IT WAS the start of a new era for Bangor Integrated Nursery School last week as children and staff celebrated the transformation to integrated status.

The Castle Park Road school has been ‘nurturing little learners’ at the heart of the community since it first opened its doors in a Nissen hut back in 1942.
Groundbreaking since its inception, the school initially opened to support working mothers throughout the war years, and went on to become the first nursery school in Northern Ireland to embark on the transformation to integrated status.
The process began in 2018 when parents voted overwhelmingly in support of the significant change in status, with 97% in favour of the move.
Nursery school principal, Pamela Algie, was delighted to be joined by parents and children as well as staff and the board of governors for a special ribbon cutting ceremony at their celebration event.
Joining in the celebration were Ards and North Down Mayor Karen Douglas, MLAs Andrew Muir and Connie Egan, Bangor Academy principal Matthew Pitts as well as representatives from the Education Authority, Department of Education, Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and the Integrated Education Fund.
“The school has been nurturing little learners at the heart of the community since 1942,” said Miss Algie. “We put the children and their families at the heart of everything we do and we look forward to doing that as Bangor Integrated Nursery School.”
Miss Algie said she knew she had ‘big shoes to fill’ when she took over as principal from former head, Maisie Williams, who, along with the school community, began the transformation process.
She praised the support she had received from the school’s staff, parents, board of governors and various agencies. “It would have been impossible as a newly appointed first time principal without this support. We are here to celebrate a team effort.”
Despite the delays posed by the pandemic, Miss Algie said the ‘support for integration never wavered’ nor did the desire to promote inclusive education of ‘all communities all together’.
She said: “Bangor Nursery School has always been an inclusive school where all communities, cultures and backgrounds are welcomed and celebrated. In everything we do as a school, we put the children and families first.
“As an integrated nursery school, we have formalised our ethos and our commitment to educating children from all communities together, so that everyone can feel valued in our school. We know that learning together in an inclusive environment, especially from this young age, is what is best for the children enrolled with us.
“We are delighted to gather here today to celebrate what the school has already achieved and also to look forward to many more years growing as a school community.”
Tina Merron, chief executive officer of the Integrated Education Fund praised the parents, teachers, governors and staff who worked so hard over several years to complete the transformation process.
“Demand for places in integrated schools is higher than ever and it’s important to be able to give this choice to parents at all levels,” she said.
“It’s been a great year for integrated education and we look forward to working with more schools and parents to enable an integrated place for any child that wants one.”
Raisin Marshall, chief executive officer of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, said she was delighted to be celebrating this ‘next stage in the journey of Bangor Integrated Nursery School’.
She praised the ‘vibrant’ school’s ‘vision’ for transformation saying: “I really want to thank Bangor Integrated Nursery School for taking the initial step. This enabled and empowered other nurseries to take that step.
“I would like to praise the principal, the board of governors and the Bangor Integrated Nursery School community. It has been an amazing journey for the whole community to embrace the transformation process.”
George Seeds, vice-chairman of the school’s board of governors, attended the celebration event with his seven year-old daughter Emma, a former nursery school pupil. He praised everyone involved in the transformation process saying: “It has been a journey.
“Pamela and the staff have been amazing, how they coped with the different programmes and training. Pamela has been a rock,” her said.