The nine post-primary Catholic schools in Fermanagh are to be merged into four; and schools to be based in just two towns, Enniskillen and probably Lisnaskea.

That would be the far-reaching effect of the plan announced by the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE).

It would also mean the end of Catholic grammar schools, because the plan is to have all-ability schools in an era where academic selection is being phased out.

The report says there should be no more than three post-primary schools in Enniskillen and only one other school to cover the rural south east of the county.

The proposals would spell the end for St. Mary's College in Irvinestown and St. Mary's High School in Brollagh, under a new arrangement based in Enniskillen.

Provisions in Enniskillen would be centralised for Mount Lourdes Grammar School, St. Fanchea's College, St. Joseph's College and St. Michael's College.

St. Eugene's College in Rosslea and St. Aidan's High School in Derrylin would be replaced by one school, possibly in the Lisnaskea area, under the plans by the Commission, it's thought St. Comhghall's High School in Lisnaskea, which is also under the spotlight, would be part of that proposal.

NICCE currently provides for just over 3,000 young people in post-primary schools. By 2018 the Commission expects this number to reduce to around 2,900 pupils. At the moment it has over 800 surplus places and expects that this will increase to 1,000 places during the next ten years.

The report proposed how each school would provide a curriculum which "meets the needs of all pupils and the demands of the statutory curriculum". It proposed how the schools needed to be "viable and sustainable" with a minimum number of 500 pupils at 11-16 and 100 at post-16.

It also proposed the following: "To develop and operate agreed common admissions policies, work together to identify priorities and respond to areas of mutual benefit, eg: chaplaincy, resource management, etc. To maximise the use of the available resources for the benefit of all pupils, seek to secure, with other agencies, an Education Access Service to support the NICCE in responding to the needs of those pupils who are disaffected, dropping out or being excluded and strengthen and develop the collaborative arrangements that already exist within the Area Learning Community." The document added: "We recognise that the recent significant investment in the schools in Enniskillen must form the basis for the development of our schools network. We wish to develop with the local communities in South and East Fermanagh how best to organise education provision in that area. We would also welcome proposals on any other alternative arrangements which might have the potential to secure education provision in other parts of the Dioceses." SDLP MLA Tommy Gallagher says that schools currently under scrutiny need to agree a way forward for the plans to work.

"They would have to decide how best they operate under the proposed arrangement. They need to determine how many pupils they would take in and what criteria they use for admissions. They might need to change their management structures or they might come together under an umbrella of maybe two schools. But if there's any new build required in Enniskillen, which is likely, it must be accompanied by the finance before any of the other schools are asked to buy into this plan. It's questionable if the finance will be available," he said.

Mr. Gallagher also added how the report will "anger and annoy" parents and children living in rural areas.

"There are some potential outcomes which in my view cannot be justified. For instance, leaving north and west Fermanagh without any post-primary provision would be most unfair. Expecting children from peripheral rural communities to travel to Enniskillen will involve travelling times well beyond the 45 minutes that is recommended by the Department of Education's Sustainable Schools Policy. The town of Enniskillen is not in a position to cope with additional traffic flows that would result from the closure of schools at Brollagh and Irvinestown," he said.

Reaction to the plans has been divided. Seamas Kelm, Chairperson of the Brollagh Parents Action Association said there was "nothing new" in the report.

"We expected as much. We will be fighting tooth and nail to keep a post-primary facility in west Fermanagh. Belleek and Garrison is the most disadvantaged wards in the whole of Northern Ireland with regards to access to government services. So what the CCMS is doing is hitting the lowest and weakest denominator with their plans. They're saying the children will have better opportunities with all of this, I don't know where they get that from. I'm very annoyed by this," he said.

Principal of St. Comhghall's High School, Gary Kelly said, "It's this proposal or nothing".

"There's a proposal on the table and if that's the way it's going to go, then that's the way it's going to go. As long as we have the best education provision for all the children here, that's all I am interested in," he said.

Mr. Kelly said his colleagues have been "very supportive" of the proposals: "The staff believe in these plans. There has been no mention at all about the safety of jobs, it hasn't been talked about. I suppose on the grand scale of things, with a proposal like this, there are safeguards in place. That's the important thing in all of this. There are safeguards for parents, for pupils and for staff," he said.

Mr. Kelly added: "We haven't got feedback from parents yet and won't be going to them until the proposals are released to them on May 31. I'm not a salesman, I'm in education. I'm not interesting in selling this, it's not my job. Trying to sell this would suggest it's something I don't believe in, that's not true. I do believe in it." Mr. Simon Bradley, principal of St. Mary's High School in Brollagh refused to comment: "All principals have agreed that any press enquires should be redirected to the press office for the CCMS (Catholic Council for Maintained Schools). I have no comment to make about the content of the report," he said.

Gerry Lundy, Director of the Post-primary Review says he welcomes feedback into the report.

"This document outlines the proposal which the Commission would ask the local community to consider. This is an opportunity for all those interested in post-primary education to have their say and it is vital that we receive as much feedback as possible. We welcome views and considerations on our options or any other options or proposals which might address the challenges facing post-primary education. Once completed the outcome of the consultation will be shared with our schools and their communities as well as the Department of Education and other education stakeholders," he said.

Once the consultation process is completed all responses will be analysed. It's anticipated that the reports will be completed and made available by early autumn. A preferred option in a local area will then go forward to a further stage of consideration and consultation. The consultation process will remain open for responses until May 31, 2010. Visit or e-mail