Anger by parents at plan to close campus at split school

Concerned parents attending the public meeting
Concerned parents attending the public meeting

A proposal to close the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School and bus the town’s pupils to Portadown has met with strong and vocal opposition at a public meeting.

Approximately 400 people packed the assembly hall at Lurgan Junior High School on Monday night as the Education Authority (EA) outlined its vision for the future of Craigavon Senior High.

The EA has launched an eight-week consultation on closing the Lurgan campus to consolidate on its Portadown campus – the only option on the consultation paper.

Pupils attend the school for two years – up to GSCE level – but the Lurgan campus has long been regarded as wholly inadequate in terms of facilities.

Parents at the meeting voiced their opposition to the plans amid calls for the children from the Lurgan campus to be accommodated at Lurgan Junior High School in an 11-16 school – retaining academic selection at age 14 for pupils to move on to Lurgan College.

Parents were warned ‘not to be bamboozled by figures’ after EA officials outlined the case for their proposals and their reasons for rejecting other alternatives.

Indeed there were weary laughs of derision as EA official Michael McConkey outlined the advantages or the Portadown solution and the Lurgan option – with a much shorter list for the Lurgan case.

One parent pointed out many of the points made in favour of Portadown could – and should – be included in the case for Lurgan.

A former governor at Craigavon Senior High and also a governor at the junior high, Tom McKay, questioned a £1.2 million deficit that officials said the senior high was running at.

Stressing he was speaking in a personal capacity, he asked what proportion of that deficit was due to pupil fluctuations in a two-year school, pointing out: “Some will be due to running a split-site school, but not all.”

He went on to say: “Running a two-year school was always going to be a risky business.”

He pointed to the effect fluctuating pupil numbers could have as they could lose 60 pupils in a year which could have a significant impact on the school budget.

He added: “You talk about moving pupils to Portadown but it’s still going to be a two-year school, it is always going to be subject to times of stress.”

He commended the work done by the teachers at the senior high, and said: “If it wasn’t for their hard work it would have failed long ago.”