Post-primary Review Strategic Regional Report

Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education

Post-primary Review Strategic Regional Report



Every generation is faced with important decisions that will help to shape the future. Sixty years ago, society was opening the doors to free post-primary education for at least some who could never have afforded it. The following decade saw heroic efforts by local communities to ensure that everyone could benefit from schooling up to 15 and then 16. Subsequent decades had to react to further changes in society and in the world of employment.

In the present generation we face a number of new challenges.

How do we give all young people the opportunity to access excellence and wide and relevant curricular opportunities in modern schools that are sustainable?

How do we develop a system that prioritises pupils’ needs and avoids any processes that would allow existing institutional interests to dominate?

These unavoidable questions provided the context which gave rise to the Post-primary Review. And this document gives Trustees’ proposed responses to the questions.

It has not been a simple process. From the beginning Trustees – as those who together are the legal owners of all Catholic schools in NI – sought to engage all stakeholders. There were many concerns and interests at stake. Demographic decline and the new curriculum mean that there will be fewer schools in the future. But no-one wants to be seen to sacrifice their school – and no school leader wants to condemn a colleague’s school to closure. The issue of academic selection at 11 has been a particularly fraught issue. The discussions called for great wisdom and courage from local school leadership.

However, there has been a growing recognition that financial strictures and the changing economy make it impossible to continue with the present provision. Curricular options and educational processes need to respond to current and developing needs. Future generations cannot live on the answers to yesterday’s questions.

Despite all the discussions, we recognise that these proposals will be received with great enthusiasm by some – and seen by others as a negative comment on what they have achieved so far. There will be a need to proceed with sensitivity to recognise local needs but prioritise the wider common good. With these proposals, we believe that we can build on the best of the past and develop a system where all pupils gain.

We bring these proposals to the table of government. We know that other sectors will be presenting their view of the future as well. There will have to be a further reconciliation of these different proposals. Trustees remain committed to ensure that our education system helps both to heal the wounds of the past and to create a society where diversity is cherished and not feared.

The Catholic-managed school sector has shown its ability to offer effective and efficient educational opportunities to people from whatever cultural or faith background. We ask only that these proposals be judged on their own merits and that Catholic education be enabled to make its distinct contribution to the development of a healthy, hopeful, cohesive and creative society.

Bishop Dónal McKeown
Chair, PPR Regional Programme Board

Addresses delivered at the Launch