Education Minister, John O'Dowd, has commented following the publication of the Commission for Catholic Education's Post-Primary Review.
This review sets out a vision for the future of the Catholic post-primary sector and will inform the area-based planning exercise currently being undertaken by the Boards and CCMS.
The Minister said:
“I would like to acknowledge the work of the Commission. I recognise the complexity of modernising the delivery of our education system and the anxiety that will be caused to those affected by difficult decisions. However we need to set institutional interests aside and focus on the needs of pupils.
“There are recommendations for immediate action and sensibly, there are other recommendations that will be brought forward on a longer timeframe because they require other changes to facilitate them.
“We need to establish a sustainable schools’ estate for the benefit of our young people, we have currently 85,000 empty school desks, and this cannot be allowed to continue as it presents a major drain on resources to all schools.
“Stakeholders will obviously be concerned at the recommendation by the Commission to close a number of Catholic post-primary schools, in particular those teachers, staff and pupils in these particular schools.
“As Minister I will only endorse a recommendation to close a school following consultation with relevant stakeholders and if it is proven that it benefits the needs of pupils both now and in the future.
“I note that the Commission have once again reiterated their commitment to ending academic selection. However this commitment needs to be translated into time-framed action if the sort of progressive changes required in the education system are to be delivered and the educational outcomes for all children are enhanced.
“All institutional interests need to be set aside at all times in deference to the needs of pupils and the educational outcomes delivered for them. Changes need to be made in a planned and managed way and I will continue to work with the Catholic sector to ensure that this happens.”