The run-down Lurgan Campus of Craigavon Senior High School (CSHS) at Alexandra Crescent is set to close, with the 200 pupils being bussed every day to Portadown.
The former chairman of the school’s board of governors – Mr Thomas McKay, who resigned last November – has hammered the move as “being introduced to serve the interests of the grammar school sector within the Dickson Plan, and not for the benefit or the equality of the children at the other end of the spectrum.”
The system, recommended by the school governors, was originally supposed to start in September 2018. But the Lurgan Mail has learned it could start as soon as September this year, in temporary portable cabins at the Portadown Campus.
Mr McKay was a founder member of the school’s board of governors when it opened in 1995, and quit last November over what he saw as the injustices of the system. “The Lurgan Campus is a disgrace,” he said. “It’s unfit for purpose. It doesn’t have an assembly hall or playing fields, and students have to share the dining hall with adults. Conditions are Third World.”
He is now chairman of the Lurgan Junior High School board of governors, and insists that – within its 27 acres – there is adequate room for a purpose-built senior high school, with shared infrastructure.
“This plan to bus students is fraught with problems. They can’t expect students from out-lying area like Aghalee, Donacloney and Dollingstown to get a bus into Lurgan, and then change for Portadown. Many will simply leave CSHS and head off to places like Lisburn and Banbridge.
“There have been problems in the high school from the start. Students stay there for two years, and the numbers fluctuate significantly, thus affecting funding.
“This will hit the entire Lurgan community, with its State senior high school taken away. And the in-take of the junior high school will be affected, as parents won’t want their children to go there, and later be subjected to the bussing syndrome when they transfer to the senor high.
“In my view, the Dickson Plan needs root and branch changes, not tinkering like this which simply makes things worse.”
Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie said, “I have been lobbied by a variety of groups and individuals from Lurgan about the future of the school and the Southern Regional College (SRC). A long-term solution must be found.
“It will have a long-lasting impact on the town, particularly on the Protestant, working-class community. It is a well-known fact that working-class Protestant boys, followed closely by Protestant girls, suffer the most from academic under-achievement in Northern Ireland.”
A spokesperson for the school said: “The Governors of Craigavon Senior High School have concerns regarding the... accommodation available on the Lurgan campus. Governors are therefore considering how best to address the needs of all pupils of the Senior High School. Proposals are being considered by the Board of Governors with the support of the Education Authority. As engagement with stakeholders is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”