Three set to become one

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LURGAN College, Lurgan Junior High and Craigavon Senior High look set for a major shake up.

Under new SELB proposals the three controlled post-primary schools will be ruled by a single governing body.

The SELB say they are keen to build on the successes of the Craigavon Two Tier System, but they have proposed a ‘Collegiate’ system to modernise the two tier concept.

The proposals form part of SELB’s Area Plan which was released at the end of last week.

In the Catholic Managed Sector, in terms of post-primary provision, recommendations have been made to create a new 11 to 19 co-educational, all-ability school on the current St Michael’s site in Lurgan while retaining Lismore Comprehensive, itself a co-educational, all-ability school for 11 to 19-year-olds in Craigavon.

The board have also vowed to back Brownlow Integrated College despite falling numbers.

The SELB revealed that currently there are 1,432 surplus places in Craigavon District Council area, representing just over 17% of the post-primary intake. St Paul’s Junior High School has an excess of 192 places, Lurgan Junior High School has 133 unfilled places while St Mary’s Junior High School has 128 surplus places.

However, it is anticipated that the number of surplus places will decrease and by 2025 all of these surplus places will be removed and there will be the need for an additional 300 (3.64%) places in the area.

In the past year the SELB have carried out a detailed consultation with the controlled schools in Lurgan which explored options for the way forward. While there were no agreed solutions, a number of key points were consistently put forward.

These included strong support for the retention of the Two Tier System and in particular for automatic transfer at age 11 not dependent upon the outcome of a selection test.

There was also a view held that the current arrangements in the Controlled sector in Craigavon are not sustainable with a total of seven of the 13 schools having some form of financial stress.

In their Area Plan the SELB said: “Despite the best efforts of the SELB, it has not been possible to secure an agreed way forward in the Controlled sector in Craigavon.

“Having considered all the information gained over the past few years from the Boards of Governors of the Schools and other inputs, the Board has agreed to propose a structure for delivering education through modernising the Craigavon Two Tier System.

“The proposal will build on the many successes of the system to ensure it is fit for purpose in the twenty first century.

“This will involve the retention of the core parts of the system but reorganised in line with the concept outlined in the founding paper for the system in 1965, namely that ‘the schools would form a unit within which there would be the closest possible co-operation’.

The SELB said in Lurgan the three post-primary schools and campuses would be retained but they would be reorganised under a single board of governors and a single principal as a ‘Lurgan Collegiate’.

The board said: “As well as facilitating more efficient and effective management of the whole controlled post primary school provision in both towns, this arrangement would also facilitate progression routes for all young people and staff.”

In relation to Brownlow College, the SELB said it was committed to retaining choice for parents within the area and is committed to the maintenance and growth of Brownlow College.

The SELB is of the view that Brownlow College should be supported during this dip in enrolment and the SELB will work with the College and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education to explore ways in which Brownlow College can return to its growth pattern.