AN Ulster Unionist MLA has accused the Education Minister John O’Dowd of having a plan to dismantle the Dickson Plan and claimed it is ‘the latest move in the cultural war Sinn Fein is waging against Unionism’.
Sam Gardiner said: “The thing that concerns me most about this is the loss of opportunity it represents for young people from a broadly unionist background. Two major towns in the province will be losing their grammar schools. They will be almost unique in not having a grammar school. Both Lurgan and Portadown Colleges are good schools which have performed well.
“The thing that concerns me most about this is the loss of opportunity it represents for young people from a broadly unionist background. Two major towns in the province will be losing their Grammar Schools. They will be almost unique in not having a Grammar School. Both Lurgan and Portadown Colleges are good schools which have performed well. It is a tragedy that they will be absorbed in to a one-size-fits-all comprehensive school at a time when comprehensive education, rightly seen as a colossal failure which has destroyed the English education system, is being progressively abandoned elsewhere.”
“Grammar Schools were great engines of social mobility which enabled children whose parents could not afford the exorbitant fees of private schools, to get on in the world. Now that avenue will be closed off to children from the unionist community in Portadown and Lurgan. I believe this is part of Sinn Fein’s programme – their cultural war – and it is designed to shut off opportunity to children from a unionist background. I believe Sinn Fein want to turn them into a sort of underclass, and to shut down their life chances.
“The level of education being offered in Lurgan and Portadown Colleges is comparable to what parents are paying £15,000 - £35,000 a year for in England’s private fee-paying independent schools. Now that is going to be destroyed by Sinn Fein. I want to warn fellow unionists not be to be fellow-travellers with Sinn Fein in their plan to destroy Lurgan and Portadown Colleges. Divide and rule is the tactic being used by Sinn Fein here and I am sorry to say, some unionists have been taken in by it.”
“The principle which should guide educational change should be to retain what is working well in the system and to build up those parts of the system which are not. It should not be to level down. Unionists need to wake up. O’Dowd must be stopped.”