Portadown College have rejected what they call “cynical” claims from the Southern Education and Library Board that its Option A proposals would retain grammar school status for the school.
In joint statement from Simon Harper, the College principal, and his Lurgan counterpart Trevor Robinson, the principals and boards of governors insisted that Option A would result in the closure of both schools.
“The governors of both colleges utterly deplore the cynical SELB claim that the proposals would retain the grammar status of both Lurgan and Portadown College,” said the statement. “The SELB’s attempt to mislead our community is exposed by its recent development proposal to amalgamate St Michael’s Grammar School, St Mary’s Junior High School and St Paul’s Junior High School to form an 11 to 18 ‘non-selective’ grammar school.
“Our community has repeatedly voiced its support for the retention of the Dickson Plan which guarantees freestanding ‘selective’ 14 to 19 grammar schools, something which will be denied to this and future generations of young people if Option A is imposed.
“Option A will, as confirmed by Mr Mike Donaghy, head of development, planning and support services at SELB, necessitate the ‘closure’ of both Lurgan College and Portadown College (as well as Craigavon Senior High School).
“Any new resultant school will be all-ability/comprehensive in nature and will, most certainly, remove forever pupils’ right to a genuine ‘selective grammar school’ education in the Craigavon area.
“Rejection of the SELB’s flawed proposals would open the way to proper educational dialogue and the determination of a solution which actually retains the Dickson Plan, involving free-standing 14 to 19 ‘selective grammar schools’, a free-standing 14 to 16/19 ‘non-selective school’ and the existing junior high schools as single entities.
“The governors of both colleges remain resolute in their commitment to ensuring the best and most appropriate educational pathways for ‘all’ of our young people, from the most academically gifted to the most educationally disadvantaged, in the Craigavon/Tandragee area.”
The two schools also criticised the circulation of a leaflet and questionnaire from the SELB, with the community in the Dickson Plan area being asked to give their views on Option A. This is being circulated this week.
The schools said, “For too long parents and primary schools have been deliberately excluded by the SELB from the consultation process. While this belated decision to involve all relevant sections of our community in the process is helpful, the SELB has, nevertheless, indicated that it does not intend to meet directly with parents, staff and governors in advance of the formal written consultation process.
“This decision has unfortunately fuelled community tensions as local parents across Craigavon/Tandragee have voiced their dismay and anger at being denied the opportunity to have their many deep concerns explored in an open and transparent manner before they complete their questionnaires.”
The principals continued, “The perverse absence of a clear definition of a 14 to 19 bi-lateral school, by either the SELB or the Minister for Education, means that the SELB is consulting on an untried, untested, unsound and ill-considered model of education.
“The adoption of such a proposal would expose our community to unacceptable educational risk.”