‘Wrong to use my words to support any school plan’ says ex-minister

Former DUP minister Peter Weir
Former DUP minister Peter Weir

A former Stormont minister has said a statement he made two years ago should not be used in support of current plans to close the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School.

The DUP’s Peter Weir, who previously served as Education Minister, has said his words should not be used in support of any proposals for education in Lurgan.

His comments came after the Education Authority pointed to a statement he made in 2016 about protecting the Dickson Plan from being undermined directly or ‘by stealth’.

However, the Education Authority said it was simply quoting Mr weir as a reminder of the policy framework they are operating under.

This week the Lurgan Mail approached Mr Weir with reference to the statement he made in 2016 which featured heavily in the EA consultation document on the future of Craigavon senior High School.

Mr Weir pointed out the comments referred to predated the current consultation. He said: “Any comments made by me were made before there were any proposals.

“It is wrong for them to be presented in the way they are as it looks a though I am commenting on that proposal.

“There needs to be a development proposal for Lurgan but I won’t dictate to people in Lurgan how things should be.

“I don’t think comments I made some years ago should be used to support one educational option over another in Lurgan,”

When asked to respond to Mr Weir’s latest comments the EA said: “The current pre-publication consultation is on a Development Proposal for Craigavon Senior High School, which operates as part of the Dickson Plan – a model of school organisation in the Craigavon area that comprises four Junior High Schools for pupils aged 11-14, two Grammar schools for pupils aged 14-18 and Craigavon Senior High School for pupils aged 14-16.

“The Minister’s statement in June 2016 offered an assurance for the continuation of the Dickson Plan and a period of educational stability. In this policy context, the purpose of a Development Proposal is to improve the outcomes for all of the pupils of Craigavon Senior High School.

“The school, which operates across two campuses, currently provides education for 14 to 16 year olds (Key Stage 4) in the Craigavon area. One of the campuses – in Lurgan - is no longer fit for purpose and struggles to provide an appropriate curriculum experience for its pupils.

“The Education Authority is committed to providing a viable and sustainable Craigavon Senior High School that delivers an excellent education for its pupils.

“The Minister’s statement of June 2016 represents the current policy position. The consultation paper simply reminds every one of the policy framework that this consultation is taking place within. This is standard practice for any Development Proposal for any school.

“The consultation document acknowledges that Option 4 – an 11-16 school in Lurgan which would accommodate those Craigavon Senior High School pupils who would have gone to the Lurgan campus of the Senior High School – could be seen as undermining the Dickson Plan through stealth. To date, EA’s consultation has received varying opinions from people on this matter.

“The consultation is ongoing and we strongly encourage all interested parties to bring forward their views on this and any of the other options.”