Markethill High School generates £2million stimulating economic and social growth
By Eleanor McGillie
THE chairman of the Board of Governors for Markethill High School has said that if the Education Minister approves a proposal to build a new school and provide a sixth form at Markethill High School he would be securing approximately £2million per year for the village economy.
Willie Johnston, who has been Chairman for over 20 years, has also played a major role in bringing business and environmental improvement to Markethill and District, stimulating economic and social regeneration in the village.
Mr Johnson, who received an MBE in 2008 for his work in stimulating growth in Markethill, said that Markethill High School is fundamental in the success of the local economy.
Markethill High School has been running a community campaign since August 2011 after John O’Dowd, Minister for Education, announced a public consultation on post primary education across Northern Ireland.
Four options were announced – two of which would see Markethill High School remain at the heart of the community and two which would mean a move for the school from Markethill into Armagh city.
But the community in Markethill and the surrounding areas have been quick to highlight the school’s vital role in the community by campaigning for a new build school and sixth form provision as the only feasible way forwards.
Mr Johnson said: “We are confident the Minister will make the right decision. The school makes a significant impact on community life, and, very importantly, has a major impact on the economy. The school’s operating budget covering salaries, wages and expenses, is about £1.8 million which is money mainly re-circulating in the local area.
“Every day, the school attracts about 600 people – parents, pupils and staff. That’s equivalent to 3,000 people per week. If every person spent £10 in the shops that’s £30,000 per week which is over £1.5million per year. Add on top of that a bigger spend for families living in the village and we estimate it’s closer to £2million. If every person spent £5 in the shops that’s £15,000.00 per week which is £750,000.00 per year.
“There are 55 businesses here and everyone spends local and employs local. The school is currently undergoing a major refurbishment in the Art and Music department and again the work is being carried out by a contractor with a Markethill address. Our community matters. Our school matters.
“Our message to the Education Minister is simple. Markethill High School is the heartbeat of our community. It is vital the Minister considers the economic impact of having those 600 people in Markethill every day. No community can afford such a vital lifeline to be ripped away. The future of our economy is dependent on our school remaining at the heart of the village.”
Alison Strong, Director of JD Hunter, said the school is essential in attracting people to the village.
“Markethill has grown in size over the years and what attracts new people to live in the area is the future education provision for their children. Not only does the school provide a fantastic education but it is also a big employer too. It employs teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers, canteen staff and receptionists.
“JD Hunter is also a big employer and we understand the importance of having good employers in Markethill. We provide work experience opportunities for pupils which often leads to career opportunities for those pupils. We employ pupils and their families shop here. The benefits of the school in our community are two-fold.”
Richard Alexander, owner of Alexander’s of Markethill, said the school is integral to the town’s identity.
He said: “The presence of both schools in Markethill is crucially important. The concept of the village is that the school makes Markethill a centre of activity. People are attracted to Markethill because it is a thriving village. People want to come and live here and people, who don’t live here, want to come to shop here. We are very lucky to have the level of business here that we do and we are very fortunate to have an excellent primary school and an excellent high school. Markethill has been thriving over the years and even in the current climate the village is performing well. Markethill High School is a key player in making the village a success. We are looking forward to our campaign being successful because Markethill High School deserves a new build school and sixth form provision.”
Echoing these sentiments is Lewis Singleton of Nelson Singleton Solicitors. Mr Singleton said: “When the school gets its sixth form it will not only take Markethill High School to the next level but it will take Markethill, as a business hub, to a new level. There are 800 children being educated in Markethill between the primary school and the high school. In a small town like ours that a phenomenal percentage and the trickle effect on all businesses is incredible.”
Principal James Maxwell said: “This year 105 pupils will have to leave Markethill to continue their post-16 education elsewhere. We have asked parents and 89 per cent of them have stated would want their children’s education to be continued at Markethill High School through the provision of a vibrant sixth form. Our school ticks every box on the Minister’s sustainability criteria list. The standard of education is high, we have the numbers, our pupils enjoy being part of our rural community and the community on the whole benefits economically from having our school at the heart of the village.”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
The four short listed options for Markethill High School are;
- Amalgamate the City of Armagh and Markethill High Schools. Provide new replacement buildings on the Markethill High School site for an estimated 700 pupils. Refurbish and extend the Royal School buildings for an LTE of 700 pupils.
- Amalgamate the City of Armagh High School and the Royal School. Refurbish and extend the existing Royal School buildings for an LTE of 850 pupils. Provide new replacement buildings on the Markethill High School site for an LTE of 550 pupils.
- Amalgamate the City of Armagh and Markethill High Schools. Provide new replacement buildings, co-located with the Royal School, for an LTE of 700 pupils. Refurbish and extend the existing Royal School buildings for an LTE of 700 pupils.
- Amalgamate all three schools and provide a new 11-19 all ability school on the Royal School site for an LTE of 1,400 pupils.
- 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
- In November 2012, Markethill High School win Euroscola Programme
- For further information contact Eleanor McGillie of MGMPR Ltd on 028 3756 9569 | 07709805379 | PR Public Relations Northern Ireland | Public Relations Northern Ireland | Public Relations UK | Brand Journalism Experts | Brand Journalism Northern Ireland | Brand Journalism UK