Beattie hints at legal action over school plan

editorial image

The Education Authority has been accused of showing contempt for the community in Lurgan over its consultation on the proposed closure of the local campus of Craigavon Senior High and the move could face a legal challenge.

Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie (UUP) made the claims as he pointed out the EA were ‘using fear to force through their proposal’.

He said he had asked the EA to release the consultation document on Monday morning to give people the chance to digest it in advance of public meetings held in Lurgan Junior High School and Lurgan campus of the senior high school.

Speaking on Tuesday Mr Beattie said: “The Consultation – which was released after the meeting was over – made it clear that no matter what the Lurgan community want it is the EA intention to bus the Lurgan children to the Portadown campus with effect 1st September 2020.”

“I have concerns, namely that the Consultation was not released until after the meeting with the Lurgan community and EA did not allow that community time to scrutinise the document prior to the meeting to enable them to ask informed question. I am also concerned that the EA are using the Dickson Plan as a scare tactic to sway those parents in Portadown and Tandragee.

“Let me be absolutely clear. The Dickson Plan will not be affected by what the Lurgan community want for post primary education – indeed it will be enhanced. “It is absolutely clear to me the EA are showing contempt for the Lurgan community, they are using fear to force through their proposal and that they will allow Portadown and Tandragee parents to have the deciding hand on what happens to Lurgan children. This requires a community response and I believe it requires a legal challenge.”

The Dickson Plan is unique to the Craigavon area and was introduced as an alternative to the 11+.

Introduction of the system began in 1967 and was completed by 1973.

Pupils transferred from primary school to all ability junior high schools at age 11 and after three years transferred either to grammar schools or to technical colleges.

With the advent of the common Northern Ireland Curriculum for all schools in 1989, the original concept of academic and technical and vocational pathways became outdated.

In 1995 a non-selective 14-16 school Craigavon SHS was created, operating over two campuses, Lurgan Campus and Portadown Campus.

The EA last night (Monday) launched an eight week consultation on the closure of the Lurgan campus with pupils transferring to Portadown to create a single site school at the campus there. They said the long term aim is to secure funding for a new single site school.