The announcement that the Loreto and CBS grammar schools intend to phase out academic selection has raised questions on how the schools intend to select their year eight pupils in future.
The board of governors in both cases are still formulating what their admissions criteria will look like post-academic selection.
It’s understood that both boards are keen that ending academic selection will not transform the Loreto and CBS into ‘Omagh schools’.
Both are said to be keen to retain an intake from right across west and south Tyrone.
Kevin Burke of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust said geography was a major issue raised during the consultation with parents.
“That was one of the reasons why we put this off for a year. Since then we have put together a case for change and we’re also looking at the criteria.
“I would doubt very, very much if the schools would go down any sort of a geographical criteria,” he said.
Brian Lenehan of the Loreto Education Trust said, “It’s the board of governors who are responsible for admissions criteria and I’m sure the board would be very mindful of wanting to retain as close a link as they can to the communities, primary school and families that have always fed into the school.
“So they’ll look very closely at the formulation of admissions criteria that would hopefully allow that to continue.”
HOW SELECTIVE ARE GRAMMARS?
But how selective are our grammar schools? Recent research conducted by ‘The Detail’ investigative news website revealed that getting into the grammar schools in Omagh might not be as difficult as some envisage.
In fact, two of the most in demand schools locally are non-academically selective colleges – Drumragh Integrated and St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley.
The number of year eight admission applications fluctuate from year to year, but in June 2013 it emerged that Omagh CBS received exactly 135 applications for the 135 year eight places on offer, meaning no applicant was refused.
During the same year the Loreto Grammar had 142 applications for its 125 places, while Omagh Academy had 100 applications for its 95 year eight places.
By comparison, Drumragh Integrated College emerged as the most in demand school in West Tyrone. The all ability college had 118 applications for its 96 places in June 2013.
The 22 children unable to get into the school is the same as the combined total of unsuccessful candidates for Omagh’s three grammars.
Drumagh’s efforts to expand its enrolment has been consistently rejected by the Department of Education.
Similarly, St Ciaran’s College in Ballygawley, which does not engage in entrance exams, had 134 applications for its 125 places.
St Joseph’s Grammar in Donaghmore is Tyrone’s most over subscribed post-primary school. In June 2013, it had 173 applicants for just 95
places. While the college retains academic selection, it does not hold entrance exams for its Irish medium stream, which it added in 2010.