Dickson Plan’s ‘days are over’ says O’Dowd

John O'Dowd MLA
John O'Dowd MLA

Unless the DUP and UUP end their ‘fairy tale belief in the Dickson Plan and its alleged benefits to the controlled education sector then young people in Lurgan Senior High school will always lose out’, it has been said.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd was responding to reports of poor facilities at the Lurgan Senior High school campus and plans to bus students from the controlled sector out of the town to Portadown.

The former Education Minister said: “The Dickson Plan’s days are over; the Catholic Sector has moved on with a non-selective Grammar school for all young people within the Lurgan Catholic sector now being taught in St Ronan’s or Lismore. Both schools are sustainable and have sufficient numbers of pupils to merit complete new state of the art buildings.

“Meanwhile, the DUP and UUP peddle the myth that the Dickson Plan benefits the controlled sector. It doesn’t and the figures for academic achievement in the Craigavon area show it. Too many young people every year are being left behind as a result of the failure of both unionist parties to stand up to the selective sector and demand a good education system for all rather than for the few.

“During my tenure as Education Minister I put it to the then Southern Education and Library Board to bring forward a solution for all the young people in the controlled sector. The opposition to that simple demand for equality for all was organised and driven by the DUP and UUP.

“I could not approve new builds for Lurgan College and Portadown College without a plan which met the needs of all the young people including those in Lurgan Senior campus, no such plan came forward.

Concluding Mr O’Dowd said; “The Education Authority has a legal duty to ensure it is providing equality of opportunity for all the young people in the controlled sector. The EA know the Dickson plan is failing, they need to act in a way which secures the educational wellbeing of all the young people in their care. Anything less will be a dereliction of duty.

“The response of the DUP and UUP to the crisis in the controlled sector, and I fear will always be, how to protect the Dickson Plan rather than how to protect education for all.”