November 23 In the Press

Students at Markethill High School support Putting Pupils First Campaign

Principal says Sixth Form must be ‘an unstoppable force’ in Putting Pupils First Campaign

By Eleanor McGillie

MARKETHILL High School principal has called on the Education Authority (EA) to ‘step up to the mark and do what is right’ by its pupils in establishing a Sixth Form which he describes as ‘an unstoppable force’.

Principal James Maxwell described the status quo in relation to post-16 provision for pupils from the Protestant Controlled community as ‘a disgrace, unequal and unfair’ and said it was time the status quo was ‘condemned to the dustbin of history’.

Mr Maxwell reinforced the message of the Putting Pupils’ First campaign at the school’s prize-giving night (Tuesday, November 22), in front of parents, pupils, special guest and former pupil DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly and the media.

Emma Little Pengelly, who graduated as a barrister and Law Lecturer, reiterated her avid support and admiration for the school at the Prize Giving.

Markethill is one of just two non-selective controlled schools in Northern Ireland with over 500 pupils which does not have sixth form status.

Since 2012, the school has been pushing its ‘Putting Pupils First’ campaign to change the status quo, with strong support gathered from the local business and indeed, a much wider community.

Mr Maxwell said the school is working constructively with the EA to make the Sixth Form a reality and was ‘heartened by recent communications and discussions’.

Speaking to a packed assembly hall, Mr Maxwell said: “The school is led to believe that a deadline of February 2017 has been set for a decision on the way forward, which will be put to the Education Authority Board.

“Do not let that deadline slip. Do not take your eye off the ball – because our pupils deserve better.”

The principal told parents and guests that having a viable sixth form would allow Markethill to develop “strong, robust and vibrant links” with Higher Education.

“How does the Education Authority expect us to raise aspiration when it continually denies the Protestant Controlled Sector in this area one of the most important pieces of the jigsaw – a viable Sixth Form which will allow for strong, robust and vibrant links to be build with Higher Education. At the moment those links are non-existent. There must be change” Mr Maxwell said.

“And with 130 pupils per year group by 2025, the only possible resolution is through the introduction of a viable sixth form in Markethill. Surely, it has now to be an unstoppable force.”

Mr Maxwell added that despite the school’s well-documented journey from a ‘very good’ school to an ‘outstanding’ one in official inspections, more than 100 pupils remained “at the mercy of the winds” after their GCSEs.

Meanwhile, those who didn’t meet requirements to enter selective post-16 education facilities, could access only approximately 54 per cent of the A-Level provision from other non-selective controlled schools.

“Which post-16 providers actively consult with Markethill High School and its governors about the needs, interests and aspirations of our cohort in order to establish effective post-16 provision for our pupils?” he asked.

“Not one,” said Mr Maxwell.

He added that Markethill had the potential to become a centre of excellence for agriculture at post-16 – a subject not available locally at Level 3, as it was in the maintained sector. A viable Sixth Form would, he added, allow them to nurture pupils up until age 18, work collaboratively with Further Education and Higher Education, and ensure there were no gaps in provision at sixth form level.




  • 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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