A decision to close the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School will come as a “bitter blow to some of the most educationally vulnerable”.
The move to rubberstamp the closure of the Lurgan school and operate from a single site at Portadown has been welcomed by the school principal.
But Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie MC MLA has said that, once again, the children of the town had been failed.
In a letter from principal Ruth Harkness this afternoon (Monday), parents were informed that a development proposal by the Education Authority had been accepted.
And it was, in her opinion, a good decision.
She said: “We welcome this decision. This announcement has followed a series of milestones for Craigavon Senior High School over the last five years.
“In August 2022, the academic success of the pupils reached an all time high with 87 per cent of all pupils achieving achieving Grades A* to C.
“During this time the school has also become heavily over-subscribed; intake in September 2022 has been the largest since the school’s inception in 1995.
“This decision will allow Craigavon Senior High School to continue the journey of continuous success and development by taking the next steps towards a much-needed Sixth Form provision.
“As a school we will now work with all key stakeholders to make the transfer onto a single site as smooth and seamless for everyone involved.
“As you can appreciate the decision has only been received by the school; planning will commence in the weeks and months to follow. Further updates will be available in the New Year.”
Confirmation of the acceptance of the development proposal came in a letter from Permanent Secretary to the Department of Education, Dr Mark Browne.
The move to a single site in Portadown would now take place “from September 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter”.
The news has angered Upper Bann UUP MLA Doug Beattie.
He said: “Over a protracted period, the Lurgan community have fought to find a solution to the problem of the Lurgan Campus of the Craigavon Senior High School that kept the children in Lurgan and maintained a clear educational pathway.
“Unfortunately, against the wishes of the community, academics local councillors and the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Councils own Community Plan, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Education had decided that he would rather bus the children from Lurgan to Portadown than find a Lurgan solution.
“This will be a bitter blow to some of the most educationally vulnerable in Lurgan and shows a real lack of vision on the part of the Education Department. This is compounded by the very fact that a Minster for Education refused to make a decision on this development proposal although pressed on it multiple times.
“The reality is that the children of Lurgan have been failed over many years by the Education authority and when there was an opportunity to put education first, they decided to take the route of least resistance ignoring all other options.”