February 29 In the Press

£150,000 investment announced for Markethill High a ‘step in the right direction’

By Eleanor McGillie

THE Department of Education has announced a £150,000 investment for Markethill High School under the minor works scheme – a move which is being welcomed by the Principal as ‘a step in the right direction’.

James Maxwell said he is delighted to learn of the £146,300 investment for the provision of prefabricated accommodation and is delighted the Education Minister is taking positive steps to provide better facilities for the school and its pupils.

The school, which has been leading a community campaign for over three years now to secure a new build school and sixth form, was built in 1959 to accommodate 200 pupils. But today, the school has 498 pupils and the school’s infrastructure has been described by Mr Maxwell as ‘wholly unacceptable’.

The news of the investment comes a week after Mr Maxwell told First Minister Arlene Foster during her visit to the school that high standards in educational outcomes are being achieved in spite of the school’s infrastructure.

Mr Maxwell said: “We are delighted the Department of Education has allocated £150,000 under its minor works scheme for our school. We welcome all investment in our school’s estate. Our pupils deserve to be educated in the best accommodation. While we welcome this as a clear step in the right direction our sights are firmly focused on getting a new build school and sixth form.”

Mrs Foster recently visited the school where she met with Mr Maxwell and Mr Willie Johnston, chairman of the Board of Governors. She was told the school’s increase in pupil population in the past 15 years has meant it is now significantly short of accommodation space, including a 60 per cent shortfall in Science accommodation and a 40 per cent shortfall in ICT facilities.

A third of the school’s classes are being taught in fabricated mobile huts, and, with a significant rise to over 500 pupils expected in September 2016, the First Minister heard that families living in the area deserve a new build and sixth form as population numbers continue to increase.

The school, which is currently listed in published league tables as one of the top three non-selective Controlled schools in Northern Ireland, is continuing its campaign for a New Build and Sixth Form status.

Mr Maxwell said: “It’s time for Markethill High School – a school which remains on the Education Authority’s list as a priority for a new building. There is an urgent need for increased admissions. For many years now we have had to turn pupils away due to over subscription.

“There are huge demographic increases in Markethill, Mountnorris and Richhill and we anticipate Markethill High School will be catering for 600 pupils by 2025. More families are moving to the area in order to get their children into the school.

“We have been very transparent in highlighting the inequalities faced by our pupils and have sent the Department of Education a briefing document which clearly stipulates the need for a new build and sixth form.”

A further point made to Mrs Foster during her visit was that Markethill High School pupils are precluded from accessing rich and comprehensive ‘A’ Level provision if they do not gain access to selective post-16 education.

Mr Maxwell said: “Markethill High School pupils must achieve 13 or 14 points at GCSE while pupils in other non-selective Controlled Schools across Northern Ireland only have to attain approximately half these points to get rich ‘A’ Level provision.

“Markethill High School, with 498 pupils, is now one of only two remaining non-selective Controlled Schools in Northern Ireland with approximately 500 or more pupils which does not have access to its own sixth form.

“There is a consensus, including from the Education Authority, that the school would meet the Bain Threshold of 100 pupils at sixth form.”

Mr Maxwell told the First Minister that it is imperative that post-16 provision for pupils in the Controlled Sector should remain within the Controlled sector. He also said the leadership and Governors of Markethill High School must get the reins of sixth form status in order for the school to be on an equal status with other similar schools, including St Joseph’s High School in Crossmaglen where there are fewer pupils from 11-16-years-old but yet is receiving a new build and has Sixth Form status.

Mr Maxwell said: “Nothing else is acceptable other than a New Build and Sixth Form in Markethill. No other solution meets the clear needs of our pupils.”

ENDS:

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • Markethill High School is the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages
  • In September 2013, The Minister for Education John O’Dowd congratulates Markethill High School for being one of 11 schools in Northern Ireland which successfully bridges the gap between social disadvantage and educational attainment
  • In October 2013 the ETI report that Markethill High School is a school of ‘very good practice’ and commends all aspects of school life
  • In November 2013 Harper Adams University in Ireland announces a collaboration with Markethill High School to lead the way in education in Northern Ireland by encouraging pupils to take up careers in agriculture
  • For further information contact Eleanor McGillie of MGMPR Ltd on 028 3756 9569| 07709805379| Education PR | Brand Journalism Experts | Brand Journalism UK | Brand Journalism Northern Ireland | PR Agency Northern Ireland |

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