A NEW school and sixth form centre at Markethill High School would secure around £2 million for the village economy, the chairman of the school’s Board of Governors has said.
Willie Johnston, who received an MBE in 2008 for his work in stimulating growth in Markethill, said the school is fundamental to the success of the local economy.
He explained, “The school’s operating budget covering salaries, wages and expenses, is about £1.8 million which is money mainly recirculating in the local area.
“Every day, the school attracts about 600 people - parents, pupils and staff. That’s equivalent to 3,000 people per week. If every person spent £10 in the shops that’s £30,000 per week which is over £1.5 million per year. Add to that a bigger spend for families living in the village and we estimate it’s closer to £2 million. If every person spent £5 in the shops that’s £15,000 per week which is £750,000 per year.
“There are 55 businesses here and everyone spends local and employs local. The school is currently undergoing a major refurbishment in the art and music department and again the work is being carried out by a contractor with a Markethill address.”
Markethill High School has been running a community campaign since August 2011 after John O’Dowd, Minister for Education, announced a public consultation on post-primary education across Northern Ireland.
Four options were announced by the Minister, two of which would see Markethill High School remain in the village and two which would mean a move for the school into Armagh city.
Added Mr Johnston, “Our message to the Education Minister is simple. Markethill High School is the heartbeat of our community. It is vital the Minister considers the economic impact of having those 600 people in Markethill every day. No community can afford such a vital lifeline to be ripped away. The future of our economy is dependent on our school remaining at the heart of the village.”
Alison Strong, director of JD Hunter, said the school is essential in attracting people to the village. “Markethill has grown in size over the years and what attracts new people to live in the area is the future educational provision for their children. Not only does the school provide a fantastic education but it is also a big employer too.”
Richard Alexander, owner of Alexander’s of Markethill, said the school is integral to the town’s identity. “The presence of both schools in Markethill is crucially important. The concept of the village is that the school makes Markethill a centre of activity. People are attracted to Markethill because it is a thriving village. People want to come and live here and people, who don’t live here, want to come to shop here,” he said.
Lewis Singleton of Nelson Singleton Solicitors said, “When the school gets its sixth form it will not only take Markethill High School to the next level but it will take Markethill, as a business hub, to a new level. There are 800 children being educated in Markethill between the primary school and the high school. In a small town like ours that’s a phenomenal percentage and the trickle effect on all businesses is incredible.”