Thursday, 20 June 2013

O’Dowd outlines current position on Dickson plan

20 June 2013

O’Dowd outlines current position on Dickson plan

Education Minister, John O’Dowd has clarified the current position on the Dickson plan in light of media reports today.

The Minister said: “There has been much debate over the past few months on the future of the Dickson plan within the Craigavon area. This debate has intensified in recent days following an Assembly debate and in particular, media reports today.

“Firstly, I want to point out that any proposals in relation to the Dickson Plan are not my proposals. It is a matter for the relevant managing authorities in the first instance to determine the appropriate structure of future provision for children living in the Dickson Plan area.

“Following the public consultation on the draft Post-primary Area Plan, the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) issued an options paper to the Boards of Governors of all of the controlled post-primary schools in the Dickson Plan.

“The paper summarised the main options arising from the area plan consultation and asked for Boards’ of Governors views. This consultation with the Boards of Governors is not a ballot with results deciding the outcome of the process. Rather, the returns will be taken into account, by the SELB, alongside all other evidence and data, including departmental policy, when deciding the way forward.

“Any significant change to the existing provision requires the publication of a statutory Development Proposal (DP) to support that intent. Following publication of a DP a two month objection period begins to allow all interested and affected parties an opportunity to submit their comments/views on the proposal. At the end of the 2-month period, I will make a decision taking account of all the relevant and pertinent information and the comments received both for and against the proposal.”

The Minister continued: “There seems to be a misconception that the Dickson plan is an example of excellence and I have even heard the term ‘world class’ used to describe it. The reality is that while some schools and pupils are performing well there is room for improvement and the system is certainly not world class. That does not mean that we don’t have world class teachers and staff working within that system. Indeed, I have visited schools and met many staff within the Dickson plan area and I have always been impressed by their dedication and professionalism. However, I do believe that they are being failed by the system they are working in.

“With regard to educational attainment, the school leavers data for 2011/12 shows that the Dickson Plan schools underperformed compared with the overall and the SELB averages for pupils achieving 5+ GCSEs at A* to C including GCSE English and GCSE Maths and for 3+A Levels at A*-C.

“I’ve been told more than once this week, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ but the fact is that much of the Dickson plan is broken and I believe the system does need to be fixed.”

The Minister concluded by saying: “Area Planning is about providing strong, vibrant schools delivering high quality education by using the limited resources available efficiently and effectively. In that context, it is my firm view that the Dickson plan is no longer fit for purpose.

“The Catholic education sector in Craigavon propose moving away from the Dickson Plan and academic selection. I believe that the best course of action for the controlled sector is to do likewise for the educational benefit of all children and young people in that sector.”

Notes to editors:
Media enquiries, contact the Department of Education Press Office on 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440.

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