Beattie warns on future of ‘consolidated’ senior high school site

Craigavon Senior High School, Lurgan Campus. INLM39-221.
Craigavon Senior High School, Lurgan Campus. INLM39-221.

As a consultation on the future of the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School draws to a close a local MLA has sounded a warning for the future of the Portadown campus too.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has claimed a promised new school build for the amalgamated Craigavon Senior High could be based in central Craigavon.

And he has called on parents and educators in Portadown to block the plan at ‘the first hurdle’ by opposing the current proposal to bus Lurgan’s children to the existing Portadown campus.

He also welcomed a recent statement from the DUP which set out the party’s position on the consultation to close the Lurgan campus of the senior high and consolidate the school on the Portadown campus.

He said: “I welcome the fact that the DUP in Lurgan have joined the debate to stop the children from the Lurgan campus of the Craigavon Senior High School being bussed to Portadown. Their proposal and statement, although different from what I had envisaged, is one I can support in finding a solution based around the Lurgan Junior High School.

“It is important that political unionism supports the community. In finding the best solution possible for the education of our children we must be mindful of the impact any decision taken by the Education Authority will have on our community and the long term future of education in Lurgan and beyond.”

He added: “This intervention by the DUP comes at a time when evidence shows that the Portadown campus of Craigavon Senior High School is also earmarked to close and be sold off.

“Information gained from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and from other educational sources clearly shows that the site in Portadown is a potential development site.

“The Council clearly state. ‘In light of plans for a consolidated campus in central Craigavon, this large edge of town site will present a range of development opportunities’.

“This statement is then accompanied by a picture of the Southern Regional College and Craigavon Senior High School. The dimensions shows that both sites are earmarked for development.”

The information to which Mr Beattie referred had previously been carried on the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council website but was removed last year.

Mr Beattie said: “The reality is this. For Portadown parents who’s child may go to Craigavon Senior High School in the future the likelihood is that the EA intend to bus those children from Portadown to a new high school situated in central Craigavon.

“You may have been oblivious to Lurgan children being bussed to Portadown but will you remain silent when Portadown children are bussed to Craigavon.

“Again I call on the Board of Governors of Killicomaine, Clounagh and Tandragee High School; Millington, The Hart Memorial, Bocombra, Seagoe, Edenderry primary schools, parents, teachers and civic society to look at this long term vision and ask. Is taking Key Stage 4 Education out of Portadown and Lurgan really something you want to see in the future? If the answer is no then you must stop it at the first hurdle by supporting the Lurgan children by replying to the EA consultation telling them it is not acceptable to bus these children to Portadown.

“Decisions made now will impact the area for years to come.”

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “On Monday, January 14, 2019, EA launched a pre-publication consultation on the future provision at Craigavon Senior High School.

“The consultation document sets out EA’s vision for changes to controlled non-selective post-primary provision within the Craigavon area which includes moving to a single site at 26-24 Lurgan Road, Portadown.

“EA’s long term vision is for major capital investment to provide state of the art accommodation – EA will make representation to the Department of Education, as the funding body, for commitment to funding to provide for a modern school in accordance with the Department of Education’s Building Handbook.”

Regarding the information which had been contained on their website an ABC Council spokesperson said: “The Council’s priority is to grow the economy and maximise opportunities for further growth right across the borough, so that we are always front-of-mind for investment, regeneration and renewal. This includes drawing attention to potential development opportunities that may suit a range of uses.

“In a dynamic and competitive marketplace, potential development opportunities are changeable and adaptable too, and we regularly review and update this information.

“The Council’s focus in this area is also much wider – to emphasise the ‘place potential’ offered and to promote the economic strengths of the region.

“Naturally, the Education Authority will continue to lead in the provision of local and regional education provision.”