St. Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh

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St Patrick's Grammar School
Scoil Ghramadaí Naomh Pádraig
Cathedral Road
Armagh, Co. Armagh, BT617QZ
Northern Ireland
Type Voluntary Grammar School
Motto Fratres in Unum
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Established 1838 (Present School 1989)
Chairman of Board of Governors Cardinal S. Brady
Chaplain Rev. Fr. John James McGoldrick
Staff 100+
Gender All-Male
Age 11 to 18+
Enrollment 811
Colour(s) Red, Green         

St Patrick's Grammar School (Irish: Scoil Ghramadaí Naomh Pádraig), Armagh, is a Roman Catholic boys' voluntary grammar school in the city of Armagh, Northern Ireland. The present-day school was officially opened on Thursday 27 October 1988 by the late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich, the then Chairman of the Board of Governors, and was the result of the amalgamation of two of Northern Ireland's oldest grammar schools, Christian Brothers' Grammar School (CBS) and St. Patrick's College, both of which had illustrious traditions stretching back as far as the 1830s. The current Chairman of the Board of Governors is the Most Rev. Cardinal Dr Seán P. Brady, J.C.D., D.D., Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh. The school's current senior management consists of Head Teacher, the Rev. Kevin Donaghy, Deputy Heads Mr Jim Herron and, as of the 2012/2013 school year, Mrs Anne Quinn . The school is situated in the vicinity of St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral and the official residence of the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland.

History of St. Patrick's[edit]

St Patrick's College[edit]

St Patrick's College, Armagh, had been established as a junior seminary on Armagh's Sandy Hill by Archbishop Crolly and was under the direction of diocesan priests until 1861, when the Vincentian Order was invited to take charge of the school. The Vincentians continued their apostolate in Armagh until the amalgamation.

Christian Brothers' Grammar School[edit]

The Irish Christian Brothers arrived in Armagh in 1851 at the invitation of Archbishop Cullen, who was later to be Ireland's first Cardinal. Within a few years the Christian Brothers acquired the Greenpark site and primary and secondary schools were established. Christian Brothers' Grammar School, Greenpark, built up a strong academic and sporting tradition. When the Vincentian Order signified their intention to withdraw from Armagh, the late Cardinal Tomas O' Fiaich requested the Irish Christian Brothers to become joint trustees of the new amalgamated school. The work in education started by Archbishop Crolly in 1838 was to continue on Sandy Hill. Cardinal O' Fiaich was succeeded as Chairman of the Board of Governors by Cardinal Daly in 1991 and by Cardinal Brady in 1997.

Strategic development plan[edit]

A number of years ago, the school made an announcement entitled "Preparing the Way: Developing for the 21st Century", which set out its plans for a new music and technology block for the school, and massive investment in classroom technology and new sports facilities. The sports development was awarded the largest sum of public money ever given to a grammar school in Northern Ireland. With the £380 million school building programme, announced in 2006 by Angela Evans Smith, the then Minister of Education, St. Patrick's received the largest sum - £18.2 million - for refurbishment and development.[citation needed] Although to date these plans are still in the initial stages and it may be several more years before they happen.

Life at St. Patrick's[edit]


At St. Patrick's all students from years 8-10 study languages and most student will go on to study languages at GCSE and A-level. There are three languages offered at St. Patrick's,

In years 8-9 all students study French and Irish, then in year 10 they also study Spanish as a third language. Students will have up to two hours a week for each language. At GCSE, most students, if not all, will study at least one language. Some students take more than one. In the past, some students who would have achieved over 80% in their KS3 languages, could have taken one language GCSE in year 10. This no longer is offered. Also at A-level some students will study a language. These students usually have eight classes per week, plus 2 conversation classes with the school's language assistants. Every language at St. Patrick's has a fluent language assistant.

Extra-curricular activities[edit]

St Patrick's actively encourages student creation of and participation in extra-curricular activities. Some long-standing extra-curricular societies of the school include: the debating society, St. Vincent De Paul and groups of the music department.

Extra-curricular groups in the music department include the school orchestra, steel band, traditional group, and choir, each of which has a day allocated for practice for one hour after school. The dept. is also taking part in the new 'Soundstart Project.' Every year 8 and year 9 class are part of this. For one class every week they learn an orchestral instrument from all sections of the orchestra, as well as African drums. They are taken by professional tutors, assuring that every pupil can leave year 9 able to play an instrument and read music. The various music groups play an annual Spring concert in the Market Place Theatre, along all the groups from Soundstart. The main music groups also undertake in touring around the country. The steel band has performed in places as prestigious as the Waterfront Hall as well as playing on radio shows. The band has participated in competitions in Jamaica and Spain. The orchestra and traditional group have also toured in Spain. The choir sings regularly in mass services and competitions. The school has also put on various stage shows, the most recent being 'Joseph' in November 2006.

  • Sports Department

A large number of sports also attract student interest, including basketball, cross-country running, gaelic football, golf, handball, hurling, squash and swimming. As a direct consequence of the wholehearted attitude of students towards sports the school hosts an annual sports day towards the end of each academic year. At the turn of the millennium St. Patrick's won the MacRory cup. In 2007 and 2012 the school reached the semi-final stage of the MacRory Cup. In 1934, 1936, 1938, 1943, 1950–1952, 1957, 1967, 1994 and 1997 the school reached the final of the gaelic football competition. The school held the cup after achieving victory in the following years: 1923 - 1929, 1931, 1944–1947 and 1953. The school was also the first winner of the All-Ireland Colleges competition the Hogan Cup.


The school community has long recognised and enjoyed the benefits of off-site education.

It has been traditional for first year students to attend a residential retreat (typically Killowen or Carlingford) at the beginning of their academic life at St. Patrick's, to help them get to know one another in an effort to bond as a cohesive year group throughout their seven years of post-primary education. At the end of a student's seven years at St. Patrick's they are invited to attend a religious retreat and the school's annual formal.

The school's language department has for a longtime developed links with many European countries to facilitate exchange programs which enhance the educational experience of their language scholars.

Lots of sporting excursions have come about throughout the school's history owing to their continuing sporting success. Most recently the Physical Education department took a select group of students to Canada.

School Aid Romania (SAR)[edit]

School Aid Romania was set up in 1990 with two main aims: to assist children in need in Romania and to bring together pupils from different schools and different communities in Northern Ireland. In pursuit of its aims, School Aid Romania's objectives are to contribute to the development of community relations and mutual understanding between young people in Northern Ireland and to secure, by joint ventures, material assistance to relieve poverty and improve the well-being of young people in Romania. The teachers and staff that go to Romania are miss Nicola Mc Creesh and Mrs Úna Lennon

The Chairman of the Board of Governors, Archbishop Sean Brady, takes an active interest in the work of the SAR group in the school. St. Patrick's Grammar has been involved in SAR since 1993 and travels to Brasov with St. Joseph's Grammar School Donaghmore. The school has hosted a number of visitors from schools, hospitals, orphanages and the Inspectorate in Brasov. The SAR group in St. Patrick's has also arranged for physiotherapists and teachers of special needs to travel to Brasov and work with children in Timis.

Landmark occasions[edit]

In recognition of being the top fund raising school in Northern Ireland for Mencap's Spellathon 2006/2007 competition St Patrick's was visited on Tuesday 11 September 2007 by James and Oliver Phelps,[1] better known as the actors who play the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter films. Over £1,300 were raised by the school for the learning disability charity through the sponsored spelling test. Mrs. Shauna Clements, literacy co-ordinator at St Patrick's commented: "The children are all huge Harry Potter fans, so the Phelps' visit was a real treat! The children decorated our assembly hall for our special assembly with Harry Potter themed pictures so that the Twins would feel especially welcome. The pupils particularly enjoyed getting the chance to quiz the Phelps on their roles as Fred and George Weasley. I thoroughly recommend Spellathon to all schools. We have taken part for the past three years and it is a great teaching tool, not only in terms of pupils' spelling but also for educating our students with learning disabilities. I am delighted that we have raised funds for Mencap's projects in Northern Ireland and look forward to introducing more pupils to Mencap and Spellathon!" [2]

Federation with St Brigid's[edit]

It was announced in January 2011 that a federation working group has been established with St Brigid's High School Armagh. This will allow both schools to work closely and share facilities and resources so the students from both schools can avail of a high quality, first class education. In September 2011, New Year 8 students will avail of the new working group. Year 8 students from St Brigid's will travel to St Patrick's for music lessons and Year 8 Students from St Patrick's will travel to St Brigid's for Home Economics lessons, in the school's brand new Home Economics suite. The main reason for the working group is both schools want to provide students with the best possible education that will provide students with more opportunities.


In recent years, St. Patrick's has been among the first schools in the United Kingdom and Ireland to pioneer many new technologies.

In 2003 the school's finance department launched a cashless card system which facilitates the purchasing of food and water from the school cafeterias and assorted resources from the onsite stationery shop. The primary intention of such an innovation was to reduce queuing times. From September 2008 the system has been further enhanced so that students no longer require cashless cards but simply a fingerprint to access their money. The system was also integrated with Library software Alice to enable students to borrow books without the need for a library card.

Furthermore, in 2005, the school was among the first in Northern Ireland to boast Class Room 2000 (C2K) technologies with every classroom containing an interactive Promethean whiteboard, a data projector (with television and DVD capabilities) and a networked computer with access to the Internet, e-mail and assorted educational software and resources.

Academic achievements[edit]

Students of St. Patrick's have consistently achieved exemplary public examination results with pupils often attaining recognition for achieving top grades in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Pupils of Mr. Gerard Cullen (Head of Business Studies & Economics) have on four occasions managed to attain the best GCSE score in the subject in Northern Ireland along with a second and third at GCSE, a first, third and sixth at A-Level, and a litany of other related awards.[citation needed] Similar achievements propagate to many of the other departments of the school.

During the Summer 2006 exam season students at St. Patrick's achieved exemplary results in their GCSE and A-Level subjects, making it the top all boys grammar school in Northern Ireland and fifth overall.[citation needed]

Summer 2008 heralded further academic splendour for St. Patrick's with twenty-seven of its students attaining straight As in three or more A-Levels. Five students actually achieved four grade As, whilst one student attained five.

Notable former pupils[edit]

External links[edit]