Three years ago, the Catholic Church brought together a highly successful grammar school with two nearby secondary providers.
Rarely has such an ambitious merger been attempted in the North, and the risk is paying off.
In its first major inspection since the amalgamation, St Killian’s College in Carnlough has been found to be providing “very good” education.
Inspectors also say the college’s leadership and management is “outstanding”.
St Killian’s was created through the coming together of St Macnissi’s College, Garron Tower and two secondary schools – St Comgall’s in Larne and St Aloysuis’ in Cushendall.
The inspection looked at achievements and standards, learning and teaching, curriculum provision, and leadership and management.
Specialist inspectors paid particular attention to English, mathematics and science.
The school model operating at St Killian’s is now being considered elsewhere as part of the massive area-based planning exercise.
Crippling budget cuts and ever-decreasing pupil numbers means action is being taken to reduce the number of schools across the North.
Principal Jonny Brady says he had two fears at the outset of the merger.
The first was that the school might lose the academic rigour of Garron Tower; the second was that children with SEN would be left to flounder.
Inspectors note the school has excellent exam results. They also say that as a result of well-focused support, most of the pupils who require additional help with aspects of their learning make good progress and are also successful in public examinations.
“Our whole drive is child-centred. The inspection report reinforced what we are about. No child is marginalised, our children are confident and they are aware of their own successes,” Mr Brady said.
“It is a wonderful endorsement for the work that is going on here. All our children are given every opportunity, at every stage, to do the best that they can.”