Three post-primary schools in Co Armagh and two struggling high schools in Co Antrim are the latest to be told change is on its way.
The most-recent shake-up concerns unions who only last week urged education authorities in the North to stall their “headlong rush” to close and merge schools. Now, a total of 27 secondary schools across the North have been approved for closure or amalgamation since government backed a radical review of education.
The Bain Report recommended the minimum enrolment for post-primary schools in years 8 to 12 should be 500 pupils.
Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High School have been told they will be shut down and replaced by a new school for the area. Both schools are currently carrying significant numbers of unfilled places.
The amalgamation will result in a new, single, sustainable school to cater for the pupils currently attending both existing schools. Monkstown had been placed in special measures following a damning inspection report.
Education minister John O’Dowd says the post-inspection action plan for Monkstown Community School will be relevant to the new school.
He said: “My department will also request that the Education and Training Inspectorate undertakes a baseline inspection of the new school in its second year of operation to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the amalgamation plans.
“The location of the new amalgamated school is a matter for the North Eastern Education and Library Board. I understand the Board’s intention is to locate the school on the current Monkstown site.”
Mr O’Dowd also approved proposals to amalgamate St Michael’s Grammar, St Mary’s High and St Paul’s Junior High to form a new non-selective post-primary school in Lurgan.
The school will operate as a non-selective grammar school, only the second such institution in Northern Ireland.
“The evidence, both local and international, is clear, mixed ability schooling can deliver better outcomes for everyone,” the minister added.