October 22 In the Press

School principal calls for a final push as consultation deadline looms

By Eleanor McGillie

THE Principal of Markethill High School is calling on people in Portadown and the surrounding areas to make sure they have their say on the future of post primary education as the deadline for the public consultation draws to a close.

People have two days left to take part in the process which could see Markethill High School gain a new build school on its current site and a Sixth Form provision.

In June, the Education Minister John O’Dowd announced in the Assembly that he had authorised the Education and Library Boards to start the consultation on Post Primary Area Plans.

After an economic appraisal four options for Markethill High School were laid down and the public given the opportunity to respond to the consultation.

The consultation process has been extended until this Friday, October 26, so schools and the general public get sufficient time to read and reflect on the proposals before responding.

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.

But the community of Markethill and the surrounding areas believe there is only one appropriate way forward for Markethill High School and that is to get a new build school and Sixth Form status.

As a result, the school launched a campaign in August with the aim of ‘Putting Pupils First’.

James Maxwell, Principal of Markethill High School said: “Since the Minister announced the consultation process, myself, staff, the pupils, their parents, the traders in the town, politicians and the UFU, have seen this as a real opportunity for Markethill High School. We have had an overwhelming amount of support. Mervyn Storey, the chairman of the education select committee wrote a letter in support of our campaign, councillors and our Mayor support the campaign, the UFU, which has over 1,700 members in the area support our campaign, the traders support our campaign, parents support our campaign and pupils, past, present and future support our campaign.

“For the first time in the school’s history, there is a real chance for Markethill High School to build on its success, to continue to be at the heart of a rural community and to become a centre of academic excellence for our children. Currently, 89 per cent of pupils achieved five A*-C grades or better in their GCSE examinations. 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 five per cent of all non-selective schools in Northern Ireland.

“Our campaign for a new build school and a Sixth Form provision has been about building on this success for our children. Mr O’Dowd previously pledged to allow popular oversubscribed schools to grow. We hope he delivers on his pledge.

“Our school is successful, it is sustainable, it caters for all children’s needs, it meets all criteria set out by the Minister, we have a healthy bank account which not too many schools can say, our achievements are excellent and we cater for a wide catchment area. We are at the heart of our rural community and we want this important community lifeline to grow and grow.”

Mr Maxwell  said the title of the document ‘Putting Pupils First: Shaping our Future’, laid out by Minister John O’Dowd, which led to the area-based proposals, reflects the fact that the consultation is all about children and sustainable schools.

He said in order to define sustainability, the Minister outlined six criteria for a successful, sustainable school.

  • Quality Educational Experience
  • Stable Enrolment Trends
  • Sound Financial Position
  • Strong Leadership and Management by Boards of Governors and Principals
  • Accessibility
  • Strong Links with the Community.

Mr Maxwell said throughout the school’s campaign, Markethill High School has continuously demonstrated that it very clearly that it ticks every box on the sustainable schools list.

He said: “This is the final push. There are three days left. The reality is that we want to stay in Markethill. We want a new school and we want to provide Sixth Form education for your children. We need your support in order to deliver on this and that means taking the time to fill out the consultation form. The form is available on our website and we have also provided guidelines for parents on how to complete the form.

“I am asking the public to give our campaign one final push over the next few days. Please visit www.markethillhighschool.net and help us win our campaign.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank people in advance for taking the time to fill out the form and I would like to thank everyone who has helped us to date. It has been tremendous and we are very hopeful for the future of education in Markethill.”

 

ENDS:

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

 

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • 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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