Thousands sign petition in campaign for new build school and sixth form provision
Thousands of people from across the Armagh, Newry, Portadown and surrounding areas have signed a petition calling for a sixth form provision to be made at Markethill High School and new school to be built on the current Mowhan Road site in the town through the provision of a new build school.
The Governors of the school collected petitions from businesses, community groups, congregations, traders and individuals in the surrounding areas and the 4,485 signatures collected have now been handed to the Southern Education and Library Board.Consultation has now ended into the Post Primary Area Plans which was ordered by the Education Minister John O’Dowd in June which affects schools across Northern Ireland.
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 was extended until October 26, so schools and the general public got 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.
Since August, the school has been running a significant campaign which has received support from the UFU, politicians, traders, parents and pupils, past and present, as well as people living in the surrounding areas who recognise the important role the school plays in the community.
Almost 5,000 signatures were brought to the SELB headquarters in Armagh by Mr James Maxwell, Prinicpal of Markethill High School, and Mr William Johnston, chairman of the Board of Governors. The next stage in the process involves a recommendation being put forward to the Education Minister in January 2013 and a decision is expected early next year.
Mr Maxwell said the support for the new build school and sixth form provision proposal has been overwhelming and said the number of signatures on the petition highlights the confidence in the community.
He said: “Our campaign has had a very clear message and that is that we need a new build school and sixth form. What encouraged us to run such a campaign are the people in the community, in and around Armagh, Markethill, Portadown and Newry. Our school attracts pupils from far and wide and the thousands of people who have given their support to the campaign, shows how feasible it is to have a new build school and sixth form provision. The demand is there and we are here to supply. This year, we have more pupils at the school than ever before in its history, and we are currently the top non-selective co-educational school in the SELB.
“To get 4,485 signatures is incredible. To have the UFU and their 1,700 members in the area to support us has been brilliant. To get all of the traders in Markethill to support us has been heart warming. To get over 500 people turn up at a public meeting was fantastic. We all want a new build school and we are confident we are going to get it.
“Markethill High School believes that the criteria of the sustainability agenda can lead to only one thing and that’s the development and enhancement of the current school on the Mowhan Road. We look forward to a positive outcome in this regard.”
“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.
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
- 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: “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 are confident we will win our campaign and I would like to thank people in and around Markethill, Armagh, Newry and Portadown for their overwhelming support throughout. We are greatly encouraged by the support and our confidence in Markethill continues to grow and grow.”
For further information contact Eleanor McGillie on 028 3756 9863 or 07709805379
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