Decision day nears for Dickson Plan

The vast majority of the 5,000 responses to proposed changes in the Dickson Plan have come out against Option A, the Portadown Times understands.

The responses will be revealed at next Wednesday’s meeting of the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB).

Option A, which proposes joining Portadown College and Craigavon Senior High School on a single campus, has come in for strong criticism from a number of parents, who have set up concerned parents’ groups.

The board is expected to make a decision next week on whether to proceed with Option A.

According to a source, initial indications from the questionnaires show overwhelming opposition to the proposal.

Around 13,500 questionnaires were distributed to parents of all children within the two-tier system and feeder primary schools, with just under 5,000 forms returned.

Under Option A, Clounagh, Killicomaine and Tandragee junior highs would be amalgamated under one principal and board of governors, but at their existing sites.

Those taking part in the survey were asked to write their suggested alternative on the back of the sheet, and it is believed most respondents have called for the status quo to be retained, while others call for talks with all sides so a compromise can be reached.

Both the DUP and the UUP have called for Option A to be removed and dialogue to begin to come up with “a workable solution”.

A delegation of Craigavon Ulster Unionists recently met the board’s chief executive Gavin Boyd and chairperson Plunkett Campbell to discuss the proposals.

Education spokesman Danny Kinahan MLA said, “We had a frank meeting with the top officials in the board.

“We pressed them on where their consultation is going, and to confirm that their ‘Option A’ is effectively dead in the water. Whilst we appreciate they are still sifting through the huge numbers of responses, it is clear that there has been a massive public rejection of the Option A proposal.”

DUP MLA Stephen Moutray said there was “every indication” that most questionnaires would demonstrate that people have rejected Option A.

An SELB spokesman said, “All responses received are being analysed and a consultation report produced. The report will be considered by board members at the forthcoming monthly meeting and help inform their deliberations as to the most appropriate way forward.”