‘Keep Markethill out of merger plans’
A VIABLE, rural school such as Markethill High should not be included in any amalgamation proposals, supporters of the school have urged in response to the SELB consultation.
While The Royal School Armagh and City of Armagh High School have agreed on a proposed way forward, Markethill High School has not.
In a joint statement, the two city schools said it was their shared view, arrived at separately and independently, that Option 3 was the best way forward and would ‘ensure the best possible educational opportunities for the young people of the community’.
Option 3 proposes amalgamating the City of Armagh and Markethill High Schools on the Armagh Royal site, providing new replacement buildings for approximately 700 pupils. The existing Royal School would be refurbished and extended to accommodate 700 pupils.
However, the Governors of Markethill High School said their preference was for Option 2 of the Area Plan proposal - to keep the school on its current site - with new sixth form provision.
A number of Markethil High School supporters commented that the problem is an ‘Armagh City’ one and a solution between the City of Armagh High School and The Royal School Armagh is the only sensible one.
They said the proposal chosen must allow for popular oversubscribed schools, such as Markethill High School, to grow.
They pointed out that the school is over-subscribed by 28 places and is financially secure, with the largest number of pupils ever.
Others noted that Markethill High School has the best results for any non- selective controlled school in the SELB area and that in light of this, the school’s success should be recognised and sixth form provision granted.
Many respondents commented that it was unacceptable to expect children from Markethill and the surrounding areas to travel to Armagh city to be educated, and that it was particularly unacceptable to ask children with disabilities to commute longer distances to school.
It was viewed as illogical to bus over 500 children from Markethill, Poyntzpass, Mountnorris, Whitecross etc through Markethill town and on into Armagh city every day, when Markethill High School meets the criteria and also has existing sport and leisure facilities.
Some respondents perceived Option 3 as the most cost effective option which could provide excellent sporting facilities shared by all and allow for collaboration between the sectors on one site reducing the cost of transporting pupils.
It was viewed by a number of respondents as preferable as it retains selective and non-selective education in the city of Armagh.
The SELB said, “The board recognises from the content of responses and representations that the community has not reached a consensus on an option which would command the support of all schools involved.
“The board recognises that two of the three schools have adopted a common position on one of the options proposed.
“However, further work is required before a decision can be reached and it is the intention of the board to engage with school and community representatives early in 2013 in order to reach a determination which will address urgent viability issues.”
Chairman of the school’s Board of Governors Willie Johnston said, “The school is pleased to note that there is now a clear recognition from the SELB that the community has strongly highlighted the need for post-primary education to stay in Markethill.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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