The principals of St. Eugene's College, Rosslea and St. Comhghall's College, Lisnaskea have welcomed Education Minister John O’Dowd's approval of a development proposal to close the two schools and to establish a new Post-Primary school in Lisnaskea.

The new school, with capacity for 650 pupils, will take effect from September 1, 2016 or as soon as possible after. 

Principal of St. Eugene's, Martin Knox told The Impartial Reporter: “I believe this is an exciting time for education in our area.”

Principal of St. Comhghall's, Gary Kelly commented: “This is a good decision which future proofs education in the Lisnaskea area for years to come.”

Minister O’Dowd said: “It is important that my decisions are in the best educational interests of all pupils in the area. My decision to close St.Eugene’s College and St. Comhghall’s College is due to the on-going sustainability issues being experienced by the schools.

“I believe that my decision to establish a new 11-19 Post-Primary school in Lisnaskea is in the best interests of all the pupils in the area.”
He paid tribute to everyone connected with St. Eugene’s and St. Comhghall’s, saying they have “shown great commitment and dedication to the school and its pupils.” 

Initially, St. Aidan’s High School, Derrylin was included in CCMS amalgamation proposals. CCMS suggested that the three schools amalgamate and form a new 11-19 co-educational college operating on two campuses: Lisnaskea and Derrylin.  At that stage, CCMS described St. Eugene’s and St. Aidan’s as “showing signs of serious financial stress”. However, St. Aidan’s formed a Community Action Group and lobbied for post primary education to be protected and retained on the Derrylin site. In 2015, St. Aidan’s reported that CCMS had confirmed that it is to be permanently retained as a full 11-16 post primary school and will work in a collaborative arrangement with the Lisnaskea school community.

In his statement yesterday, the Minister said: “There is a need to address the sustainability issues of the other Post-Primary schools in the south Fermanagh area and further consideration should now be given to the development of a full area solution.”

Last week, the Minister revealed school deficit figures, at March 2015, to the Assembly: St. Eugene’s College had a deficit of -£491,662 and St. Aidan’s High School had a short-fall of -£253,600.

Reacting to the announcement, Mr. Knox said: “St. Eugene’s College has supported the CCMS proposals for an amalgamation of schools in South Fermanagh since the plan was first drawn up some years ago. Changing demographics coupled with new educational policies make it imperative that schools strengthen their positions by merging. This in turn serves the interests of the children, the communities and the staff of the respective schools.”
He pointed to the school’s 2015 GSCE results, where 87 per cent of pupils achieved five GCSEs, including English and Maths, and said: “We are delighted with these results and look forward to working towards a new future with an equally high achieving school in St. Comhghall's. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Mr. Kelly stated: “This decision allows the school in Lisnaskea to increase its enrolment to 650 which is good news. We currently have a capacity of 430 but we have 490 pupils in the school. The move will offer bigger subject choice post-16 and will see a coming together of the knowledge and skills of both sets of staff to offer the best possible education in south Fermanagh.”
Asked if there will be staff redundancies down the line, Mr. Kelly replied: “I can’t see that happening. Our numbers are so strong, as far as I’m aware, there are enough pupils to sustain all staff from St. Comhghall’s and St. Eugene’s; and we could possibly need more staff in the future. I think jobs will be secure under this process.”

Asked if he is concerned about loosing the school name and uniform, Mr. Kelly replied: “That will be up the the new Interim Board of Governors. I will take my advice from CCMS on that.”
Asked if he will apply for the role of Principal in the new school, he said: “A process has to be gone through.”