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Welcome to the website of the Catholic Principals Association of Northern Ireland.

The role of the Association is to support school leaders in their promoting the Catholic ethos of our schools, to promote a spirit of interdependence and solidarity among the Catholic Family of Schools, to provide a forum for resolving issues that may affect Catholic Schools and to provide a professional forum for sharing good practice and mutual support.

The Association promotes quality education for all and supports the establishment of a system of all-ability schools; as outlined by the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education. The Catholic Principals Association believes that all our young people are entitled to access the same high quality educational and pastoral experience. We want to remove all artificial barriers that are placed before our children. As a family of Catholic schools, we must work together to ensure a system of education that is fundamentally fair, educationally sound and which clearly reflects the Catholic ethos of our schools.

The Association is open to Principals of all Catholic schools in N. Ireland. It provides these leaders with guidance and training opportunities to assist in the development of the Catholic ethos. It also acts as a lobby group promoting the inclusive Catholic Vision.

As well as running seminars and conferences the Association has a Committee made up of Principal representatives from across each Diocese in N. Ireland. This committee meets regularly to promote the work of the Association.
The names of Diocesan reps are listed on the Contacts page of this website

Michéle Corkey
Catholic Principals Association

Quality Education for All

As I begin a second year as Chairperson of the Catholic Principals Association, I would like to re-affirm our commitment to continue to act as a catalyst for change.  Never before has the education system been under so much scrutiny.  Politicians, parents, school leaders, teachers, professional bodies, the Church, all debate the merits and demerits of our school system.   Many are concerned about putting our pupils first, others with preserving tradition at any cost.  We will support schools in this period of transition.  We continue to challenge those who wish to preserve the past because it is comfortable.

As a family of Catholic schools we must work together to create a system of education that effectively meets the needs of all of our children.  Every young person has the right to a high quality educational experience in a building that is not just fit for purpose but equips our young people effectively for the 21st century.

There is no doubt that education reform is needed for a myriad of reasons, not least of all because our economic future is dependent on it.

Our conference this year was based on a survey of the views of Catholic primary principals undertaken by the Catholic Principals’ Association.  The survey concentrated on primary principals’ views on ‘academic selection, the selective system, unregulated tests and the extent to which principals see these as irreconcilable with Catholic Church teaching on education, schools, school systems and social justice issues. The results of this survey will hearten opponents and make uncomfortable reading for proponents of academic selection.  The CPA continue to call on grammar schools to abandon what it labelled ‘the outmoded and increasingly irrelevant use of unregulated tests.’  At its most highly attended conference ever, the Association revealed findings of the views of principals of Catholic primary schools on testing and academic selection.   To our knowledge this is the only survey that has sought the views of such a large number of primary principals within the Catholic sector. The responses of 30% of principals in Catholic primary schools and the huge attendance at this Conference are very highly representative and must be taken very seriously by all stakeholders.

An overwhelming 90% of respondents believe the Catholic system would not be adversely affected were it to abandon academic selection whereas a very significant 66% believe that irreparable harm could be done if selection were retained.   We are pleased to acknowledge that the survey emphasised that the Catholic system –ethos, spirit and infrastructure – must be founded on specific moral and educational imperatives. There is need to build a true community of Catholic schools more precisely attuned to, and structured around, these principles.  It is time that all partners engaged in genuine and equal co-operation for the greater good of all children.
Our system should enable children to know their dignity and worth before they can define either. However, what we have currently entails selection, rejection and division at age 10 or 11 and leads to perceived losers and winners. This is followed by placement in post-primary schools artificially differentiated on outmoded, ill-defined and incomplete understanding of human intelligence and aptitude. The whole practice is corrosive of a child’s dignity and worth
It is time for all Catholic principals and all Church leaders to be more proactive in implementing successive statements by the Northern Catholic Bishops. The CPA survey shows more than 75% of respondents believe that the pace and scope of implementation of reform in the wake of statements [by the Northern Catholic Bishops] are unsatisfactory and unduly deferential to the interests of grammar schools.
There is much to be gained in a genuine and rigorous engagement with the Catholic Heads Association to build a better, truer community of Catholic schools. Our members – by far the greater number of principals of Catholic schools - non-grammar, primary and nursery - are once more asking for an opportunity to address and redress conflicts and difficulties in our present system.  We ask Church leaders to facilitate such a meeting as early as possible. Without such contact and engagement we feel that opportunity will be irretrievably lost to work for the common good of all our pupils

Preserving the status quo is not an option.  Academic selection is not the issue, social selection is dividing our system. We must work together to ensure our most precious commodity- the education of our young people- is the best that it can possibly be.  Our current two tier system, based on an unregulated test at 11 is drawing to an end.

I look forward to the year ahead and will endeavour to influence those in positions of power and change the hearts and minds of those who continue to clsoe their minds to change.

M Corkey

Chairperson: Dr. Seamus Quinn • Secretary: Mrs Patricia Cooney Catholic Principals Association, St Mary’s College, Lisnarick Road, Irvinestown, Enniskillen, BT94 1EL Tel: +44 (0)28 6862 1318 • Fax: +44 (0)28 6862 8376