Around 200 questionnaires, asking parents for their views on the proposed changes to the Dickson Plan for Education, have gone missing.
They were bound for parents of children at Killicomaine Junior High School, with the parents’ group discovering the faux pas. But yesterday (Thursday) there was still no sign of the disappeared envelopes, prompting Upper Bann MLA Stephen Moutray to call for an extension to the deadline for the return of replies.
A spokesman for the SELB said that the envelopes were delivered by van to all the relevant schools at the beginning of December, with Killicomaine receiving theirs on December 3. And headmaster Mr Hugh McCarthy said the school delivered them to the Royal Mail on the 6th.
Nobody at the Royal Mail was available for comment. A recorded message from Belfast diverted the Portadown Times to Edinburgh where another recorded message said no-one was available.
But Mr McCarthy said he had been advised by the local Royal Mail that “they don’t know what has happened and to wait and see”.
He added, “I have been in touch with the SELB’s acting chief executive Mr Gavin Boyd and am awaiting a direct response. We may have to wait until we can collate exact numbers and send more to those who have not received the letters - at this stage it seems quite a large number from all parts of the school. This is a matter of grave concern. I shall keep our parents informed by website and by a note in schoolbags when I have definite information.”
DUP MLA Stephen Moutray has called on the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) to extend the January 10 deadline for replies until the end of the month.
He said, “This is the latest in a series of problems since Education Minister John O’Dowd announced he was killing off the Dickson Plan, and it’s by far the most serious. Parents won’t receive their letters until after the Christmas-New Year period. How can anyone expect them to make a reasoned reply in such a hurry?”
The board has ruled out the status quo Option B which would have left the Dickson Plan virtually untouched. Parents are being asked for their opinion on Option A, which would merge the junior highs - Clounagh, Killicomaine and Killicomaine - while retaining the three campuses. And Portadown College and Craigavon Senior High School would be united as a bilateral school.
Mr Moutray responded, “Wherever the fault lies, the only fair action is a postponement. But fairness hasn’t been obvious all along. Option A is the only show in town as far as the board is concerned.”