School’s media campaign builds momentum
By Eleanor McGillie
SUPPORT for Markethill High School’s campaign for a new school build and Sixth Form status is mounting as the school is inundated with letters and phone calls of support from councillors, business representatives, churches, community groups, parents and past pupils who are joining the campaign.
The school was packed out on September 10 when over 500 people gathered to hear Principal James Maxwell officially launch the campaign.
Since then, Mr Maxwell said he has been inundated with letters of support, phone calls, emails and text messages of support from the community, and people have taken to the social networking site Twitter, to lend their support online.
The public meeting was held following an economic appraisal which was carried out after 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.
Mr O’Dowd told the Assembly in June that he was extending the consultation period until October 26, ensuring that 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 campaign for a new build school and also to campaign for Sixth Form status.
Since the campaign launch, Mr Maxwell says he is greatly encouraged by the community spirit in Markethill with strong support coming from Lord Mayor Sharon Haughey, councillors Freda Donnelly, Gordon Kennedy, Danny Kennedy, Terry McWilliams, Andrew Moffett, Jim Speers, Robert Turner, William Irwin and David Taylor. One key local representative said, quite simply, that the community is buzzing with the campaign.
Lord Mayor Sharon Haughey stated that she whole-heartedly supported the school and its current campaign, pledging her full support. Other Cusher Councillors lined up to back the school and support the powerful speech given by the Principal. Orchard Councillor Jim Speers described the role he played in bringing the Recreation Centre to Markethill, and how he was 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 also spoke at the evening to commend 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 who took the microphone on the night included Deputy President of the Ulster Farmers Union, Ian Marshall, parents Sharon Porter and Trevor Lockhart, business representatives Alison Strong and Richard Alexander, Ruth Irvine, past pupil Roy Dougan, past Governor Daphne Johnston , the Rev Neville Hughes, former Principal Sam Loughrey, Markethill Primary School Principal Jim Richardson and current Markethill High School staff Jim Browne and Sarah Hargan.
Furthermore, Mervyn Storey MLA and DUP Spokesperson for Education and Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee said he too supports Markethill High School and said it was his “personal opinion that for the young people of the mid Armagh/ South Armagh area, the retention of Markethill High School is essential”.
Echoing these sentiments was former parent Mrs Roslyn Bell, from Markethill, who wrote to Mr Maxwell stating: “As parents, both my husband and myself appreciated all the school did to help grow the confidence and bring out the best in our two very different children. After GCSEs were completed, we were very sad to have to move on elsewhere, as were our children.
“I firmly believe in what you give out you get back. The school has brought out the best in our children. Most of all, with enough passion and enthusiasm, you can make any dream come true – it was clear at the meeting that Markethill High School has the vision. Now it is perseverance, determination and the strength from the people within that will make this new school for Markethill succeed.”
Another parent, Mr Clive Gilpin, from Richhill, congratulated Mr Maxwell saying: “Congratulations on delivering a crystal clear vision for post – primary education at Markethill High School. We hope that everyone will stand behind the school in this campaign”
Ms Felicity Catling, from Richhill, stated: “The vision for Markethill is very clear and it is correct to say “Now is the time. The evening of 10th September was an inspiration to the school”.
For further information contact Eleanor McGillie of 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