The UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, visited Rowandale Integrated Primary School in Moira today (Friday 23rd November) to deliver a massive boost to the school and 17 other integrated schools throughout Northern Ireland.
The Chancellor confirmed that Rowandale would receive government funding, not simply to replace their current temporary accommodation but to provide a brand-new, 14-classroom school. The commitment is part of a £300 million capital investment in integrated and shared education in Northern Ireland announced in his autumn budget statement.
Mr Hammond was welcomed to the school by the principal, Frances Hughes, and by the chief executives of the NI Council for Integrated Education and of the Integrated Education Fund (IEF)
Commenting on the visit, Tina Merron, CEO of the IEF, said:
“The release of this money is welcome news for the schools involved and for all the families who want to see more places in integrated education for their children. It’s great that the Chancellor was able to visit Rowandale Integrated Primary School today and see first-hand how the money spent on integrated education brings children of all traditions and backgrounds to learn, play and grow together in the same classroom every day. Rowandale IPS is one of the fastest-growing schools in Northern Ireland – thanks to local campaigners and to the support of generous donors — proving the widespread belief in integrated education as the best way forward for Northern Ireland.”
Rowandale IPS opened on the site of a farm on the outskirts of Moira in 2007 with just 18 children. It is one of the fastest- growing schools in Northern Ireland, and is the only integrated primary school serving the wider Moira area. Its reputation for excellence means that every year it has needed a new classroom to meet demand from parents. By 2021 it will become a 14 classroom school with almost 400 children attending.
Commenting on its success, Principal Frances Hughes said:
“Year on year, interest in the school has grown. Our school motto is ‘Love to learn and learn to love’ and children at Rowandale Integrated Primary learn and become friends with children from different cultural and religious backgrounds. This visit from the Chancellor to officially announce our new school building is a dream come true for all our pupils, staff and governors and for the growing number of parents choosing Rowandale as the school for their children.”
The school has received significant charitable support to help it achieve its ambitions. The Integrated Education Fund in Northern Ireland not only purchased the original site for the school but also assisted with additional classrooms, a new pre-school facility and occasionally an additional teacher to meet the needs of the growing school community. This was all made possible by support from many donors, such as the Ireland Funds and the Magheramorne Foundation.
Local actor and writer Adrian Dunbar is a regular visitor to Rowandale IPS and has been amazed to see its growth first hand:
“If we want to heal society in Northern Ireland then integrated schooling should be the norm; sadly it’s not, there’s huge resistance still coming from various parties who have a vested interest in people in Northern Ireland being split. Rowandale is a marvellous example of what can be achieved when we work together.”
Integrated education has experienced rapid growth in recent years, with development proposals for expansion approved by the Department of Education for 26 integrated schools, and with a further eight proposals awaiting a decision. Independent surveys indicate clear majority support from parents for children being educated together regardless of community background or cultural traditions. In the last year alone, more than 1,000 extra integrated school places have been made available, although many integrated schools are still oversubscribed.
In the Autumn Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that he would bring forward integrated and shared education projects using £300m which was part of the Fresh Start Agreement package agreed in 2015.
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