School for blind and deaf opens
The opening of a new school for blind and deaf children near Belfast offers pupils the chance to reach their full potential, its principal has said.
Staff at the Jordanstown School said it is the only facility of its kind anywhere in Ireland or Britain and caters for both deaf and visually impaired children.
The new building was officially opened by the Duchess of Gloucester, but the school has a history that stretches back to the 1800s.
The new purpose-built facility has become a reality due to the patronage and support of the Trustees of the Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and the Blind, which started work in 1836 when the first school was opened in Belfast. The new school has been funded by the Board of Trustees, without government funding.
"Staff and pupils are in awe of, and thoroughly enjoying, this wonderful new working environment which provides them with the very latest in assistive technologies and gives every pupil access to a rich and inclusive curriculum," Principal Anne Magee said.
"For pupils who have sensory impairments the complexity of communication can become a barrier to learning and cause difficulties with concentration, achievement and happiness."
She added: "By offering an individual approach to communication, Jordanstown School gives pupils who are deaf or visually impaired the confidence and ability to learn and grow to their fullest potential."
The school, which has around 50 pupils, is equipped with the latest testing and therapy facilities. These include a large hydrotherapy pool, specialist therapy rooms and training rooms.
The Duchess toured the school, meeting both pupils and staff. And before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the official opening, she listened to 16-year-old student Aoife Devlin, who is blind, sing a solo, "The Prayer", in English and Italian, while the song was signed by 17-year-old Jamie Rea, who is deaf.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Rev Clyde Irvine described the opening of the school as one of the happiest days in the long history of the Society. He added: "This project has been a major commitment but we are pleased that we have been able to fund, design, and manage the project to completion."