Dickson Plan is flawed but can be improved

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FROM I.D. Spair

I should like to alert parents in the Protestant community to be on their guard and protect their children, because in the ongoing debate on the future of the Dickson Plan in Lurgan, there is a story circulating that their children are being drawn into this.

This debate is much too serious to be trivialised and based on half truths, and parents need to be vigilant that their children are not involved in a very nasty whispering campaign, because there is the very real danger they could be used, and then cynically abandoned.

Talking about children being abandoned I want to open up this debate and direct the attention of your readers to Craigavon Senior High School. This school was abandoned many years ago and the children continue to be treated like pariahs. I wonder how many of your readers actually know where the school is and what is going on there?

These children have to cope with less than salubrious surroundings, and are fobbed off with third-rate facilities, while the debate on the future of education in Lurgan has its focus elsewhere. All this and few people of standing in our community, at least in public, have raised their voice in protest-it beggars belief! I pause here to make it absolutely clear that I support the Dickson Plan, but all too often it is used as a synonym for Lurgan College, and Craigavon Senior High School if it is mentioned at all is only an afterthought.

When the Dickson Plan was introduced it was radical and innovative, and it was opposed by those who refused to shift their focus from Lurgan College-the irony of it! This stage of the Dickson Plan has now run its course and we need to adapt it to meet the needs of the twenty first century.

Those in positions of leadership in our community have been warned repeatedly, that change is coming, and we need to take ownership of it or it would be taken out of our hands. This is exactly what is happening, and instead of taking some share of the responsibility for this, once more they have looked round for a scapegoat?

The Dickson Plan can still be saved if our community has vision and is given leadership. Instead of leaving our children scattered all over the town we should locate the three schools on one site. Each school would retain its own identity, share facilities and interact to provide courses. It would treat all our children with equal respect and create a community school that could be used 24/7.