Two schools get dream new homes in cash boost

Bangor Central and Crawfordsburn primaries get green light at last

Special Report by Iain Gray

TWO North Down schools are finally to get their dream new buildings as part of a government cash boost.

Both Bangor Central Integrated Primary School and Crawfordsburn Primary School were given green lights as part of an £80m splurge on construction projects unveiled by Education Minister Paul Givan on Tuesday (28th).

The minister visited Bangor Central to announce the new builds, with the projects bringing 16 years of setbacks and false starts to an end for the school.

Indeed, Central was crushed earlier this year when promised funding was pulled by the government and reassigned into Northern Ireland’s general budget.

After months of campaigning, Mr Givan essentially restored that cash as part of Tuesday’s announcement.

Proudly announcing that Bangor Central ‘has got the go-ahead’, the minister told a special school assembly that most of the gathered kids can look forward to ‘a state-of-the-art educational facility’.

“Today is a big day,” he said. “I want to pay tribute to [the school community’s] perseverance.”

Pointing out that teachers worked hard to make the most of Central’s ageing current home, he promised that the new premises would give them transformational opportunities for educating generations of Bangor’s children.

“I want to make sure that they are supported by the department,” he said, adding that shortly after he became minister his DUP colleague, MLA Stephen Dunne, started intensely lobbying him over local schools.

“He said to me, ‘I’ve got a couple of schools to mention to you’ – Bangor Central and Crawfordsburn.

“I’m also going to announce Crawfordsburn, so North Down is doing very well from today.”

Central and Crawfordsburn are two of 15 construction projects unveiled across the province, ranging from extensions and refurbishments to completely new schools.

But there was disappointment for another North Down establishment, Priory Integrated College, which has also spent years campaigning for new premises.

Like Central, Priory’s funding was yanked by the government earlier this year.

The college’s money still hasn’t been restored, however, with local politicians continuing to lobby education bosses over the issue.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Givan said that he’d moved Central’s construction project to the Education Department’s conventional major works programme, allowing it to go ahead despite the promised Fresh Start funding being pulled.

He added: “I also plan to launch a series of targeted smaller scale investment programmes to support and enhance the delivery of the curriculum in our schools.

“Potential schemes in this area will include specialist curriculum accommodation at post-primary [level]; outdoor play and PE in the primary phase and curriculum resources and equipment more widely.”

North Down MLA Stephen Dunne said he was delighted to see Central and Crawfordsburn get green lights.

“This is fantastic news for both of these excellent primary schools, and comes after years of incredibly hard work and campaigning by principals, staff, pupils and governors, who deserve a lot of credit for their resilience and efforts to get to this advanced stage,” he stated.

“I would like to commend the minister for recognising the needs within education in our local area, and all his efforts in ensuring that North Down gets its fair share.

“Bangor Central’s £10m new build will really allow the school to continue to flourish in the years ahead on a new site. Crawfordsburn will also benefit from a new build on Cootehall Road; this exciting news marks a very significant milestone for the school.”