County to lose last of its Catholic schools
A COUNTY will have no Catholic secondary school next year in a new chapter in the history of Irish education.
Catholic school managers are worried about the decline in their numbers and say it is time to call a halt.
Co Leitrim will lose its only Catholic secondary school from September 2012, when the Fatima and Felim's, in Ballinamore, currently under the joint trusteeship of the Sisters of Mercy and the Diocese of Kilmore, become part of a new community school.
Next September, Abbeyfeale, Limerick, loses its only Catholic secondary school when the 340-pupil St Joseph's, previously run by the Mercy Order, becomes part of a new community college.
In September 2012, the Ard Scoil Mhuire, FCJ, in Bruff, Limerick, will close.
The Department of Education and Skills has not approved any new Catholic second-level school for 20 years, a period that has also seen a decline of 109 in their overall number.
The drop is mainly a result of rationalisation, leading to the establishment of either community colleges, under the trusteeship of the local Vocational Education Committee, or community schools.
The Catholic Church acknowledges that its 92pc share of primary schools is too high and preparations are afoot to transfer some to other patron bodies, but they have been unintentionally losing ground as patrons at second level.
It is one of the issues being addressed at the annual conference of the JMB/AMCSS, the joint management body for denominational schools. JMB/AMCSS general secretary Ferdia Kelly said last night: "There are parts of rural Ireland and areas of major population growth on the edge of large urban centres where there is no Catholic secondary school."
Mr Kelly said it was time for the State and Catholic community to recognise the situation that was emerging in relation to Catholic secondary schools.