St Columba's College said the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had taken the decision

School amalgamation plans in County Down dropped

A Portaferry school has said that a plan to merge it with three other schools in Downpatrick has ended.

In a statement, St Columba’s College said the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had taken the decision.

Plans to amalgamate St Columba’s with three post-primaries in Downpatrick were announced by the CCMS in 2018.

Parents at the Portaferry school had expressed concern over transport issues for pupils if the merger went ahead.

Under the original plan, St Columba’s would have amalgamated with De La Salle High School, St Mary’s High School and St Patrick’s Grammar, all in Downpatrick.

The new school would have had about 1,600 pupils.

Parents in the area had expressed mixed opinions about the proposal.

Many of those in Portaferry had expressed concern about how about 170 pupils there would cross Strangford Lough every morning if the merger went ahead as planned.

The Strangford Ferry is already very busy during the morning rush hour
Some Portaferry parents said there was not the capacity on the existing ferry service to take all of the pupils across Strangford Lough

They said there was not the capacity on the existing ferry service to take all of the pupils to any new school on time.

In a statement on Monday night, St Columba’s said it had now been told it would not be amalgamated with the other three schools.

The school included a statement from CCMS in its announcement, which said the decision had been made after extensive consultation.

“CCMS and the trustees have concluded that unique challenges face pupils from Portaferry in terms of requiring additional ferry places to transport pupils to Downpatrick,” it said.

“As a result, CCMS and the trustees are withdrawing St Columba’s College, Portaferry, from the proposed amalgamation.”

The school’s governors welcomed the decision and said a letter regarding the situation would be issued to all parents on Tuesday.

The statement did not specify whether the decision to withdraw St Columba’s from the amalgamation would have any effect on plans to merge the other three schools.