HUNDREDS of people attended a meeting at Markethill High School to support a campaign for a new-build school and sixth form college.
Principal James Maxwell, addressing a crowded assembly hall, said, “It is time for a sixth form in Markethill, so that a vision for education from the age of four through to 18 can be achieved on the same road, the Mowhan Road, in the same town, encompassing all our feeder primary schools which we value so much.”
The meeting was part of a public consultation process on proposals by the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) for post primary education in the Armagh area.
Mr Maxwell said that although four options had been proposed, he was also aware that enhancements would be considered. He said the enhancement to having a new-build school in Markethill would be to have a sixth form, a move which over 80 per cent of parents had said they wanted.
The first of the four proposals is to amalgamate the City of Armagh and Markethill High schools and provide new replacement buildings on the Markethill High School site for an estimated 700 pupils.
Part of the plan will be to refurbish and extend the Royal School buildings for 700 pupils.
The second is to amalgamate the City of Armagh High School and the Royal School, refurbish and extend the existing Royal School buildings for 850 pupils and provide new replacement buildings on the Markethill High School site for 550 pupils.
The third proposal is to amalgamate the City of Armagh and Markethill High Schools, provide new replacement buildings, co-located with the Royal School, for 700 pupils and refurbish and extend the existing Royal School buildings for 700 pupils.
The fourth option is to amalgamate all three schools and provide a new 11-19 all ability school on the Royal School site for around 1,400 pupils.
During his speech, Mr Maxwell said he hoped the Minister for Education, John O’Dowd, would live up to his pledge from September 2011 to allow popular, oversubscribed schools to grow. He said the statistics and projections for a demographic increase suggest Markethill High is going to see significant natural growth in intake over the next 18 years.
Mr Maxwell, who has been principal for 10 months, pointed out that the school recently celebrated excellent GCSE results with 85 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C grades or better, making it the top, non-selective, controlled school in the SELB area.
The school was supported by Mervyn Storey, MLA and DUP spokesperson for education and chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, who has already met the Board of Governors and intends to meet with representatives from both the Royal and City of Armagh Schools in the coming weeks.