Belfast Telegraph

Belfast nursery school in a class of its own as Ireland’s oldest

Balloons are released to mark the 90th birthday of Arellian Nursery School
Balloons are released to mark the 90th birthday of Arellian Nursery School
A photo of the school in days gone by
A photo of the school in days gone by
Arellian Nursery School
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

It was party time for pupils in south Belfast as their school celebrated its 90th birthday.

Bouncy Castles, face painting, cake and candy floss were on hand at Arellian, Ireland's first nursery, as pre-school children enjoyed a series of special events to mark the occasion, including an eco-balloon launch, balloon modelling and glitter tattoos.

Jenny Pogue, principal for the last 21 years, said the big celebration was in tribute to the "hub of the local community".

"We do a lot of extracurricular activities at school," she said.

"We have a parent worker on site who does a range of things from (providing) a cup of coffee and a chat to adult education, getting people back to work and fitness as well as a lot of work around mental health.

"Anybody and everybody is welcome to attend.

"We have two very big classrooms and then, five years ago, we did a lot of fundraising and built a parents' room because we knew there was a lot of need.

"Parents have a good working relationship with the nursery so they're happy to come in and get involved in everything that's going on.

"The parents' room is operational five days a week and when it's not being used for parents we use it for a mother and toddlers group."

Describing the school as "the very first nursery school in the whole of Ireland", Ms Pogue said it was founded by the old girls of Richmond Lodge School in the late 1920s.

"They not only built the school but also funded it to 1948 until it was handed over to the Belfast Education and Library Board," she said.

Turning to more recent times, she told of a terrifying incident about five or six years ago when a pipe bomb was attached to the school railings during term time.

"It was handled very calmly, very matter-of-factly and a nearby youth club was opened up for us and we took the children in there, so it was absolutely fine," she said.

After yesterday's party Ms Pogue said she is looking forward to an even brighter future.

"It's a fantastic school and we have such a great community spirit," she added.

Yesterday saw the opening of two new areas - an outdoor water play area and a sensory garden. A time capsule from Translink was planted along with a tree. It contains photos of the children, examples of their work and a copy of yesterday's Belfast Telegraph.

There was also an art installation on show comprising 90 stars made by children.

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