March 22 In the Press

Business community demands pupils are put first with sixth form in Markethill

By Eleanor McGillie

THE Markethill business community has come out in force yet again to reiterate its full and ongoing support for the Markethill High School’s ‘Putting Pupils First Campaign’ for a new build school and sixth form.

Over 100 prominent members of the business community attended a business breakfast, organised by Principal James Maxwell on behalf of the Board of Governors, in a show of unanimous backing for the campaign.

Mr Maxwell and members of the Board of Governors welcomed the business representatives, and again reiterated the message that the pupils of Markethill and its rural hinterland deserve better and that the right decisions about the growth of the school need to be made very soon.

Speaking at the breakfast, Mr Maxwell said: “There are three things on the table at the moment regarding the growth of this school. They are an urgent increase in admissions for Year 8 pupils, the need for a new build and Sixth Form status so that our pupils have the equality and ease of access to post-16 provision which has been so sadly lacking to them for many decades.

“My problem is that these issues have been on the table for far too long. We were promised quick decisions back in 2012 by the former Southern Education and Library Board and the powers that be. Those decisions didn’t happen.

“Then we were told in 2013 that the SELB would consult with us on decisions about the growth of the school. That didn’t happen.

“Then we were told in 2014 that we had just missed out on a new build because we don’t have 500 pupils – we have 498– even though a school to the south of us was granted a new build at the same time with 15 less pupils than Markethill at ages 11-16.

“Meanwhile, in the interim, our pupils, our school community and by extension the broader community and economy have been held back through a lack of investment in infrastructure, an abdication of decision making from the powers that be and a refusal to date to grant our pupils the equality of status they deserve.”

Mr Maxwell told the business community that the school had recently received a further letter informing the Governors that the Education Authority wanted to meet with the school in April to consult on the growth of the school, notably an increase in admissions, the pursuit of a new build and sixth form and said he believes important decisions about the growth of the school will be made sooner rather than later.

He added: “The Markethill school community, the broader community and the local economy must now be afforded parity of esteem with other towns and schools around the country.

“Why are we one of only two non-selective Controlled schools left in Northern Ireland with 500 or more pupils that does not have Sixth Form status?

“Why have we been continually refused the opportunity to increase our admissions to over 500 when a local Integrated School, for example, which is smaller than Markethill High School at ages 11-16, was allowed to increase its admissions size from 80 to 100 pupils each year some years ago.

“Why are we capped at this absurd figure of 93 pupils per year, limiting our potential for growth, limiting the growth of the community and economy, and causing us much pain each year as we have to turn so many children away. It is not good enough for our pupils, it is not good enough for our community, it is not good enough for Markethill.”

Also addressing the audience was chairman of the Board of Governors, Willie Johnston.

He said: “This community benefits from £40,000 sterling per week from this school. It gives a footfall of 600 plus persons per day. With sixth form that would increase to £50,000 and 750 people per day.

“People thinking of buying property are thinking of buying in Markethill in a bid to get in here to this school.

“The discussions about sixth form are happening. It’s essential and urgent. Our pupils would not be disadvantaged by having to get up and leave, they would not be separated from their friends and they would be able to stay here in familiar environments.

“We have the number required to support A-levels. This meeting is timely and we will be calling on you for a major drive of support.

“This school continuously improves. It’s important to get admissions up. At our open night we had 153 pupils who came to visit the school.  We appreciate your support but we will need a lot as public consultation will be coming back again.

“Our message is clear. We want increased numbers, new school and sixth form.”

Before members of the business community left, everyone sealed their ongoing support with a signature on a petition demanding a new build and sixth form status.

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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