Consultation on school closure said to be ‘box ticking’

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

A public consultation on the future of education in Lurgan is being launched today (Monday, January 14) - with simultaneous meetings to take place at 7.30pm in Lurgan Junior High School and the Lurgan Campus of Craigavon Senior High.

The meetings will discuss the future of the Lurgan Campus of Craigavon Senior High.

According to documentation received by the Lurgan Mail, there will only be one option up for discussion - the closure of the Lurgan campus with children being bussed to the Portadown campus.

It has also been claimed the consultation is simply a ‘box ticking exercise’.

Lobby group Education Equality for Lurgan said: “Once the consultations begin it is important Lurgan parents step up their game on this issue.

“We come to tonight’s meeting without sight of the consultation document which is shocking, yet Portadown and Tandragee parents will have had a day to review the consultation document before their meeting.

“This shows how much contempt the EA has for the Lurgan community. Once we get sight of the papers it will be handed straight into the hands of our legal team for further guidance on what our options are going forward.

“We will play our part but we can’t do it without you the community this is a challenge we need to meet head on together. So please turn out in numbers at either of the meetings in Lurgan this evening.

“Tonight is the night the Education Authority begin their box ticking exercise. And be under no illusion as far as they are concerned that is all this process will be to them unless the community rise up against a predetermined outcome that was decided back in 2017.

“In 2017 the EA legal team put a temporary halt on the full closure of Lurgan Campus of Craigavon Senior High School due to process not being followed. Two years on and we are about to enter a public consultation process with a predetermined outcome that will be so stacked against any possibility of Lurgan retaining a Senior High School that it may well have come straight from the Chairman Mao handbook of asserting control of pre-determined outcomes.

“We already know Portadown and Tandragee parents will be consulted during this process to determine whether or not to close a school in Lurgan this in itself tells you how much the outcome has been stacked against Lurgan children with the EA hopeful they have the number to influence the outcome.

“The Education Authority told EEL last year their preferred option (the closure of the Lurgan Campus with one Senior High School in Portadown) which will undoubtedly have been their starting point for their paper that will be put to you. An honest and open process would not begin with the answer and working backwards with the questions.

“We are in no doubt there will be smoke and mirrors, many half truths and some downright lies come out through this consultation process, but we urge you the community do not let these people take us for the fools they obviously believe we are.

“If the Lurgan Campus is lost to Lurgan it will never be back and for those children that will not be following the grammar path to the college they will be left without a controlled school option in Lurgan, the only Lurgan options then available for those KS4 pupils being leaving the Dickson Plan completely and either transferring into St Ronan’s in the Catholic Maintained sector or Brownlow High School in the Integrated sector.

“By ‘Stealth’ the Education Authority will have put the final nail in the coffin of the Dickson Plan for these KS4 children in the town of Lurgan. We have known for years the Dickson Plan is not an education pathway the Education Authority are happy to support with numerous EA reports highlighting this position. So to destroy the Dickson Plan by removing that pathway in Lurgan through slight of hand would be a perfect outcome for them.”

Presenting their alternative they said: “There is currently a proposal put forward which we have already heard from certain quarters (including at our EA meeting last February) is not within the Dickson Plan, which is simply false.

“It is an 11-16 High School on the Toberhewny site retaining Academic selection at 14 (Dickson Plan).”

They added: “We believe this to be the only real alternative option for Lurgan and you can see clearly why. That is not to say we are against another Lurgan option should one materialise we just don’t believe after spending the last two years looking at the options that there is another alternative, but we are happy to listen to other options should anyone put one forward. As yet we haven’t heard any other options from any group or party for a Lurgan solution that ticks all the boxes.

“Please do not allow this to pass without having your say. Lurgan Junior High School and Lurgan Campus Craigavon Senior High School, Monday 14th January 7.30pm. If this school goes it will never be back.”