‘Get it right’ for sake of children

FROM:- Jonny Appleseed (name and address supplied).

I should like to comment on the recent article in the ‘MAIL’ informing us of the academic achievements of Lurgan College.

When one considers that these results compare more than favourably with some other schools in that ability range, they are certainly worthy of commendation. This is not just a ringing endorsement of the Dickson Plan, but a tribute to the excellent foundations that are laid at the Junior High School. All too often the contribution they make to these results is ignored. This seems to be one of the weaknesses of the Dickson Plan, that some people tend to focus all their attention on one school.

While it is fit and proper that we should laud the achievements of our more academic children, we should be mindful that not all of our children fit into this category. That they are not academic doesn’t make them less capable, or less valued, it’s just they have different needs. This is where the real teaching takes place, and these teachers don’t always get the credit they deserve.

People who like to trot out statistics tend to focus on the high achievers, but these pupils will succeed anyway, sometimes in spite of their teachers. However, if people want to deal in statistics, and I emphasise, they don’t always tell the full story, then we should look instead at the statistic that 36% of secondary schools in the Controlled (Protestant) Sector are under achieving, compared to 17% in the Maintained (Catholic) Sector. Should we not be more exercised about this and seeking answers? Continuing with this theme, we dump 50% of our children on Kitchen Hill and we burden them with the additional handicap of third world facilities. In addition, many of the pupils who go to Lurgan College are not high flyers and many of them, further down the line, waken up in the cold light of dawn, to find themselves abandoned on that hard shoulder of the Lough Road like some unseemly form of fly-tipping. All this, and we continue to hail our education system in Lurgan as an unqualified success. By accident or design, it caters for the top 20-30% to the detriment of the majority, and continues to foment divisions in our community, that can last a lifetime. Yet so many in our community promote this, and they add insult to injury by canvassing our support, and want us to buy into it. Consequently those in the community who are in favour of drawing up a strategic plan on a way forward that values all our children, and treats them with respect, are demonised, and accused of promoting comprehensive education. This, of course, is nonsense, but it suits the purpose of those, who, for their own reasons, want to preserve the present system.

Those in the Controlled Sector who have continued to resist change have put the Dickson Plan at risk. They were advised, consistently, that the best way to preserve the Dickson Plan was to institute change, on their terms. Instead, in their arrogance, and by their intransigence, they have compromised that position, and now have the very real possibility of having change forced on them. In response, they are calling on us to muster and defend their position. It is not so long ago they were calling us to the barricades to defend the Dickson Plan, now they are prepared to jettison it because it no longer serves their purpose. The Dickson Plan is still a viable option if the will is there, but not in its present form, therein lies the rub. Some people only want the Dickson Plan if it serves their self-interest. The proposal put forward by the Board of Governors of Lurgan College is a throwback to the sixties.

I hope the parents of pupils who attend Craigavon Senior High School, consider what is proposed very carefully. Has this proposal been made with the very best interest of their children in mind, or have they just been pencilled in as an afterthought?

It is not for the Board of Governors of Lurgan College to decide on the way forward. This is a decision for all the schools in the Controlled sector, and the community. Incidentally, without evidence to the contrary, we have to assume that the Board of Governors consulted the other secondary schools, because what they are proposing affects them. I’m sure they realise, that not to have done so, to put it mildly, would have been discourteous, and a breach of professional etiquette.

We may have reached a pivotal moment on the future of education in the Controlled Sector in Lurgan, and for the sake of our children, we have to get it right.