Amalgamation ‘farcical experiment’

SIR, — On behalf of St Patrick’s Grammar School Parents and Friends Association, I feel I must reply to the comments from the De La Salle High School principal, Mr Ciaran Maguire, in last week’s Down Recorder.

Mr Maguire is correct that the feeder primary schools within the catchment area around greater Downpatrick will not have to sit a transfer test, but some 40% and more from our solid and loyal feeder primary schools outside the automatic entry will have to do so.

Where is the equality in this as a solution for breaking down barriers and providing quality education for all our children? 

De La Salle High School and St Mary’s High School predominantly accept children from the area immediately around Downpatrick, whereas St Patrick’s is oversubscribed from schools from South Belfast to Leitrim, from Drumaroad to Ballgalget.

These children will not be afforded the same choices as all other children from all backgrounds are afforded in other areas of these six counties.

Equally, if girls choose to bypass this new superschool and choose the excellent Assumption Grammar, they will have to pay for their own transport — so the inequality carries on.

Finally, the current anticipated numbers for 2021 onwards suggest that the first year intake for the superschool of 250 will be filled alone by children from within the catchment area, so it begs the question — what school will they go to?

This has not been clarified in this proposal.

What happens if a child from Loughinisland or Saintfield fails the proposed entrance exam — is this breaking down the barriers Mr Maguire refers to? 

This proposal is a farcical experiment and we, the parents of St Patrick’s Grammar School pupils, challenge Mr Maguire, Mrs McLaughlin, the De La Salle trustees, the CCMS and our ever-elusive diocesan spiritual leaders, to meet us and the feeder primary school parents, to explain to us how this shambolic proposal will provide equality and choice in education for our children.

I also call on the De La Salle trustees and CCMS to remove the sustainable St Patrick’s Grammar School from this experiment and afford our parents and children the respect and choice they entitled to. 

Yours etc,