Why we are backing Collegiate plans - Senior High head

THE principal of Craigavon Senior High School says the Board of Governors and senior management of the school decided to support the controversial Collegiate plan for Lurgan and Portadown after a “considerable amount of reflection”.

David Mehaffey admitted that when he first saw the proposals contained within the Southern Education and Library Board’s Area Plan for post primary education here, he was sceptical.

However, he said the Governors and senior management had decided to back the Collegiate Plan because it would provide a means for local people to dictate the future of post primary education in Lurgan and Portadown.

Speaking at the school’s annual prize day, Mr Mehaffey said, “At Craigavon Senior High School our initial reaction to the proposals was one of scepticism, for it was obvious that they would not in themselves resolve many of the issues. However, when we progressed from looking at these proposals as the actual solution, to looking upon them as a step towards a solution, we began to view them in a different light.

“The governors of Craigavon Senior High School are good people who are committed to the children who attend this school. They appreciate, however, that the same qualities of concern and commitment are to be found in the membership of the Boards of Governors of all our schools. They understand that there are conflicting interests when it comes to determining the way forward for education in Lurgan and Portadown, but they recognise that those conflicting interests stem from sincerely held beliefs regarding what is best for each school.

“In many ways this is the cause of the deadlock. No one body, with the exception of the Southern Education and Library Board, has responsibility for the education of all the young people in the community while each separate body, or Board of Governors, is passionate about the particular group of pupils for whom they are responsible.”

The SELB has proposed the formation of two Collegiates, one to serve Lurgan and one to serve Portadown and Tandragee. The Lurgan Collegiate will comprise the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School, Lurgan Junior High School and Lurgan College.

The proposal is that the schools will remain as separate entities on their existing sites but that each Collegiate will be under the overall management of one Board of Governors and one principal.

Mr Mehaffey added, “The Governors and management of Craigavon Senior High School have decided to support the collegiate proposal. They accept that it will be for the Board of Governors of the Collegiate, with responsibility for the education of every pupil in the community, to identify a way forward for post primary education in Lurgan and Portadown that will be sustainable in the long term, and that will address the inequalities that exist within the present system.

“And their support is further underpinned by a belief that it is for people representing the communities in Lurgan and Portadown to shape their own futures rather than have the changes that are inevitable imposed at government level.”

Mr Mehaffey added that it had been a hard decision, but identified the Collegiate “as a means by which progress can be made”.