Northern Ireland

Lurgan: St Michael's, St Paul's and St Mary's schools merge

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Media captionA Catholic grammar school and two secondary schools will merge to form a new grammar

A grammar school in County Armagh is to amalgamate with two secondary schools to form a non-selective grammar.

St Michael's Grammar and St Paul's and St Mary's High Schools in Lurgan are all in the Catholic sector.

It is the first such merger and is being considered a landmark decision.

It is not the first time a Catholic grammar school has amalgamated with secondary schools. But, in other cases, they became all-ability colleges.

The new amalgamated school will, instead, be a voluntary grammar school.

The title "grammar school" refers to who runs the school. It is not, as is often thought, about whether the school uses academic tests to select pupils.

St Michael's Grammar School has been in formal intervention for almost a year following a poor inspection report that said its performance was "mostly inadequate".

Initially, the new grammar school will operate from separate sites. But there is a plan for a new school to cater for more than 1,700 pupils.

The plan has been approved by the Northern Ireland education minister, John O'Dowd, who described it as "a hugely significant and positive step".

The schools currently operate under the Dickson Plan that does not select at the age of 11, but allows children of higher academic ability to move to a grammar school at 14.

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