Belfast Telegraph

School's back ... two years after arsonists struck

By Anne Madden

Just two years ago Jessica Jackson was devastated when her school-work went up in smoke after arsonists set fire to her primary school in Newtownabbey.

Yesterday she and her younger sister Eva were delighted to go back to school in the brand new building that has risen out of the ashes.

The former school was completely destroyed in a blaze in July 2009, forcing staff and more than 350 pupils to relocate to temporary accommodation at the nearby Newtownabbey Community High School.

There was an air of excited anticipation among staff, parents and pupils as they gathered outside Whitehouse Primary school yesterday as the new school year began.

Jessica's parents, Suzanne and Robert Jackson, from Newtownabbey, said the new school drew a line under a difficult few years.

"I'm absolutely over the moon," said Mrs Jackson. "Eva is in P3 now, she was in nursery when the school burnt down and never got the chance to go to the primary school.

"It was devastating. Jessica was in P4 and all her stuff was destroyed. The new school is absolutely brilliant."

Plans for the new school were nearly scuppered when the former Education Minister Caitriona Ruane shelved the new building following a review of capital projects by the government. Mr and Mrs Jackson were among a number of parents who campaigned alongside teachers, school governors and politicians to have the school rebuilt.

"We campaigned up at Stormont and protested," Mrs Jackson said. "It took some time, but we are absolutely delighted with the new school. It is brilliant."

The new £3.6m state-of-the art school on the Doagh Road has a curved white facade to reflect the stunning backdrop of the Antrim plateau.

School principal David McConkey said he was pleased with the finished result.

"The school has lovely facilities with lots of natural light to give us a lovely working environment," he said.

"We have additional classroom accommodation for our 360 pupils and 52 nursery pupils.

"The school was only finished in August so staff have been working very hard to get everything ready for the start of term."

Belfast Telegraph


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