Lurgan College headmaster Trevor Robinson has called on the Department of Education to finally provide the school with the new building it has been waiting on for many years.
Addressing the school’s prize day last Friday, Mr Robinson pointed out that the new build project was “promised” by the Department of Education back in 2008.
“In a letter from the SELB Senior Architect, dated August 4, 2009, the school was informed that the building work was due to begin on the replacement school on March 19 the following year,” said Mr Robinson.
“But only six days later, on 10 August 2009, a date which will live in infamy in the history of Lurgan College, the Department of Education, led then by the Minister for Education, Catriona Ruane, sent the SELB a letter (a copy of which I have with me here today), in which the Department broke its promise of a new school, claiming that there was no Area Plan in Craigavon and that, due to demographic decline in the area, within five years (i.e. by 2014) Lurgan College’s enrolment number would stand at 365.
“Well, they must have been using the same pollsters as they employed during last year’s general election because here we are in 2015 with almost 100 more pupils on our rolls than DE’s erroneous prediction and the heavily over-subscribed school continues to be deemed sustainable - financially, educationally and in every other way.”
Mr Robinson highlighted how despite the best attempts of many, the Dickson Plan for Education remains a strong force in the area.
“So our innovative Area Plan, the Dickson Plan, is here to stay and the financially and educationally sustainable Lurgan College is here to stay; so I ask this question: on what grounds does the Department of Education continue to withhold the funding that was set aside for the new build for Lurgan College in 2008?
“We have a tidal wave of young people, currently in our local feeder primary schools, who will require appropriate post-primary educational facilities within a few years. Numbers in the post-primary controlled sector in Craigavon are about to explode and necessary planning and provision in terms of infrastructure must be a priority now. The Department of Education must therefore, on equality grounds, afford the controlled community in Lurgan the same rights as it has to the maintained community in Lurgan who have been given the go-ahead for a brand new 11-19 non-selective school, in line with the wishes of that community. I wish that new school well and I very much look forward to working closely with it as part of the aforementioned shared education initiative.”
Mr Robinson called on people throughout the local education community to unite to ensure new builds are delivered for Lurgan College, Craigavon Senior High School and Portadown College.
“Between 2006 and 2009 many people spent many hours drawing up the plans for our new school and an excellent, workable plan was produced; detailed planning was at an advanced stage; planning approval was sought and given; and now it sits on a shelf, simply awaiting approval by the Department of Education,” he added.
“Meanwhile our colleagues in Craigavon Senior High School and Portadown College also await new builds and improvements to their accommodation. Surely it is time for our whole community to unite around a common cause – to fight for appropriate, fit for purpose, 21st century buildings for all of the children of Craigavon.
“As I issue that challenge to our community, I am more confident than ever that by working together our community is capable of ridding ourselves of the current nightmare of inequality and division and that it is more than capable of making the dream of new builds and improved infrastructure become a reality. The young people who attend, and will attend, Lurgan College, in particular, and the young people who have committed, and will commit, to the Dickson Plan, in general, deserve and demand better. If our young people are ‘to follow better things’, they will need their community to stand up for them and to fight for them.”
Mr Robinson also highlighted the College’s examination results in 2015 which he described as “some of the best ever collective and individual performances ever achieved by College pupils in its 142 year history”.