Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Could this £23m grammar be the last new-build school for decades?

The new atrium at Bangor Grammar School which acts as a foyer, dinning area and social area.
Pupils try out the new gymnasium

Fancy burning calories in a new gym boasting every mod con available?

Then a north Down school is the place for you.

Pupils at Bangor Grammar are celebrating the opening of a stunning new school building after a 12-year battle for funding.

And given the shrinking school population and tight education budgets, it could be the last newly-built school in Northern Ireland for a very long time.

The school’s 870 boys are now housed in a £23m building sitting on a 24-acre site on the Gransha Road — almost five times the size of their 118-year-old former premises at College Avenue.

But the new building is also open to the public, who are invited to use its ultra-modern new gym — for a fee.

The three-storey school boasts a gym with treadmills, cross trainers, rowing machines, weights and even a flatscreen TV; a large assembly hall and a basketball court.

Outside, its floodlit sporting facilities include an Astroturf pitch, four tennis courts and four grass pitches.

The facilities are open to the community who pay to use the services, with the cash going towards the cost of the new build.

Some visitors, such as athletes with links to the Special Olympics, will be allowed in for free.

And the new school has already proved a hit with the community with a number of sports clubs having already availed of the facilities and a steady stream of bookings coming in for the weeks and months ahead.

The focal point of the school building is a striking atrium.

Other features include two ICT suites equipped with 60 computers, a design and technology suite, a drama room, music room and art rooms, while every classroom has an interactive white board.

Not surprisingly, Bangor Grammar’s new school has proved a hit with staff and pupils.

Principal Stephen Connolly said: “The new facilities are making a great difference. The most important thing of all is these facilities make effective learning easier.”

In the current climate when the Department of Education’s capital budget has been decimated, new schools like Bangor Grammar will be rarer in the future.

“We were fortunate to be given the go-ahead before money dried up,” added Mr Connolly.

Explaining the decision to open the sports facilities to the public, Mr Connolly said the school must have a civic dimension: “It has to be that the community can use it and the longer we are here the more we will develop that.”

Factfile

Bangor Grammar:

  • Fully equipped gym with flatscreen TV
  • Floodlit Astroturf pitch
  • All-weather tennis courts
  • Grass pitches
  • Deli bar
  • Cashless canteen with fingerprint technology
  • Conference facilities
  • Basketball court

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