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Bussing children to schools away from home hurts their life chances and damages their communities

Letter of the day: education funding

In the run-up to the General Election, I appeal to unionist politicians in Upper Bann to engage with our community on the future of the Dickson Plan on post-primary education - a debate they continue to avoid. Surely, after 50 years, it is due a service. It has a serious malfunction and is running out of gas.

The Dickson Plan has never met the needs of Craigavon Senior High and, instead of addressing the problem, reports have it that there is a cynical proposal to shift it by bussing the children out of Lurgan to Portadown.

The Dickson Plan should be our servant, not our master. Bussing these children to Portadown is not only an insult to them, but a blight on our community.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to right the wrongs of the past, not build on them. The Dickson Plan, as it is, has failed 50% of our children. We must challenge this, not turn a blind eye.

I hope the Education Authority will not caution our community that the final arbiter in making a decision is cost. The Catholic community, to its credit, came up with a strategic plan on the future of education and was granted £33m. The Protestant community did nothing and got nothing, even though one of our schools is not fit for purpose and the other two are crumbling. In view of this disparity, if reports are true, after being neglected for 20 years on Kitchen Hill with third world facilities, it beggars belief that the best we could offer these children is to bus them to mobile classrooms in Portadown.

Even at this late stage, are we to abandon all hope that the Protestant community will sit down and come up with a strategic plan that meets the needs of all our children? Is this expecting too much?

CLIVE MAXWELL

Portadown, Co Armagh

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