October 3 In the Press

Education is the key to area based planning debate – principal

By Eleanor McGillie

THE Northern Ireland Assembly’s committee for education has called for Education Minister John O’Dowd to extend the consultation time on proposed departmental plans for the sustainability and viability of post-primary schools.

Education committee members have received feedback from many schools, parents and concerned organisations that the consultation time is too short, that the process is too complicated and that plans are not consistent across different sectors and Education and Library Boards. The consultation began in July and is planned to end on October 26.

Committee chairman Mervyn Storey said: “The area planning process is an extremely important issue and there is no room for ambiguity. As a committee we are deeply concerned that the criteria used to measure performance and viability should be fair and understandable.”

Mr Storey added there are many performance indicators for schools – not just exam results – which need to be taken into consideration. He said the viability audits appear to be based on a limited range of information, which is not detailed enough to base and inform changes to our schools.

Mr James Maxwell, principal of Markethill High School, has been leading a campaign at the school, for a new build school and Sixth Form provision. He says he agrees the process is a very important one, and, although the consultation deadline is looming, he says people in Markethill and the surrounding areas, continue to see the proposals as an opportunity for the town and for the school.

He said: “I agree with Mr Storey that the process is a very important one. For the people of Markethill and the surrounding areas, no matter what happens, this process is about the future of our children.

“This is a debate in the field of education – that is where the arguments have to be made. This isn’t about land, it isn’t about property and it isn’t about business. This is about getting the highest quality of education, learning, teaching, access to resources for all of our children, so that their lives can be enriched and enhanced through skills they acquire in early years.

“At Markethill High School we aim for the best. We aim to be the best. The best in terms of learning and teaching, the best in terms of the care, support and guidance we give to our children and the best in terms of affording our children the right opportunities to meet their potential.”

Support for the development of education at Markethill High School continues to grow.

The school continues to be inundated with letters and phone calls of support from councillors, business representatives, churches, community groups, parents and past pupils who are joining the campaign for a new build school and Sixth Form provision.

Since the campaign launch, Mr Maxwell says he is greatly encouraged by the community spirit in recognising the value of the quality of education provided at the school.

Lord Mayor Sharon Haughey, councillors Freda Donnelly, Gordon Kennedy, Danny Kennedy, Terry McWilliams, Andrew Moffett, Jim Speers, Robert Turner, William Irwin and David Taylor are just some of the names supporting growth at the school.

Lord Mayor Sharon Haughey stated that she whole-heartedly supported the school and its current campaign, pledging her full support.

Orchard Councillor Jim Speers, who played a key role in bringing the Recreation Centre to Markethill, has said he is keen to see this develop and expand in line with the development of the school itself as the cornerstone of the community in the Markethill and District area.

MLA Danny Kennedy has also commended the excellent status of the school, its outstanding reputation and to call for all key players to discuss the issue in order to reach an outcome based on clear educational philosophy.

Other supporters include Deputy President of the Ulster Farmers Union, Ian Marshall, parents, business representatives, past pupils, past Governors, a former Principal, Markethill Primary School Principal Jim Richardson and current Markethill High School staff.

 

END

For further information contact Eleanor McGillie at McGillie Media & PR on 028 3756 9863 or 07709805379 | Public Relations Northern Ireland

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • Markethill High School celebrated excellent GCSE results last month. 85% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C grades or better in their GCSE examinations. This was the school’s best ever results by six per cent and the first time the school has received results over 80 per cent. The results put Markethill High School as the top-performing non-selective controlled school in the Southern Education and Library Board, placing the school into the top 6 per cent of ALL non-selective schools in Northern Ireland.
  • January 2012 – Markethill High School – winners of a £4,000 prize fund for the best Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics project application to develop those subjects with Year 9 pupils.
  • In May 2012 Markethill High School was announced the British Academy Award Winner for the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages, with an award of £4,000. The school is shortlisted to the final three schools for the title of Best School in the United Kingdom for the delivery of Modern Language education.
  • In May 2012 – Laura Marshall in Year 11 was awarded the outstanding title of Northern Ireland’s Young Entrepreneur of the Future
  • For the second year running, in June 2012, Jonathan Armstrong in Year 12 was named the Southern Regional College student of the Year as a result of his work on the Schools’ Partnership Programme studying Occupational Studies
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