Senior high school plan ‘shelved’ amid challenge

The Education Authority has withdrawn a development proposal for the closure of the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School.

Craigavon Senior High School, Lurgan Campus. INLM39-221.
Craigavon Senior High School, Lurgan Campus. INLM39-221.

The controversial proposal was the subject of Judicial Review proceedings - due before the High Court on Thursday (June 6).

A Lurgan parent had lauchned the proceedings backed by lobby group Education Equality for Lurgan.

Objectors had argued that the pre-consultation on the proposed closure of the school was unfair and had not adequately examined a ‘Lurgan solution’.

Earlier this year the EA had launched a pre-publication consultation on a proposal to close the Lurgan campus of the school and accommodate all children at the school on its Portadown Campus.

The move was a controversial one with parents, educators, sporting clubs and politicians opposing the plan to bus Lurgan’s children to Portadown.

Instead they wanted to see the Lurgan children accommodated on the Lurgan Junior High School site - a feeder school for the senior high.

In a statement on its website the EA said: “The Education Authority is the subject of a Judicial Review challenge on the pre-publication consultation process in respect of Development Proposal No 574. The Judicial Review will be before the High Court on 6 June, 2019, with the anticipation that the case will be listed for hearing in late June or early July 2019.

“In light of the ongoing case the Education Authority has decided to withdraw its publication of Development Proposal No 574, with the consequence that the public objection period will be suspended. A Notice to this effect will be published on the Education Authority website. A further decision will be taken on how best to proceed, following the outcome of the judicial review challenge.

“The Education Authority wishes to apologise for the inconvenience which this might cause but considers that it is the most appropriate course of action in light of the pending legal challenge. The Education Authority will keep stakeholders informed of any further developments on Development Proposal No 574.”

The withdrawal has been welcomed by Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie as a “first step”.

He said: “The case is likely to be heard some time in July and it is hoped that the court will decide that the consultation was not balanced or fair in that it did not lend weight to the wishes of the community, pupils and parents.

“Neither did it allow for a full discussion on a Lurgan solution that would utilise the Lurgan Junior High School site creating an 11-16 school with continued selection at 14 as per the Dickson Plan.

“This is in no way the end of the matter and only a first step. It is important that regardless of the JR findings that the community and parents voice their concerns with their elected representatives who must represent their wishes in a vocal and forceful manner.

“They must also – when the Development Proposal becomes available again – ensure that put their concerns in record and oppose the proposal.”