An out-of-term political row has erupted over the proposed changes in the Dickson Plan for Education between leading DUP and UUP members of the borough council.
Alderman Sydney Anderson MLA has hit out at UUPs Alderman Arnold Hatch, chair of Clounagh Junior High School Board of Governors, for his recent comments in the Portadown Times concerning the Dickson Plan.
Mr Hatch said that he had an open mind on the subject – that he was prepared to listen to the Option B viewpoint, but was willing to have his name used to support Option A.
Option A will unite the three junior highs (Clounagh, Killicomaine and Tandragee) on their three current sites, but they will operate with a single principal and with a common board of governors. And there will be a new-build senior high, uniting Portadown College’s grammar school ethos and CSHS’s technical tradition, remaining as separate entities.
Option B is virtually no change, with plans to unite the Portadown and Lurgan CSHS sites, probably in Portadown – but the SELB has rejected this and gone for Option A. Full public consultation starts within the next few week.
Mr Anderson has challenged Mr Hatch “to come off the fence and join us and the people in our campaign”.
But Mr Hatch has insisted, “I don’t take lessons from Sydney Anderson on how I should think. I am not on any fence. I am supporting the board’s favoured Option A, simply because it strengthens the Dickson Plan and affords a much better opportunity to the students at Craigavon Senior High School (CSHS). And it will mean a complete new-build at the Portadown College site.”
Mr Anderson said, “Alderman Hatch needs to stop hedging his bets He should give publicly his full support for Option B - there is no public appetite for Option A and the vast majority of people in Portadown, Lurgan, Craigavon and Tandragee are supportive of the Dickson Plan form of Education which has served the borough well for decades and produced higher than average results.
“Option A would be the death knell of Dickson and I am shocked that Alderman Hatch given his years of public service both on council and on various Boards of Governors that he was not able to gauge the public outcry against Option A and the desire to see the system as is retained with a new build for the Senior High School.”
Mr Hatch claimed CSHS was the loser in the Dickson Plan – “mainly working-class children are the poor relations and always have been.”