The Education Act (Northern Ireland) 1947 had radically changed education in Northern Ireland. All eleven year olds became entitled to secondary education in an intermediate, grammar or technical school. The complexities of the roll-out meant that by 1950-51 there were still only ten county intermediate and two voluntary intermediate schools in existence. However, in the years between 1957 and 1961 intermediate schools were opened in many towns including, Banbridge, Newry, Dromore and Lurgan.
In April 1957, the school leaving age in Northern Ireland was raised from 14 to 15 so St. Patrick’s Intermediate had a four form entry in 1958. On leaving school pupils went into employment, apprenticeships or to the local Technical College where vocational and ordinary level courses were offered.
Parental and student demand led to some examinations being offered - Junior Certificate and Ordinary level GCE (equivalent to GCSE) but pupils had to remain an extra year in school to sit GCEs. The raising of the school leaving age to 16 in 1972 resulted in an expansion of choices and opportunities. St Patrick’s was no longer an intermediate school and to reflect this, the name was changed to St Patrick’s High School.
Incremental changes and extensions to the building over the years mean that St Patrick’s College is almost unrecognisable today. The aspirations of the students and the expectations of their parents have grown too, in keeping with the educational climate. The college provides for students aged 11-18, 100% of students take GCSE examinations or equivalent, an increasing number of students remain for Post 16 Courses.
The college’s facilities have been upgraded – the most recent being an All- Weather Pitch. In keeping with its motto ‘Excellence through Partnership’ the college collaborates with other post primary schools in the area to ensure that the provision it offers caters for the needs of all students. What has not changed over time is the emphasis placed on pastoral care and sharing of the Christian vision which recognises the growth of the whole person.
Throughout its sixty two year old history, St. Patrick’s College has evolved in keeping with the needs and aspirations of its pupils and in compliance with Government legislation and guidance from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.
It is proud of its tradition as a Catholic school and welcomes pupils of all denominations and other faiths. Many recall the excitement engendered by their new school, St Patrick’s Intermediate, which was blessed and opened by Archdeacon Gallery on 1st. September 1958. The previous year, on 1st May 1957, the foundation stone had been blessed by Bishop O'Doherty. The contributory parishes raised 30% of the building costs of the school (£140,000), which created strong community links between the school and the local parishes.