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Sod-cutting ceremony marks beginning of a ‘bright new era’ for Omagh Integrated PS

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Sod-cutting ceremony marks beginning of a ‘bright new era’ for Omagh Integrated PS thumbnailBaroness May Blood, right, campaign chairperson of the Integrated Education Fund, pictured with Pauline McKenna, left, chairperson of the board of governors, and Siobhan Taggart, acting principal

BARONESS May Blood was joined by a high-flying Irish American VIP at the sod-cutting ceremony at the site of the future Omagh Integrated Primary School and Children's Centre on Friday.

In September 1990, a group of pioneering parents opened Omagh Integrated Primary School. Housed in three mobile classrooms, the school initially enrolled 32 pupils across Years one to seven with a further 24 children in a nursery class.

From that day the school has gone from strength-to-strength, despite continuing to struggle with inadequate accommodation. In May 1999 the school gained an exemplary Inspection Report and in January 2000 it became the first primary school in NI to be awarded a Government Charter Mark.

The school now has an enrolment of more than 300 pupils.

Everyone within the school over the past 25 years has worked tirelessly to embed each new educational initiative, expand the school's provision and enhance the every day experiences of pupils within an integrated system which promotes dignity and respect for all, regardless of race, religion, culture or background.

John Fitzpatrick, hotelier and chair of the Ireland Funds, flew in last Friday especially to join Baroness Blood, who is campaign chairperson of the Integrated Education Fund. The building project, which has been supported by the Department of Education and charitable donations, will see the school community move into a multi-million pound purpose-built facility next year, after more than a quarter of a century in mobile classrooms.

Local firm, Woodvale Construction, was awarded the contract in December 2016, securing jobs in the local community. They began their work on Monday, January 9, to the excitement of the whole school community.

The buildings will comprise not only a 14-classroom school with a resource area, sports hall, catering and dining facilities and staff areas, but also a nursery school and a children's centre. The children's centre will accommodate a voluntary pre-school playgroup as well as a breakfast club and after-school service, and will be provided thanks to donations through the IEF and from the Eithne and Paddy Fitzpatrick Memorial Fund, established in memory of John Fitzpatrick's parents. The primary school and nursery buildings are funded by the Department of Education.

Acting principal, Siobhán Taggart, was accompanied by pupils, parents, staff and governors (past and present) to welcome the special visitors and thank them for their help in making their plans for a new build become reality.

Baroness May Blood told them she was delighted to be at the spot where one day soon they would see the brand new Omagh Integrated Primary School and Children's Centre.

"The friends of the IEF, including John Fitzpatrick and the Ireland Funds, make a real difference to communities who are seeking integrated education for their children and I'm proud to be here today to officially mark the beginning of a project which has benefitted from their generosity.

"It's very exciting to imagine what the new buildings and play areas will look like, built next to Drumragh Integrated College and creating a full integrated education campus for Omagh," she said.

Ms Taggart added: "We are so pleased to welcome May and John to help us celebrate the start of a bright new era for Omagh IPS and the local community. The school has grown and flourished in spite of spending decades in our inadequate "temporary" accommodation and we are all delighted that the buildings our children deserveare at last in the pipeline.

"We are very grateful to everyone whose help and generosity have brought us to this stage and it's also right to pay tribute to all those parents, staff, pupils and supporters over the years who have been committed to making Omagh IPS the successful, popular school it has become."

The state-of-the-art primary school, nursery and children's centre will take shape next to Drumragh IC, creating an integrated campus where children of all traditions, faiths and backgrounds can learn, play and grow together from pre-school years onwards.

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