Is the Dickson Plan a lesson in itself?
also.. Tragic young Keady man laid to rest following passing this week and the closure of a 999 call centre
Happy St Patrick’s Day to our newsletter readers! Wherever you are in the world and whatever you’re doing have a good one!
Following on from our last newsletter’s student-centered discussion we decided to take a quick look at County Armagh’s unique academic transfer process.
Armagh is the only county where the two-tier Dickson Plan is in operation. It was approved by the Ministry of Education on February 15, 1967 and first implemented in 1969, intended to allow children to transfer from primary to junior high schools at age 11.
The Dickson Plan, also known as the Craigavon System, is a two tier system in which the majority of pupils in the Lurgan, Portadown and Tandragee area leave primary school without sitting an academic test and transfer to a Junior High School for three years - affording young people opportunities for maturation so that, age 14, they are better equipped to make informed choices around their education pathway.
But questions have always hung over whether the Dickson plan is outdated, conversely, there is equally strong concern around putting young children under the pressure of additional exams.
In the past the system has come up against opposition with the former Education Minister John O'Dowd, claiming “it is my firm view that the Dickson Plan is no longer fit-for-purpose” with plans to amalgamate the Junior High Schools and the Senior Education Schools, and create a single comprehensive system throughout Northern Ireland. This didn’t sit well with advocates of the current system - eventually forcing the minister to mark his own homework and rethink.
Parents appeared glad that children were not going to be subjected to potential failure at the tender age of 11, whilst others voted with their feet sending their 11-year olds to independent selection tests and then on to grammar schools outside the Dickson Plan area.
The outcome of the tussle in 2019 saw the implementation a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the four Junior High Schools – Clounagh, Killicomaine, Lurgan and Tandragee – Craigavon Senior High School and the two grammar schools, Lurgan and Portadown. This meant that they could collaborate on important areas such as teacher professional learning and structured induction for pupils in their transition from junior to senior schools.
However, three Lurgan schools, St Paul's Junior High, St Mary's Junior High and St Michael's Grammar opted out of the Dickson plan, amalgamating to form a new school - St Ronan's College - a non-selective co-educational comprehensive school. The school was due to open its doors to a brand new build on the former St Michael’s site at Cornakinnegar Road but was hit with numerous delays pushing it’s opening date back to December 2024.
So what works best? Perhaps the Dickson Plan allows a child to flourish at their own pace (to an extent) or perhaps the grammar school system works best but the underlying question has always been whether it is right to put a child under the pressures and stress of the selection process at the tender age of 11? Tell us your thoughts…
In the headlines
Tragic young Keady man 'whose genius lay in his hands' laid to rest
Authorities on Thursday were responding to an incident of oil pollution in the Newry Canal, with one representative suggesting the clean-up could cost many thousands to carry out in the aftermath.
Around 140 workers at a BT emergency call centre in Portadown are facing a move after the company announced it was proposing closing the centre and relocating to Belfast.
Police are investigating social media video which appears to show a man getting stabbed in the back of the head by a woman in Banbridge last month.
New Changing Places facilities installed at Gosford Forest Park and Lurgan Park
Roads in the city centre will be closed between 1pm and 4.30pm for the West Armagh Consortium’s St Patrick’s Day parade.
An Armagh woman accused of taking over £62,000 from a local waste company is to face the Crown Court later this year.
Homeowners are facing yet another increase to their daily household bills next month.
Detectives from the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team investigating the murder of Shane Whitla recover items following search in Lurgan.
Reprieve for NI motorcycle racing events – but too late to save this year’s Tandragee 100 We previously covered this in our newsletter read more here
Congratulations to Eilish Farrell who is this week’s winner of a pair of cinema tickets. Eilish, check your emails for information on how to claim your tickets!
We’ve teamed up with The Market Place Theatre Armagh to give away a pair of tickets for ‘Songs From Ireland’ which is taking place on Wednesday April 12.
To be in win a chance of winning click here
Given the day that’s in it - this week we wound the clock back to St. Patrick’s day 2004.
The Armagh-Down Reporter described the scene at the first Newry parade ‘organised in association with Northern Ireland events company’. ‘Thousands’ attended the celebratory parades where 15 community groups pulled out all the stops putting on a presentation of colourful floats, street entertainers and live music from the Fureys.
The theme for the year was ‘Dreams - Think Big’ and think big they did! The publication explained that one of the main attractions of the event was an oversized ‘inflatable bear’! Even little Charlie Chaplin went big as he adorned a set of stilts for the day.
Lord Mayor Mr Jackie Patterson was quoted as saying the Newry 2004 parade was ‘a year to remember’.
University is certainly not the only positive career path. Vocational education should be up there as well. I agree.
I was always an advocate for the Dickson Plan having gone through it myself, however, my children will move through this process from the Tandragee school and I believe they are at a disadvantage compared to the Portadown junior highs. A certain number from each feeder school is allocated each year. They sit different exams, some use year 9 summer marks some don't. I think the same exam for Portadown College should be sat and whoever comes top gets in. Currently there will be children from Tandragee who will miss out on a place if they place, for example, number 50 in that school. If those same children would have attended Clounagh or Killicomaine and ranked number 50 there they would get a place in the grammar school. The system is not fair. In saying that the college is not the be all and end all and the quality of education in the senior high has certainly improved over the past number of years.