St Joseph’s Grammar school was founded in 1922 by a Belgian religious congregation called the Daughters of the Cross. The purchase of the land for the school site was facilitated by the then parish priest, Very Reverend Joseph O’Neill. The first contingent of nuns arrived in 1920 having been permitted to open a hospital in the only building on the site at that time, now commonly known as the Convent building. These first three sisters arrived with very few belongings but were able to rely on the generosity of local people who supplied them with farm animals and other provisions.
Within two years of arriving, the sisters had managed to persuade the diocese that there was a need for another Catholic school in the area and St Joseph’s opened its doors as a boarding and day school for both boys and girls in 1922 and the hospital was quietly shut down.
Initially, enrolment numbers were small but over time, St Joseph’s came to be the school of choice for many families, particularly during the second world war years when parents evacuated their children out of Belfast to the relative safety of the countryside. The boarding facility ceased to operate in the 1980s and there followed a period of uncertainty for the future of the school as enrolment figures dipped below 300 before stablishing to the 855 pupils we now have today.
As the number of vocations to the Daughters of the Cross diminished, in order to provide for the future of the school, the decision was taken by the order/sisters to transfer the trusteeship of the school to the Archdiocese of Armagh in 1998. Sadly, the last three sisters left the school community and retired to Dublin in 2007, but the legacy they have left us lives on and is deeply treasured by all who are connected to the school.
The school has always been forward-thinking and has seized upon all opportunities to position itself as one of the leading post-primary schools in Ireland. The Board of Governors of the school changed its admissions criteria in 2003 to admit boys and the gender balance of the school population is now approximately 50-50.
In 2010, the school again re-invented itself by opening a non-selective Irish Medium Stream (IMS) to meet the growing demand for post-primary Irish language provision in Mid-Ulster. The demand has been so great that the school has doubled the enrolment number of the IMS by 2020.
Equally, capital investment in the school has been significant in recent years. Having developed a new state of the art sports and drama facility in 2016, the Department of Education has committed to investing another £4 million for a new building at the school to include a canteen, library, engineering, and general classroom facilities. This exciting new phase of school development will begin in 2022. As the school continues to go from strength to strength, we invite you and your child to be an important part of our future success story.
If you choose to join us in September 2022, you will join the school at a very special moment when we look both to the past and the future as we celebrate our centenary year.