Schools face anxious wait for area plan report
SECONDARY schools in the area are anxiously awaiting the publication of the results of a public consultation, which could determine their future.
A spokesman for the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) said the board had submitted its report on the area plan to the Minister of Education and expected a response from John O’Dowd by early January.
The findings will have implications for all post-primary schools.
Under the original recommendations, Drumcree College was earmarked for closure while Clounagh JHS, Killicomaine JHS, Tandragee JHS, Portadown College and Craigavon Senior High School were envisaged coming together as one collegiate, with separate campuses but one principal and one Board of Governors.
In the Armagh area, Markethill High School has been campaigning vigorously to remain on the same site, and get a new sixth form centre.
The board spokesman said, “The responses to the public consultation were analysed by the board, to see what themes where emerging and if there was a consensus on one particular direction or not. The original recommendations were then left as they were or altered, according to the responses we received.
“A report was compiled and sent to the Minister and once we hear back from him, we will be in a position to make the report public. We hope to have a response from the department in time for the board meeting in mid-January.”
Principal of Markethill High School James Maxwell has called for “equality of judgement” in the board’s decision-making process.
Speaking at the recent Key Stage 3 prize giving, he said the school was now “at the most important and exciting crossroads in its 53-year history” and said Markethill had the capability and desire to become one of Northern Ireland’s academic centres of excellence.
He said, “We are achieving our best results ever, our highest number of pupils ever, the second broadest curriculum in the Armagh City and District area, with two new GCSEs on the cards next year in agriculture and moving image arts.
“We are the British Academy Award winner for the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages, we are the school in possibly one of the best financial position of any school in the area as we are still in surplus, and we are a school which is deeply rooted in its community.
“This is the school which meets the Minister of Education’s six criteria for sustainability and it is now time for him to commit to his pledge to allow popular, oversubscribed schools to grow further.”
Mr Maxwell told parents that if Markethill High was going to take in 550 plus pupils, it was not appropriate that pupils are forced to leave at the age of 16.
He added, “The area-based proposals, coupled with natural demographic increase, lead to a situation where Markethill High School could quickly become the second biggest non-selective controlled school in the SELB.
“Yet, there are presently seven controlled non-selective schools in the SELB which offer sixth form, four of which are smaller than Markethill High School. We need equality when decisions are being made.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Portadown
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: South east