‘Dickson plan is fraying’

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FROM An Olympian (name and address supplied).

I should like to comment on the speech by the principal of Craigavon Senior High at the school’s annual prize-giving.

It was a breath of fresh air filtering through the stench of decay that continues to pollute our community.

Those in positions of responsibility in our community have failed us, and one can only hope that Mr Mehaffey has sufficiently touched the numbed conscience of our community that will whip up a storm and blow away the cobwebs of inertia and that afflict us.

People are not comfortable with change and the kneejerk reaction is not to consider it, but to reject it. The Dickson Plan when it was first introduced was innovative and radical, and people’s first impulse was to reject it. They all rushed to the barricades in support of the grammar schools. Now people who have the same mindset are rushing to the barricades in defence of the Dickson Plan.

Most people would agree that the Dickson Plan has been a qualified success, even people who send their children outside the area to be educated. Indeed some of them are the most vociferous in its defence.

However, Mr Mehaffey is right when he suggests change is inevitable and he cites very cogent reasons for this.

The Dickson Plan in its present form has served us reasonably well, but it’s a work in progress. That is where we went wrong, we set the wheels in motion and then allowed them to grind to a halt. The world has changed dramatically since the Dickson Plan was first introduced and we have to adapt it to meet the needs of the 21st century.

We live in a rapidly changing, interdependent world, and our children have to be equipped to survive in it. The Dickson Plan is designed to meet the needs of the grammar schools that leaves 50 per cent of our children feeding on the crumbs that fall from ‘the rich man’s table.

Craigavon Senior High School in Lurgan is a disgrace and would not be tolerated in the Maintained Sector. Yet we have people high up on the Controlled Sector congratulating themselves that the Dickson Plan is safe. This only emphasises what many people believe, that only the views of the grammar schools are considered. The other schools, if their views are sought at all, are just sought as a matter of courtesy. This is simply not good enough and for the sake of our children, and our community, these schools must speak out.

The only way the Dickson Plan will survive is for the people to take control of it and make it fit for purpose.

For those who take the time and look closely, the Dickson Plan is fraying at the edges and desperately needs to be revamped. A lot of people in our community have been lulled into thinking that the children at Craigavon Senior High School are afforded equal respect with children at the grammar schools, this is simply so. They are dumped here because they have nowhere else to go. Most people connected with education in Craigavon if they were totally honest would just like them to go away.

I would like to thank Mr Mehaffey for telling it as it is and saying what needed to be said. He is not alone, there are many people who think the same but just needed someone of standing in the community who had the courage to say it. I just hope it’s not falling on deaf ears. He has done our community an incalculable service, I only hope that in time they will come to realise it.