New build for Markethill High still a ‘priority’

Principal James Maxwell, left, with vice-principal James McCoy. INPT50-012
Principal James Maxwell, left, with vice-principal James McCoy. INPT50-012

Markethill High School is on a priority list for a new build school, the Education Authority has confirmed.

The news, contrary to some reports published last week, was confirmed also by the school’s principal James Maxwell.

An Education Authority spokesman said, “Markethill High School is included on the list of capital building priorities submitted to the Department of Education by the Education Authority. 

“This remains subject to the resolution of area planning issues and the availability of capital funding.”

The official position was also reiterated in October to MLA Sandra Overend when she wrote to the Education Authority about the issue.

In a response to her letter, Gregory Butler, the regional managing director of the Southern Eastern and Southern Regions, confirmed that Markethill High School is included on the list.

Mr Maxwell, the Board of Governors, staff, pupils and the wider community, have welcomed the news but said the new build must come soon and said the school will not accept its pupils being at a disadvantage pastorally or educationally.

Mr Maxwell said, “With excellent academic achievements, our highest enrolment figure ever, being in a strong financial position and capable of meeting the Bain threshold of 100 pupils for Sixth Form, the school remains strong and resolute in its campaign to secure a new build and Sixth Form.

“Our pupils deserve a new build. We have 496 pupils. St Joseph’s Crossmaglen, which is getting a new build, has 481 pupils at ages 11-16 as of the June 2015 census, so it has fewer pupils at 11-16 than Markethill High School.

“We congratulate them in their new build but question why the Education Minister consistently says ‘no’ to Markethill High School in spite of requests for temporary variance.”

He added, “We are of course pleased to learn that Markethill High School is now on the priority list for a new build school - but that new build must come soon. We understand this remains subject to the resolution of area planning issues and the availability of capital funding as outlined by Mr Butler.

“In September 2012, 4,500 people put their name to a campaign calling for a new build and sixth form at Markethill High. We have been actively campaigning for the last three years yet we are still waiting for decisions. Our school ticks all the boxes. We are sustainable, we achieve some of the strongest exam results in the country and we are in a sound financial position. Would we meet the Bain threshold of 100 pupils in Sixth Form? Absolutely.”

The number of pupils leaving Markethill High School with five or more GCSEs, including English and maths, has hit a new record at 68 per cent – a result which should place Markethill High School once again in the top three non-selective controlled Schools in Northern Ireland. Well over 80 per cent of pupils achieve five or more GCSEs.

Mr Maxwell asked, “Why do our pupils have to get 13 or 14 points to get any sort of robust and broad A-Level provision when pupils in other controlled, non-selective schools have easy access to strong provision at the same location with only eight points?”