WE haven’t been given enough time - that’s the message from Portadown College and Tandragee Junior High School to a closing date for responses to a planned shake-up of the area’s controlled schools.
And Portadown College has taken the unusual step of deciding not to reply in full by the deadline, instead launching its own consultation in order to have ‘meaningful engagement’ with the school community.
All post-primary schools across the province, and members of the public, have until October 26 to respond to a series of restructuring proposals by the five education and library boards.
In the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) area, the proposal is to create one single Collegiate from Clounagh JHS, Killicomaine JHS, Tandragee JHS, Portadown College and Craigavon Senior High.
The plan recommends keeping the schools on their own sites but having one single Board of Governors and one principal.
But both the College and Tandragee JHS say the publication of the proposals at the beginning of July was bad timing, given that the schools were finishing for the summer.
Peter Aiken, chairman of Portadown College’s Board of Governors, said the board would be making an initial response by the given date but part of that response would be to indicate that the College will be launching its consultation on Friday, November 9.
He said, “With the school term having commenced at the end of August, Governors hold the view that the needs of its students meant that the Governors and the principal and staff were fully engaged and did not have additional time to consider the radical proposals of the SELB in order to meet the deadline for a full consultation response before the closing date of October 26.
“The reasoning behind the timetable is such that initially the College wishes to engage with the chairs and principals of its feeder Junior High Schools before clarifying its position with the Craigavon Senior High School. This will take time and with the College Speech Day on Friday, October 26, Governors wished that attention should be placed upon the successes of its students rather than the detail of a shake-up in the successful Dickson Plan system of education.”
The College will launch its consultation on Friday, November 9 and between then and now a sub-group will work with the principal Mr Simon Harper and his leadership team to develop a consultation process.
Mr Aiken said the school would be consulting with children, parents and the wider school community. “This is about the future of our young people. Of course, there has to be efficient use of resources, but there needs to be much more dialogue and a whole range of issues needs to be considered,” he said.
Meanwhile, both Clounagh and Killicomaine Junior High Schools confirmed they would be submitting their responses by the date set down by the board.
David Mehaffey, principal of Craigavon Senior High School, said his Governors had not expressed any concerns about the consultation period on the area plan being too short. He said, “One meeting to discuss their response has already taken place and another one is planned. It is their intention to submit their response by October 26.
“I know that the Governors recognise the urgent need for a solution to the problems that currently exist and I feel sure that they would not wish to delay the process of identifying that way forward. It is the case that Boards of Governors are representatives of the communities served by their schools and can speak with the interests of those communities at heart.”
Mr Mehaffey added, “Our Governors have not indicated any intention to conduct their own consultation process.”