14 March 2006

NI specialist schools announced

BBC

The first Northern Ireland specialist schools are set to be announced.

The 12 new schools will be given extra funding to enable them to concentrate on specific subjects such as IT, languages and music.

Among the schools bidding for the new status are St Louise's College in west Belfast, Ballyclare High and St Cecilia's College in Londonderry.

The idea of schools specialising in subjects was suggested in 2004. At that time 46 schools applied for the scheme.

St Louise's Comprehensive College in Belfast is one of the 12 hoping to be a specialist school.

Frances Nelson, head of drama at St Louise's Comprehensive College, said the department was one of the biggest in Northern Ireland.

"What this will mean to us is that we will have the financial support to move forward and reach out into the community," she said.

'Extend opportunities'

"The excellence that we have will be able to help others and we will have the time and hopefully the facility to do that.

"I think the joy of being a teacher in the performing arts is that you really get to see the children develop."

A-level student Mairead Campbell said: "It would be fantastic - it would extend opportunities for pupils and other students right across the school.

"It wouldn't just be limited to drama, dance and media studies - but other subjects across the board."

BBC NI education correspondent Maggie Taggart said: "For the first four years, this will certainly mean an addition of cash into those schools.

"They have also had to do a lot of background work to get to this stage.

"There were 46 applications and this was whittled down to 13 - I understand that one has now dropped out."

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