The SELB has announced that the deadline for the return of completed questionnaires relating to its Dickson Plan proposals has been extended until later this month.
The DUP are claiming the extension has come about due to their lobbying, though the SELB have said it is as a consequence of postal problems.
The board’s proposals for restructuring the Dickson Plan to address sustainability concerns have been the subject of heated debate for many months between supporters and opponents of Option A.
Under Option A, Lurgan College and the local campus of Craigavon Senior High School would be brought together under a single management structure as a bi-lateral school with controlled grammar status.
At the start of last month, the SELB sent out some 13,500 consultation leaflets setting out the context and rationale for its proposals along with potential next steps in the process, accompanied by a short questionnaire.
Originally responses had to be in by the end of this week but the board will now accept responses up until January 27 after information packs were re-issued in place of those which went missing.
An SELB spokesman said: “The written consultation has been very productive in that thousands of responses have already been received and these will be analysed in due course.
“This is an important debate and the very healthy response rate reflects the interest in the community, but the board is aware that a small number of parents didn’t appear to receive their information pack.
“In light of these specific concerns, and at the request of the school, a limited number of consultation leaflets and accompanying questionnaires have been reissued and the deadline for receiving responses extended from this Friday until January 27.”
DUP lobbyists, MLAs Stephen Moutray, Sydney Anderson and Councillor Carla Lockhart, said they were delighted at the board’s ‘common sense’ approach in extending the consultation deadline. They stated: “This is something we asked for at our meeting with Mr Gavin Boyd the interim chief executive before Christmas and have continued to lobby for since. We are delighted to confirm that the SELB have acceded to our request and extended the dead line to January 27.”
Mr Moutray added: “We had major concerns around the timescales the board used to conduct this survey. I believe the extra two weeks gives time for these issues to be resolved in full and greater response rate to the board.”