December 17 In the Press

Markethill Principal calls for equality in post primary education decision

The Principal of Markethill High School is calling for equality of judgement in the decision-making process by the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) following the consultation into the area based proposals which could see Markethill High School get a new school build and Sixth Form provision.

Speaking at the recent Key Stage 3 prize giving, which celebrated the successes of pupils in years 8-10, Mr James Maxwell told parents and pupils that Markethill High School is now at the most important and exciting crossroads in its 53 year history and said Markethill has the capability and desire of becoming one of Northern Ireland’s academic centres of excellence.

Since the Education Minister John O’Dowd launched the consultation process following an economic appraisal into post primary education in Northern Ireland,, Markethill High School have been running a well-supported and highly successful community campaign to get a new school built on its current Mowhan Road site and also to get Sixth Form provision, a provision which over 90 percent of parents are calling for.

Mr Maxwell said the school, which is 15 minutes from Portadown, 15 minutes from Armagh, 20 minutes from Newry, 30 minutes from Keady and 20 minutes from Newtownhamilton, is right in the centre of an educational network, is sustainable, is over-subscribed and deserves to grow.

He said: “The four proposals outlined for the future of education in the Armagh City and District area offer a tremendous opportunity for our school to grow. Two of the proposals refer to the development of Markethill High School through a new build on the Mowhan Road.

“We are achieving our best results ever, our highest number of pupils ever, the second broadest curriculum in the Armagh City and District area, with two new GCSEs on the cards next year in Agriculture and Moving Image Arts. We are the British Academy Award winner for the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages, we are the school in possibly one of the best financial position of any school in the area as we are still in surplus, and we are a school which is deeply rooted in its community.

“This is the school which meets the Minister of Education’s six criteria for sustainability and it is now time for him to commit to his pledge to allow popular, oversubscribed schools to grow further.”

Mr Maxwell told parents that if Markethill High is going to take in 550 plus pupils, between the ages of 11-16, it is not appropriate that pupils are forced to leave at the age of 16.

He said: “The area-based proposals, coupled with natural demographic increase, lead to a situation where Markethill High School could quickly become the second biggest non-selective Controlled School in the SELB.  Yet, there are presently seven Controlled non-selective schools in the SELB which offer Sixth Form, four of which are smaller than Markethill High School currently. We need equality when decisions are being made.

“More than two thirds of our pupils want to stay here. Should there be a Sixth Form, there would be mobility here at post-16 level from our catchment towns and villages and beyond. We will easily get the 100 pupils – 50 in Lower Sixth and 50 in Upper Sixth which would make us viable, and that is eminently achievable and more. It’s time for Mr O’ Dowd to commit to his pledge to allow popular, oversubscribed schools to grow.”

Mr Maxwell said now is the time for Markethill High School, and said the school is able to cater for everyone but highlighted that not all other schools can offer the subjects which Markethill High School students would like to continue in post-16 education.

He said: “This year, for the first time, we took pupils through GCSE Drama. The result was a 100 per cent pass rate at GCSE at A*-C, 18 per cent higher that the Northern Ireland average and with 45 per cent of pupils achieving either an A* or A.

“This is already a subject of clear strength within school. Yet our pupils struggled to find somewhere at post-16 level where they could continue with their Drama. Nowhere locally could or would guarantee them a Drama course, and those pupils had an anxious wait all summer on this issue, and the issue was only resolved the day after results came out. In the end, the course only ran because of Markethill High School pupils. Markethill High is already well known for excellence at GCSE level, and it is now time for that to be recognised and recompensed through the natural progression of our pupils to ‘A’ Level studies at Markethill High, allowing the school to become a post-16 centre of excellence in many subjects, including Drama.”

Mr Maxwell said the school will open its doors in January for its Open Night at 19:15 on Thursday, 17th January, and said he is expecting more and more prospective students through the doors.

He said: “The Open Night next month will be indicative of the popularity of the school. We look forward to welcoming parents and pupils to demonstrate to them how successful we are here.”


For further information contact Eleanor McGillie of McGillie Media & PR on 028 3756 9863 | 07709805379 | PR Public Relations 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
  • In November 2012, Markethill High School win Euroscola Programme

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