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Consultation on closure of Craigavon Senior High School lawful, judge rules

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Craigavon Senior High School

Craigavon Senior High School

Craigavon Senior High School

Consultation on the potential closure of a school campus in Co Armagh was not unlawful, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Huddleston rejected a challenge to a process carried out by the Education Authority (EA) into the future of Craigavon Senior High School.

The school operates across two sites in Lurgan and Portadown as part of the Dickson Plan in the area, which involves deferring academic selection to the age of 14.

Last year the EA launched pre-publication consultation on a development proposal to close the Lurgan campus and accommodate all 620 pupils on the Portadown site.

The controversial plans, which were to have come into effect by this September or as soon as possible thereafter, were opposed by some parents.

Proceedings were launched by the mother of a teenager with health and learning difficulties who expected to go on to attend the Lurgan campus.

She claimed her child could not be bussed to the Portadown site if facilities were located there.

The court heard 1,154 respondents to the pre-publication consultation disagreed with the development proposal, while 177 backed the plans.

Due to the legal challenge the EA withdrew the development proposal and suspended the public objection period to await judicial determination on the process.

Lawyers for the mother who took the case argued that the process was unlawful on a number of grounds, including procedural unfairness and issues around the Dickson Plan.

Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Huddleston said some of the issues had been rendered historic by the shelving of the development proposal.

But he still had to decide on the legality of the steps taken on the potential move to close the Lurgan campus.

The judge concluded: "I do not consider that the consultation process, on the facts of this case, was unlawful and/or to have been vitiated by what has occurred."

He also raised the possibility of the process now recommencing.

"In moving forward I venture to suggest that the starting point may well be for the Department (of Education) to clarify its policy position on the Dickson Plan more fully, and with the re-introduction of the Executive that perhaps is now a more realistic possibility," he said.

"That would then inform the foundation of future consultation and might better inform the EA and those living in the Craigavon area, and provide a sounder basis upon which such a consultation might be conducted."

Belfast Telegraph