The Education Authority has stressed that “no decision has been made” to close the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School.
The school currently operates across two sites — one in Lurgan and one in Portadown.
Craigavon Senior High School has operated across the two campuses since it was founded in 1995.
However, the Lurgan campus has long been regarded as providing inadequate facilities and a controversial plan to consolidate the school on the Portadown campus was first revealed almost two years ago.
In January the Education Authority (EA) launched a consultation on the plan, which has generated a heated debate in Lurgan.
Indeed that consultation is now the subject of a judicial review launched by campaigners seeking a ‘Lurgan solution’ to the problems faced by the two-campus school.
Campaigners had wanted to see the creation of an 11-16 school on the site of Lurgan Junior High – currently a feeder school for the senior high.
Under the current transfer arrangements in the area children attend Lurgan Junior High from age 11 to 14 and then transfer to either a selective grammar school (generally Lurgan College) or the non-selective senior high.
A spokesperson for the EA had recently said its board had approved the publication of a development proposal for the school and was now subject to a two-month objection period.
The proposal states Craigavon Senior High School will operate on a single site in Portadown, with effect from September 1 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter.
It also contained an undertaking the EA will seek major capital investment for the construction of a new build Craigavon Senior High School, on a location to be determined, pending Department of Education approval and funding being obtained.
But the Education Authority (EA) Director of Education John Collings has moved to reassure parents.
“Local people will be aware that there have been issues with the capacity of the Lurgan campus to fully meet the educational needs of its pupils,” he said.
“The issues range from concerns over curricular provision to the condition of the site and the impact the environment has on staff and pupils.
“EA asked the governors of Craigavon SHS to make a recommendation to address these concerns – which they did in March 2017. The process then passed to EA, whose officers have been engaging with all post-primary schools in the Craigavon area, and with local political and community representatives since Summer 2017 in order to bring forward proposals to resolve the current issues at the Lurgan campus.”
He continued: “EA will ensure proper and full consultation on all proposals to change the current provision at Craigavon High School.”
Mr Collings outlined the next steps in the process: “Over the next few months EA will ensure proper and full consultation on a number of options to address the current challenges at the Lurgan campus.
“Following this consultation, recommendations are then made to the EA Education Committee for a Development Proposal to be published. This proposal will be the option that can best meet the needs of young people in the area going forward. It is published in local press and there follows a two month statutory objection period.”
Mr Collings continued: “During this period, the Department of Education accepts representations in support of and in objection to the proposal. A decision to approve or reject the proposal is then taken by the Minister of Education (or the Permanent Secretary in the absence of a Minister).”
Mr Collings further reassured parents that EA and the governors of Craigavon Senior High School will not be proposing a change to the way in which schooling is organised in the Dickson Plan locality.”
He added: “I would reiterate the statement of 6 June 2016 by the then Minister of Education, Peter Weir during a visit to a primary school in Portadown, when he offered local people ‘support and assurance for the continuation of the Dickson Plan system’.
“The Minister went on to say that he would ensure the Dickson Plan is not removed either directly or undermined through ‘stealth’. In other words, in the Dickson Plan locality pupils will continue to transfer from primary education settings to Junior High Schools in Lurgan, Portadown and Tandragee followed transfer to Lurgan College, Portadown College or Craigavon Senior High School at age 14.”