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Big changes proposed at Co Armagh school with 200 extra pupil places and inclusion of Key Stage 4

St John the Baptist's College pupils would be able to stay until age 16 instead of 14 with enrolment growing from 300 to 500 if plans are approved

St John the Baptist's College in Portadown

A Co Armagh college – where pupils currently must leave at the age of 14 – could shortly be allowed to extend teaching up as far as GCSE level.

And a major increase in enrolment is also on the cards at St John the Baptist’s College in Portadown.

The overall goal eventually is to extend education up as far as age 19 to allow for the inclusion of A Level subjects too.

A development proposal is expected to be published shortly which would allow for the provision of Key Stage 4 at St John the Baptist’s College.

The school currently only offers a curriculum for pupils up to the age of 14.

But that could all be set to change as a pre-public consultation – which runs until March 5 – is underway to gauge public opinion.

The change would allow for Key Stage 4 – for ages 14 to 16 – to be included.

And the permitted enrolment at the Moy Road school – which currently has 269 on its books – would be increased on an annual phased basis from 300 to 500.

The CCMS has compiled its case for change.

And the Education Authority’s plan is to publish a development proposal which, if approved, would see the changes take effect “from 31 August 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter”.

A consultation process began with parents and guardians, members of the Board of Governors, pupils and staff of St John the Baptist’s College on August 28 and closed on September 25. A total of 535 responses was received during that four-week period.

A similar consultation also took place with parents and guardians, members of the Board of Governors and the staff of the three main feeder primary schools the following month.

St John the Baptist’s College was only formed in recent years.

It came after the closure of Drumcree College was approved by former Education Minister John O’Dowd in March 2016.

The opening of a new Key Stage 3 school on the site of the closing school was also included in the approval by Mr O’Dowd.

The development proposal for the Key Stage 3 school also included the potential to re-designate to an 11-19 model if the school reached the target admission number of 80 pupils and this is a target which St John the Baptist’s College has surpassed.

The school caters for pupils, aged 11 to 14, mainly from the Drumcree area of Portadown. The area is served by two Catholic maintained primary schools -St John the Baptist PS and Presentation PS – and by Ballyoran Primary, a controlled school where around three quarters of the pupils identify as being Catholic.

According to the information provided to the Education Authority, the number of pupils transferring from these three main feeder primary schools has “risen significantly” since the opening of St John the Baptist’s College.

According to CCMS, there are various issues which were identified in the written consultation and these include that “there is an overwhelmingly positive response to the proposal for 11-16 (KS3 & KS4) provision” and “there is significant support for the school to be re-designated as a 11-19 school”.

It adds: “Pupils should have the opportunity to continue their post-primaryeducation without transition; moving school at crucial stages negatively impacts pupil performance; high standards of pastoral care and academic achievement already exist in St John the Baptist’sCollege; re-designation would remove parental and pupil stress/anxiety generated by transition to a different school at 14; transition disrupts teacher/pupil and pupil/pupil relationships; alternative schools have limited or no additional capacity; enrolment projections endorse sustainability; there is an aversion to travelling to a school outside of the locality; and having to travel to a school beyond the locality would significantly curtail participation in after-school activities.”

The development proposal is expected to be published shortly.

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