It is situated just north of the A57 in Mill Yard, east of the Alder Hey Children's Hospital. It is next-door to Broughton Hall High School, an all-girls Catholic school.
The school is a faith school and all-male.
There is also a new sixth form building being built which will be jointly shared with Broughton Hall
The school is named after Cardinal John Carmel Heenan. Until 1983 it was known as Cardinal Allen Grammar School, when it merged with St Margaret Mary's Boys' School. It opened in September 1958 with around 300 boys when administered by the Liverpool Education Committee. Next door was the Convent of Mercy (R.C. Girls) High School, a girls' grammar school on Yew Tree Lane.
The school was originally based at two sites, one for Year 7 and 8 (years 1 and 2 of the old school year system) around half a mile (800m) from the main building on Pilch Lane, Huyton. The upper school, now the only building, is based at Honeysgreen Lane, West Derby.
Some of the school's expansive playing fields at Pilch Lane were partly sold off for housing development circa 1995, it is believed this was done to help pay for future renovation, building work and new building development.
The sixth form status of the school expanded in the late 1990s starting in 1995 with the introduction of a mixed sex sixth form.
Around that time also begun the work of converting nearby Leyfield House for the purposes of sixth form only use. The prospectus from 1995/6 makes mention of this improvement but due to unknown difficulties at the time, the conversion of Leyfield House was only completed circa 1997, to the annoyance of the then incumbent sixth formers who had expected it to be ready during their term at Cardinal Heenan. In 2001 Cardinal Heenan became a Specialist Sports College, officially opened by ex-student Steven Gerrard and the Mayor of Liverpool.
Cardinal Heenan is one of the few schools in Liverpool to offer the new Opening Minds Curriculum and is also a leader in offering BTEC First qualifications. These BTEC qualifications are at Level 2 of the NQF and depending on options taken, are GCSE equivalent. A BTEC First Diploma is worth four GCSEs. Broughton Hall (which is next door) also offer this curriculum.
Cardinal Heenan has large Sports and Performing Arts emphasis, with a series of Dance, Sports and Extra-Curricular Activities.
Due to the school's sporting successes, they have introduced a new sport to the premises, boxing. Cardinal Heenan Boxing Academy opened its doors on 7 November 2008, with the attendance of GB boxers, James DeGale and former pupil, David Price. It is now an affiliated ABA boxing club (one of the first boxing clubs in a school in Britain). Cardinal Heenan's other sports include football, cricket, swimming, rugby, baseball, athletics, gymnastics and an on-site keep-fit gymnasium.Mike Di Scala (music producer)
Sean Doherty (footballer)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool/England footballer).
Jay McEveley (Derby/Scotland footballer)
David Nugent (Portsmouth/England footballer).
Bradley Orr (Blackburn Rovers footballer)
David Price (boxer)
Carl Tremarco (Wrexham footballer)
John Welsh (Hull City FC/England under-21 footballer)
David Price (U.S. Footballer and Manager)
Tyias Browning (Everton Footballer)
Ian Hart (real name Ian Davies - actor many film and TV credits including Prof Quirrell in Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone)
Colin Harvey (footballer 1960s & 70s for England, Everton F.C. and Sheffield Wednesday F.C.)
Paul McGann (actor - many film and TV credits including Doctor Who & movie cult classic Withnail & I).