College heads hit back over letter criticism

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Local headmasters have reacted furiously to an exchange of letters between Education Minister John O’Dowd and the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB), which dubbed schools in Craigavon as “having the lowest performance in the board’s area”.

In a joint response to the letters – carried in last week’s Portadown Times - Portadown College headmaster Simon Harper and Lurgan College counterpart Trevor Robinson said they are “disgusted at the clear evidence of direct ministerial interference by John O’Dowd in the SELB’s 
planning process.”

They are “shocked that the board is embarking upon yet another consultation process, given that they have publicly stated that the controlled sector is outperforming the NI average and that the Dickson Plan has many benefits”.

Both headmasters called upon the SELB to “abandon this ministerially contaminated process forthwith. To continue with this fatally flawed and unnecessary process would be a shameful waste of public funds by the SELB, given that schools are currently being starved of funding.

“The SELB is fully aware that the only logical, affordable, sustainable, pupil-centred and educationally robust solution to this debacle, which will secure community support, is to produce a development proposal based on the creation of a single site, four-year Craigavon Senior High School, thereby giving those young people the facilities, the curriculum and the pathways which they so richly deserve.

“It is time for the SELB to show courage and vision to deliver this 21st century enhancement to the 
Dickson Plan.”

The heads were responding to a wide-ranging criticism from the board in the letter to Mr O’Dowd which claimed the two grammar-type Colleges were performing in line with the four-year NI grammar school average in GCSEs and A-levels, but that Craigavon Senior High was below average, that Brownlow was “very disappointing” and that the Catholic sector was below average.