Plan to bus children to Portadown ‘preferred’

A proposal to bus Lurgan’s school children to Portadown will be firmly on the table in a consultation being launched on the future shape of Craigavon Senior High.

The Lurgan Mail understands a plan to consolidate the Lurgan campus with the Portadown campus will be the principal option the Education Authority will forward during the 10-week consultation process.

Doug Beattie MLA.''Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Doug Beattie MLA.''Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The Education Authority is remaining tight lipped on the detail of the options being put forward ahead of the launch of the consultation on Monday.

While not commenting on the precise details of the proposals a local MLA has warned the decision could be taken out of the hands of those most directly affected.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said: “It is now clear that the fate of the Lurgan campus of the Craigavon Senior High School (CSHS) and the children who would receive post primary non selective education in Lurgan will not be decided by the community or the families of those children.

“Instead it will be decided by the 60% who go to selective schools in the area and those who go to post primary schools in Portadown and Tandragee.”

He said: “I am absolutely clear that many people like and support the Dickson Plan and in particular the delayed selection at 14; why wouldn’t they?

“Through this system around 60% of those who go to controlled sector post primary schools will be selected to go to either Portadown or Lurgan College. This is good for them and this is good for both colleges.

“But what about the other 40% who do not, in particular what about those who are the most educationally vulnerable in the Lurgan area, why should their future be decided by those who go to Portadown schools or who are likely to be selected for one of the colleges.

“The Education Authority (EA) have been working toward a solution and as part of that solution a number of options have been identified.

“One of those options is for the children in Lurgan to stay in Lurgan and for the Lurgan Junior High Schools to become an 11–16 school with academic selection still taking place allowing children to go to the Lurgan College at 14.

“However, this option is being discounted because of the words of the last Education Minister in June 2016 where he made it clear that the Dickson Plan would not be removed ‘either directly or undermined through stealth’.

“Yet it is clear that the Dickson plan is not being undermined and that selection will still take place at 14 with the option to go to Lurgan College at that time.

“Therefore the former Minister’s words are being used not as they were intended but in an attempt to dissuade support for change. The adding of this statement will do nothing but reignite the bitter dispute around the Dickson Plan when there is no need to do so. It will feed into the fear of those parents and communities throughout the area who feel there is an attack on the Dickson Plan.

“In itself it will create a negative response and fear that schools in Portadown will somehow be affected by a plan for Lurgan that puts Lurgan pupils and the Lurgan community at its heart.

“I have been absolutely clear on where I stand on this issue. The children in Lurgan cannot stay at the Lurgan Campus site on Kitchen Hill, it is simply not fit for purpose, while bussing them to Portadown to a consolidated CSHS would be detrimental to the children and the wider Lurgan community.

“Therefore creating an educational hub in Lurgan on the site of the Lurgan Junior High School through the provisions of 11-16 education would enhance education in the area while at the same time retaining the guidelines of the Dickson Plan with no detrimental effect on post primary schools and education in the wider Lurgan, Portadown and Tandragee area.

“I am now calling on all elected representatives from all political parties in the area, civic leaders and educationalists to get behind a proposal for Lurgan Junior High School to become an 11-16 school with academic selection remaining at 14. I’m asking for parents from Portadown, Lurgan and Tandragee whose child is likely to go to one of the colleges or to the Portadown Campus of CSHS to support a Lurgan solution and I am asking the Board of Governors, teachers and Principals of Tandragee Junior High School, Clounagh Junior High School and Killicomaine Junior High School to support this bespoke solution for Lurgan and finally allow stability for those children and the community of Lurgan who have been badly forgotten over the last 20 years to finally have a sustainable post primary educational pathway.”

An Education Authority (EA) spokesperson said: “Craigavon Senior High School currently provides vitally important post-primary education services to the Craigavon area and currently operates across two campuses.

“EA is undertaking consultation on how future provision at Craigavon Senior High School will be shaped. The purpose of this consultation is to seek the views of those most directly involved at a local level and will begin on Monday, 14 January, 2019.

“The consultation events will provide an opportunity to explore all of the facts and discuss the issues which will help shape future provision at Craigavon Senior High School for many years to come.

“A letter inviting parents, staff and governors to participate in consultation events was issued on Monday, 7 January, 2019. Consultation will also be undertaken with pupils during January 2019.”