisy

    “My own experience of catholic schools is that although they claim to treat all pupils of any religion equally, they do not do so.”

    Care to give some examples of that, David? If true, your experiences differ greatly from mine. Protestants who were educated alongside me in Catholic schools were always treated equally and with absolute respect. Had they not been, I presume they would’ve left to attend another school.

  • David

    I can give you plenty of examples Daisy. Apart from the derogatory commments which were often made about other faiths, catholic confesions were compulsory for all pupils regardless of faith, when I complained about this I was told that as it was a catholic school, catholisim was the major religion and everyone must follow it(the school was actually called a comprehensive school). In addition there is one particular moment that sticks in my mind above all others.

    The local catholic bishop was in for school leavers mass and he was talking with all the school leavers afterward. For some reason the conversation got round to whether or not England should have played Zimbabwe in the cricket world cup. The bishop maintained they were right not to play, I disagreed and we had a healthy debate on the matter.

    Afterwards the bishop asked me what my plans for the future were and I told him that I was going to study law at Trinity and then get into politics in the south. The bishop asked me why I wouldnt return to get involved with politics in the north and I said because I believed there was no such thing here only secterinism. What the bishop said next shocked me. He said and I quote “oh you cant do that David, the other side lose enough of their best people to England, we cant afford to lose ours. Its us versus them remember” Just to clarify I then asked what he meant by ‘them’. The bishop replied “protestants David, the other side”. At that point I lost it with him and unleashed verbal volley which I believe despite my anger was a well construed argument as to why it was people like him who were responsible for most of the problems throughout the world in relation to war. At least 4 of the people in the room that day were protestant and one of the people involved in running the school was openly insulting their faith. Exactly what kind of message did that put accross? Up until that day I consdiered myself a catholic. To make matters worse no apology was ever made for those comments either by the school or the bishop. Hardly alternative religions being treated equally with absolute respect.

  • Daisy

    The treatment you received at the hands of the bishop was inexcusable David. Fortunately I never heard such rubbish spouted at the school I attended.

    Your point about having to attend confessions is a new one to me, however. It’s a sacrament and you must be a Catholic to receive it, so I don’t understand how Protestants were made attend. At our school, Protestant pupils were excused from the Catholic parts of the education (much to the jealousy of many of us it has to be said) and would certainly not have been forced into such acts.

    Today, however, I think Catholic schools have become increasingly secular and there is a greater awareness of diversity and the need to embrace other faiths. As with anything, there will always be failings but I think, on balance, the education provided in the Catholic sector is excellent.

  • David

    Oh dont get me wrong I have no objections to the standard of education provided in my old school, I just think that the catholic ethos was as welcoming or as accomodating of other faiths as the catholic church would have us believe. In addition I feel that we were not properly inform about other faiths teachings and customs which would have helped us become more open minded

  • George

    David,
    “I just think that the catholic ethos was as welcoming or as accomodating of other faiths as the catholic church would have us believe”

    Don’t know what it’s like in the British controlled part of Ireland, but in Dublin there are currently children from 100 different nationalities and every religion under the sun being educated in Catholic schools.

    That sounds pretty accommodating to me.

  • David

    George as I say I can only speak from my own experince but here in the north from going to a catholic school I was constantly being told they were being very accomodating when the reality was they were taking every step possible to undermine and discriminate against other faiths

  • willowfield

    Why would a non-Roman Catholic want to send his or her children to a Roman Catholic school?

    Lack of choice?

  • George

    David,
    coincidentally, just today the Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin launched a new web resource to ensure the needs of all children in Catholic schools are attended to.

    he said it was done to ensure children are never the objects of discrimination or marginalization.

    “We have the possibility of leading the way, rather than waiting to react to tensions should they occur,” he said. “What happens in schools will help other initiatives within Irish society.”

    It was done in association with the Irish National Teachers Organisation, who are up north too so hopefully this “Celebrating Difference” will be more than a talking shop and help address any inequalities.

  • David

    George I hope your right but as I said during my education in a catholic school I was constantly being told that they school was more accomodating to religious difference than any non catholic school yet at the same time the facts were showing this was simply not the case

  • George

    “Why would a non-Roman Catholic want to send his or her children to a Roman Catholic school?
    Lack of choice?”

    Education, education, education Willowfield.

    For example, my non-Catholic nephews go to Protestant primary school but are signed in to attend a Catholic secondary school.

    My Lutheran colleague’s children go to the local Sacred Heart.

    I think it is just different down here.

  • George

    David,
    just a thought but could it be that part of the reason behind your experiences is that the Catholic Church up north haven’t (or hadn’t at that time) received the bloody nose they did south of the border so don’t feel the need to change as much?

    The old views still hold sway?

    Due to public pressure, the Catholic Church in the Republic, on the ground at least, certainly seems to be trying to change its image and attitudes because intolerance is becoming less and less acceptable.

  • David

    Possibly George but I doubt it I am only 20 years old and the things I am talking about are quite recent

  • George

    Methinks the Catholic Church up north needs a bloody nose David.

  • Waitnsee

    Hey David I can nearly do you one better than that. My gf and her sisters were expelled out of their primary school (she was only in p1 at the time) because her mum was involved in discussions over an integrated school in the area. The minute her school found out they dragged them into the office, called her dad and literally pushed them out of the building, in tears.
    Name of the school? “Holy Family”. Aye, right.

  • David

    George you may well be right although the church has had numerous embarrasements in the past in other areas and have been very slow to change.

    Waitnsee, that doesnt surprise me if you excuse the pun the catholic church doesnt always seem to practice what it preaches

  • DavidH

    Willowfield: Why would a non-Roman Catholic want to send his or her children to a Roman Catholic school?

    Don’t know about the other David, But we sent our children to a RC Primary school because, when we looked round, it seemed like the best choice. My old school, for instance, was coasting on an academic reputation – living on past glories. 3 of our children are still at the school, and we have never experienced any of the nonsense that the other David described. Everything has been handled sensitively and sensibly.

  • David

    Glad to hear it DavidH I really do hope the kinda thing I described only happened in my school but I have heard other stories from friends of mine which talked about similar attitudes being prevelant in their schools albeit it was on the same dieisos

  • Roger

    Afterwards the bishop asked me what my plans for the future were and I told him that I was going to study law at Trinity and then get into politics in the south. The bishop asked me why I wouldnt return to get involved with politics in the north and I said because I believed there was no such thing here only secterinism. What the bishop said next shocked me. He said and I quote “oh you cant do that David, the other side lose enough of their best people to England, we cant afford to lose ours. Its us versus them remember” Just to clarify I then asked what he meant by ‘them’. The bishop replied “protestants David, the other side”. At that point I lost it with him and unleashed verbal volley which I believe despite my anger was a well construed argument as to why it was people like him who were responsible for most of the problems throughout the world in relation to war. At least 4 of the people in the room that day were protestant and one of the people involved in running the school was openly insulting their faith. Exactly what kind of message did that put accross? Up until that day I consdiered myself a catholic. To make matters worse no apology was ever made for those comments either by the school or the bishop. Hardly alternative religions being treated equally with absolute respect

    David

    The priest was making a fair point and had a right to its a catholic school and I feel if one partisipates in it the person should agree to its ethos. All the priest was doing was protecting the interests of the catholics in NI and there is nothing wrong with that.

  • Alan

    *The priest was making a fair point and had a right to its a catholic school and I feel if one partisipates in it the person should agree to its ethos. All the priest was doing was protecting the interests of the catholics in NI and there is nothing wrong with that.*

    Come off it! We’re talking about someone’s education, not the church. If a Bishop wanted to be gratuitously offensive from the pulpit to someone because of their religion, they would be severely criticised, but to do it to young people in a school is inexcusable. When the opportunity to offend is facilitated by public money, then it is damnable.

    The Bishops produced a report saying that they will accomodate pupils of other religions. That in itself is a good thing. However, differences in religion imply different ethics, so your point about respecting a school’s ethos is palpably false.

    There are real challenges for church based schools, particularly where the church provides the only schools in the area. Technically, any child can attend any school, so, if a child is from a family of athiests, then the church must bend over backwards to accomodate them. Also, the learning from the Integrated Movement is that when the minority representation in a school is a token (5 to 10%), then the minority tend to spend most of their time with their heads down avoiding criticism, rather than asserting their identity. In most CCMS schools in NI (bar one or two obvious examples) the average is 99% catholic, and there is a real need to demonstrate respect for other identities.

  • David

    Roger so its alright for a bishop to try and put across a persona of being very accomodating to the media yet turn run and be openly secterian in the school. His comments were hardly fitting in this day and age for a man of the cloth. Had his comments been about Jewish people hed been labeled anti semetic, had his comments been racist there would have been uproar but because he choose to attack a different set of christian demoninations and given the unique situation in Northern Ireland you are trying to defend his actions as justifiable in protecting his ‘ethos’ (which incidentally I would have presumed would have included a lot more respect for other denominations). I am sorry but this just doesnt wash.

  • David

    Roger so its alright for a bishop to try and put across a persona of being very accomodating to the media yet turn run and be openly secterian in the school. His comments were hardly fitting in this day and age for a man of the cloth. Had his comments been about Jewish people hed been labeled anti semetic, had his comments been racist there would have been uproar but because he choose to attack a different set of christian demoninations and given the unique situation in Northern Ireland you are trying to defend his actions as justifiable in protecting his ‘ethos’ (which incidentally I would have presumed would have included a lot more respect for other denominations). I am sorry but this just doesnt wash.

  • James

    If one lives by the sword one shall die by the sword.

  • Roger

    David

    I think you are blowing the entire situation out of proportion, it was a catholic school and the priest wanted people to remain in NI to ensure that protestants didnt take too many jobs. In my opinion it was a fair point and an honest one which we dont see too often in NI and maybe a little less self pity would do no harm.

  • Heemo

    It’s high time central government ended this nonsensical sitruation and enforced integrated education at all levels. Keep all superstitious nonsense out of places of education and teach children what they need to know for well-rounded adult lives in which they understand the value of their own minds, and bodies, where they understand what society is and how it works, the value of high self-esteem and mutual respect, the importance of work-life balance, the value of diversity, the fundemanetals of good mental health and so forth.

    Oh yeah, and also teach them a healthy disrespect for flags and the rather educationally sub-normal people who ascribe value to them.

  • Roger

    There is nothing wrong with segreated education the fact is enforced intergrated education takes away student choice. I remember some years ago when I was in a class of 25 and the integrated teacher give us a speech and asked how many would be transfering to the intergrated college not one person in the class put up their hand and nobody went to it. People feel comfortable in schools which have a majority of their own relgions where they can learn about their own traditon and play their own sports and voice their own opinions without fear of offending some wishy washy person of a different religion

    For me I am in favour of choice although I do not see Intergrated education as the answer and in many cases it is a problem.

  • Heemo

    Well stop complaining that your society is full of neanderthal bigots and terrorists and criminals then Roger, you can’t have it both ways.

    Breeding grounds for ignorance and intolerance.

  • Roger

    Heemo in Enniskillen the balance in the Intergrated college is 70% catholic and 30% other. When I was speaking to catholics I heard how them boasting to me about how they used to beat up the protestants durring lunch breaks etc so whos the bigots here then.

    I also know of many protestants whom attend the intergrated but are also members of supposed ‘Kick the pope bands’ and loyalist paramilitaries so your wishy washy agenda seems to have backfired.

  • Heemo

    It is not wishy washy. When people see sense and abandon the pitiably silly orange order and the religions they purport to support then over time if the schools take up the agenda I have suggested this can begin to end.

  • Roger

    Bashing people because of the religious organisations they belong to is hardly a template for a new a tolerant NI.

    You have a lot to learn and I am not here to educate you.

  • Heemo

    Roger

    If you genuinely wanted a tolerant UK and a meaningful involvement within it you would be seeking to integrate NI into the UK, not isolating NI from it. You would also be jettisoning horrible archaic and damaging chancers such as the OO and its green counterparts. Unless and until you do please stop claiming to be British and unionist, you are nothing of the kind. You and your knuckle-dragging green counterparts deserve the mess you are in, a blunt message but that’s very largely the view from the UK. Either stop complaining about it (we’re not listening any longer anyway) or try to change it.

    Changing it means joining the 21st century and an end to the Taliban-ism of orangeism and the cult of violence praticed and supported by hate-filled orange and green hayseeds alike.

  • Roger

    I stay in the 20th centuary rather than join you and your sectarian evil demoising anti orange scum of the 21 centuary thanks.

  • Heemo

    Roger,

    Fine, but as I say do us two favours. Stop pretending you’re truly British (you aren’t) and stop using my flag to pretend that you are. And please stop asking the UK to pay your bills, you and the militarily defeated scum of he IRA can paddle your own financial canoes going forward thank you, we’re bored of your embarassing tribal play-acting.

  • Roger

    I think the amount of NI protestants who dies in two world wars to ensure that the UK was not overcome by Germany ensures that people in NI will forever be British and that is what the great Winston Churchill said.

    How am I asking the UK to pay my bills please tell me.

  • Heemo

    You’re not asking, you’re not even that courteous – you’re simpy spending our money for you haven’t the clout to pay your own bills, Britain’s taxpayers does.

    Protestants and catholics from Ireland North and South did play a valuable part in both wars but it can’t be argued that this was remotely decisive. Mind you, those who did fight and die would be rightly appalled by the state of NI now and your failure to honour their contribution by modernizing NI like the rest of the UK, that’s precisely my point.

    Incidentally, go research what the decent people of the Shankhill Road thought of Winston Churchill immediately post-war, you just might learn something.

  • George

    Roger,
    more people from the Irish Republic volunteered to fight for the British Army in World War II than did people from Northern Ireland.

    More people from what today constitutes the Irish Republic volunteered, fought and died for the British in the First World War than northern Irish Protestants.

    Will this ensure the British will forever respect the wishes of the Irish people? No, not in a million years. I say all this just to point out that the Protestant cannon fodder offered up on the altar of British militarism is no guarantee Northern Ireland will get anything from the British in the future.

    Ah Winston Churchill, an extremely clever man who once said something about Ireland that is becoming more and more relevant by the day:

    “Half a province cannot obstruct forever the reconciliation between the British and Irish peoples.”

    That man knew what he was talking about.

  • slug9987

    Haemo

    “You’re not asking, you’re not even that courteous – you’re simpy spending our money”

    Could you try to speak for yourself.