Why our family would be devastated to see end of the Dickson Plan

The Harrison family from Waringstown are right behind the Dickson Plan.Back, from left, dad Garfield, Stuart and Chloe. Front, mum Maurece and Rachael.
The Harrison family from Waringstown are right behind the Dickson Plan.Back, from left, dad Garfield, Stuart and Chloe. Front, mum Maurece and Rachael.

As a mother of three children currently going through the Dickson Plan in Lurgan, Maurece Harrison is well equipped to launch a staunch defence of the system.

A vote was due to be taken yesterday (Wednesday) on the way forward for education in Craigavon, with Lurgan College claiming that the Southern Education and Library Board will effectively scrap the Dickson Plan if it chooses Option A.

Maurece’s son Stuart (15) attends Lurgan College while daughters Rachael and Chloe are year eight and nine pupils at Lurgan Junior High School.

The Waringstown woman believes they are thriving under the Dickson Plan, which has seen pupils in Craigavon transferring from primary schools to the junior high, before taking transfer tests at 14.

“I’m a big fan of the Dickson Plan,” she said. “I’m originally from the Banbridge area myself so I wasn’t aware of the way the school system worked until I came here to live. I think it’s a fabulous system because at 14 children are more mature and are better able to sit examinations than they would have been at 11.

“From what I understand, the Minister wants to impose comprehensive education in the Craigavon area and we will lose the only two grammar schools here, Lurgan College and Portadown College.”

Maurece rejects John O’Dowd’s claim that the Dickson Plan doesn’t fairly cater for children of all abilities in Craigavon, She claims the current system rewards “children who are prepared to work hard” and warns that imposing Option A will remove parental choice for parents in the borough.

“Stuart absolutely loves the College and I believe that most pupils who go through the College feel the same way. The fact that it is a smaller school means the individual pupils get more attention and they are probably treated better. In a school of 1,500 or 1,600, individual pupils are lost. The College provides a very personal education in my opinion.

“Mr O’Dowd feels it is a privileged system but that’s not true. It’s a system for pupils who work hard and want to do well academically. As a parent I think it would be a devastating blow if we lost the system.”

Maurece says that if the SELB does vote for the bilateral school in Lurgan that would see Lurgan College effectively merge with the senior high school’s Lurgan campus, parents would support any legal action taken by the College.

“The Minister seems to be determined to get rid of grammar school education and it appears to be a money-saving exercise on his behalf.”