Education Authority is nor fit for purpose

Doug Beattie MC MLA. Pic by Press Eye
Doug Beattie MC MLA. Pic by Press Eye

“The Education Authority (EA) is clearly not fit for purpose if it continues to allow children who are currently being educated at the Lurgan Campus of the Craigavon Senior High School - in the most appalling educational conditions - to remain at that site.”

That was the stark message from Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie as he reacted to the EA statement on the future of the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High.

The EA had said there has been no decision made on the school - following controversy over a proposal from the school’s Board of Governors to close the Lurgan Campus and bus the children to its Portadown Campus.

The school’s Lurgan Campus has long been plagued by inadequate facilities and low pupil numbers leading to budgetary difficulties.

The school operates as part of the Dickson Plan which is the Craigavon area’s alternative to the old 11-Plus exam. Under this system children transfer to a junior high school at age 11 and at age 14 are then selected to move on to either a local grammar school or Craigavon Senior High which has a split site in Lurgan and Portadown

Mr Beattie said: “Any option that sees our children remaining on the Lurgan site or being transported to the Portadown Campus to be educated purely at the whim of those who feel any other solution is a threat to their school, is a complete dereliction of our collective civic duty.

“The argument that the Dickson Plan is much loved by the majority of those living in the area is fair enough, given that around 60% are offered the opportunity to have a Grammar School education in either the Portadown or Lurgan College. The remainder however – the most disadvantaged 40% - are shuffled into either the Portadown Campus or the Lurgan Campus of the Senior High School with the latter having around a 65% deficiency in its educational provisions.

“For the EA to hide behind a statement made by an Education Minister nearly two years ago (confirming his commitment to the Dickson Plan) even though they themselves - at the highest level - admit that the present interpretation of the Dickson plan is hurting the most educationally vulnerable, is disgraceful.

“This is a scandal and will remains a scandal until action is taken and anyone who promotes these children remaining at the Lurgan Campus on Kitchen Hill should hang their heads in shame.

“It is now time that the Education Authority began a process of open debate with schools principals, primary and post primary school governors, political representatives and representatives from Civic society over the future of the Dickson Plan and how it can be made fit for the 21st Century.

“Asking for a review of the Dickson Plan to create a fair and equal education system threatens nobody but can help create a workable vision for the controlled sector in the future. This should include conversation and consideration for a new high school for Lurgan separate from a Portadown High School, each with their own separate identities.

“Sadly there are some educationalists who are leading our political representatives by the nose in opposing change. In doing so they guarantee poor academic attainment levels in Protestant boys and girls in the Dickson Plan area.”