The Southern Education and Library Board is to meet local Progressive Unionist Party representatives to discuss its ‘constructive contribution’ to the ongoing debate on the Dickson Plan.
Following the party’s recent release of a discussion paper on the issue, its representatives will hold discussions with the SELB Chairperson Plunkett Campbell and interim Chief Executive Gavin Boyd this afternoon (Thursday).
“The board warmly welcomes this timely and significant contribution to this important education debate and appreciates what is a serious and constructive attempt to engage with the process,” said an SELB spokesman.
“The PUP paper recognises and attempts to address difficult issues which cannot remain unresolved without threatening the stability and, consequently, the very existence of the entire much-cherished Dickson system of education in the Craigavon area.
“In its recent correspondence to schools and in meetings with elected representatives, the Board has clearly stated that there is no pre-determined outcome to the current consultation process.
“The board believes that there is an increasing acceptance of the reality that doing nothing isn’t an option and will continue to engage with interested parties who may wish to bring forward for consideration any viable alternative proposals.”
In its paper, the PUP acknowledges “the difficult issues facing the education establishment in Craigavon,” and notes the clear consensus in favour of retaining the Dickson Plan “although there are differing opinions as to how this will be achieved.”
Pledging itself to “work constructively with all parties to help achieve consensus where possible and in the interests of all pupils in the education system,” the PUP sets out its views on options put forward by the Board and also outlines several alternative models of provision.
Stating strong support for the community’s “wish to maintain a level of grammar education within the ethos of the Dickson Plan,” the PUP expresses reservations that the SELB’s Option A – which proposes a bi-lateral Lurgan College – “will gradually remove selective grammar education from the system.”
However the paper goes on to highlight concerns in respect of Option B, including taking issue with the concept of pupils being “taken out of their respective towns to be educated somewhere in Craigavon.”
The Progressive Unionists suggest two alternative options for the Lurgan area, the first of which see Lurgan College open up to admit all the pupils from the town’s Junior High School with the Kitchen Hill campus of Craigavon Senior High school consequently closing.
The second option proposed by the PUP would see the Kitchen Hill campus closed and Lurgan College relocated to the other end of town with the current Lurgan Junior High site “developed to provide educational provision for all the (Controlled sector) children in the Lurgan area.”