Portadown and Lurgan Colleges have joined forces with concerned parents’ groups to instruct parents how to fill in a questionnaire on the future of the Dickson Plan.
A leaflet outlining the Southern Education and Library Board’s (SELB) rationale for restructuring the two-tier system, along with a questionnaire, was sent to schools last week. The schools are tasked with forwarding these 12,000 leaflets and questionnaires to individual families.
Both Portadown and Lurgan colleges have inserted an additional document, instructing parents how they feel the questionnaire should be completed if you are opposed to the vision of education outlined in Option A. Concerned parents’ groups across Craigavon and Tandragee have also sent out instructions to parents.
Arnold Hatch, chairman of the Board of Governors at Clounagh Junior High School, criticised what he called an attempt to put words in the mouths of parents.
He said, “I would have thought that parents are entitled to make up their own minds and what the colleges have done suggests that parents are not capable of thinking for themselves. They should also be free to suggest viable alternative ideas of their own.”
However, claims that the colleges were trying to force their own views on parents were denied by Nicole Lappin, spokeswoman for the nine concerned parents’ groups now established across the Dickson Plan region. Mrs Lappin, who was part of a delegation that met SELB chief executive Gavin Boyd on Wednesday, said she welcomed the consultation as an opportunity for parents of all opinions to air their views.
“We are certainly not telling parents this is the only way you should be filling in the questionnaire. Having spoken to some parents, I know that some people have found the questionnaire a bit confusing so what we are telling parents is that if you reject Option A, then this is how we suggest you should answer the questions. It’s certainly not a case of the parents’ groups and the colleges not letting people think for themselves.
“We are trying to ensure that parents can make a better informed decision.”
Mrs Lappin said she was broadly pleased with the questionnaire, which is not “lengthy” and “does not take much time” to complete.
The parents’ spokeswoman also encouraged supporters of Option A to make their voice heard as well, so to ensure a fair debate on the Dickson Plan issue.
Text us your views to 84555, starting with PTTEXT and then a space or email firstname.lastname@example.org