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Education Minister invited to Markethill High to see ‘very real’ need for new school

Markethill High School has suffered from years of underfunding

The new Education Minister has been invited to visit Markethill High to see the “very real” need for a new school.

Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin extended the invitation to his party colleague, Paul Givan, in a bid to make him fully aware of the need to address the ageing school building infrastructure at the site.

“The need for a new build at Markethill High School is very real and is something that I have been having ongoing discussions on with the Department and representatives of the Board of Governors at the school,” said Mr Irwin.

“My colleague and Deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly MLA – a past pupil of the school – has also been lobbying on this issue and it is important that this work continues in order to negotiate the various thresholds whereby a new build could be progressed within the current requirements. That is very much the focus of the Board representatives and I give that process my full support.”

He added: “I have extended an invitation to the Education Minister to visit the school as I feel this would give Minister Givan MLA an important insight in to the success of this rural education provider and also give him an overview of why a new build is so vital for everyone associated with the school. I look forward to this continuing engagement.”

Mr Irwin took the opportunity during the Education Minister’s first statement to the House to ask Mr Givan if he would commit to intensifying efforts on the “normalisation process for the school”.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr Irwin, said: “I wish you well in your new post , Mr Speaker (Edwin Poots), and I thank the Minister (Paul Givan) for his statement and wish him well in his new role.

“Will the (Education) Minister commit to intensifying efforts on the normalisation process for Markethill High School, given its consistently high enrolments and the absolute importance of a new build to address the obvious issues that are associated with the school’s being unfit for purpose? The school was built in 1959 for 300 pupils and currently has 500 pupils.

Mr Givan replied: “I thank the Member for the question. The Member raises an issue that needs to be addressed with regard to that normalisation process, where schools have an official enrolment figure but many often operate at a much higher level. Some may be operating at a lower level.

“Typically, those capital development schemes are based on the official enrolment level. There has been work to normalise the figures across various schools. My officials are finalising that, with recommendations to come to me so that I can complete it.

“The Member raises the issue in respect of Markethill High School. I know that it is a particular interest of the deputy First Minister, as a former pupil of the school. I know that she will support me, as, I have no doubt, will colleagues around the Executive table, to get the capital resources into the Department that will allow me to make progress on a lot of the schools estate.

“When I know what capital I can deal with, I will, of course, be able to consider the need that exists in other schools across the estate.”

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