Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is to reconvene a working group to discuss plans for the post primary education of non-grammar school pupils in Lurgan.
The decision was taken after members of Council’s governance, resource and strategy committee were made aware the Education Authority (EA) is now re-running the pre-public consultation phase of its proposal for the future provision of non-grammar education in the area.
In 2019, the Education Authority announced plans to close Craigavon Senior High School’s Lurgan campus which had been deemed by the EA as ‘not fit for purpose’.
The school operates across two sites in Lurgan and Portadown as part of the Dickson Plan in the area, which involves deferring academic selection to the age of 14.
It was proposed that the 174 pupils that attend the Lurgan site would move to the school’s Portadown campus.
However, the plans were withdrawn following a legal challenge by a Lurgan parent, which was backed by lobby group Education Equality for Lurgan.
In September 2018, Council recognised post-primary education is not at the level it should be in Lurgan but rejected the idea that pupils should be forced to travel to Portadown.
Council set out its support for a Lurgan solution that would prevent the children from being retained at the Kitchen Hill site.
This time around, the Education Authority has advised Council the pre-publication consultation will be undertaken via questionnaires with governors, staff and parents of the four junior high schools, the two grammar schools and primary schools in the area.
The Trustees and Boards of Governors of affected local schools and other interested parties will also be consulted.
All responses to this latest consultation are to be received by February 11.
The EA has advised it is not seeking any additional comments, and those submitted in the pre-consultation phase that ran between January and March 2019, will carry forward.
Speaking at the committee meeting, Councillor Julie Flaherty called on Council to request an extension to the consultation period and urged the working group on this matter to reconvene.
“This is a significant problem in our area,” said the Ulster Unionist representative.
“Given the times we are in and the gravity of this problem I would like to ask two things. Firstly, I would like to propose we write to the EA and the Education Minister to ask for a slight extension to this consultation period.
“Secondly, I would like the working group we had to discuss this matter to recommence so everyone can have their say and feed into this.”
Council’s strategic director of position, Sharon O’Gorman confirmed that if members were minded to do so, the working group could be reconvened.
Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon seconded the proposals.
“Given the situation, it is only right there is an opportunity to have these discussion and this consultation period should be extended,” said the SDLP group leader.
The other committee members confirmed they were in support of the proposals put forward by Councillor Flaherty.