Belfast Telegraph

Grand opening of £27.3m Model school for the future

by Bob Malcolm

The Boys Model School has held a grand opening ceremony for its new building.

It cost £27.3m to build and the pupils, teachers and builders worked in close proximity as parts of the school were taught in while other parts were torn down, and class rooms were moved as the new building grew around the old.

The former Department of Education minister Catriona Ruane, ex-head boy and north Belfast DUP candidate William Humphrey, Principal Jim Keith, and representatives from AMEY and Belfast Education and Library Board were present for the grand opening on Friday, April 15.

Not only does the new build include facilities for pupils but for the local community as well, with a youth centre, a performing arts theatre, a fitness suite, 12 ICT suites and conference facilities.

Boys from the school performed musical numbers before the speeches were made, giving renditions of Elton John’s The Circle of Life, and the Belle of Belfast.

Catriona Ruane, former DELNI minister said: “This area absolutely deserves this school.”

She paid tribute to Dawn Purvis’ A Call to Action document that highlighted educational disadvantage in Protestant working class communities, but went one step further.

“This is an issue that affects Protestants, Catholics and ethnic minorities,” said the former minister. “This is a class issue – working class boys and girls suffer because of a two tier system. This school has shown how education is able to do good without discrimination.”

Deputy Lord Mayor William Humphrey said it was a privilege and an honour to be present for the opening.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “This school has shaped me. The reason I’m so delighted to be here is because of the teachers who taught me. This school has a great reputation for sport and music.”

Jim Keith, principal, said: “Throughout my life I’ve always played team sports. It’s hard to explain why some teams work together and some teams don’t — we just gelled building this school.

“We were actually sad to see the builders go — we built up a good working relationship with them.”

He thanked the teachers, the builders, pupils and all parties involved, especially his vice principal, Liam Logan, who as he put it, “Has taste, diplomacy, is a good organiser, without him none of this would have been possible.”

Rosemary Rainey, chair of BELB said: “Today we celebrate the completion of the project here. Phase one of the BELB aims are to manage control schools, the board was challenging us to be forward thinking in our plans.

“Here we have 21st century resources to the school and the community, this is a tangible and practical example of what can be done.”

“We are grateful to AMEY, the FNP and Farrans for the quality of this build — I would like to thank each department involved in this venture, it will enable to community use for years to come.”

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