At last! Work to begin on new school building

PUPILS - and staff - were jumping for joy yesterday (Monday) after funding approval was finally given for Dromore Central Primary School’s long-awaited new £11.4 million building.

The Dromore school was one of 18 across Northern Ireland given the go-ahead for new facilities by Education Minister John O’Dowd as part of a £173 million investment in school estates.

Mr Jim Cochrane, principal of Dromore Central Primary, expressed his “absolute delight” on Monday morning and said he was “over-the-moon” that the new school - which has been in the planning for 16 years - was finally getting the funding green-light.

“This means that our new school on the Ballynahinch Road will become a reality,” said Mr Cochrane. “The site was first identified and planning approval given 16 years ago, then we had funding approved in 2004, but due to various difficulties it has taken another eight years to bring the project to the final stage.

“Everyone is delighted as we have been coping with cramped and poor conditions in our current Banbridge Road premises for too long and children are currently being taught in 14 mobile classrooms.”

The new building will cater for an increased enrolment of 700 pupils and comprise 28 state-of-the-art classrooms, extended play space, car parking and an assembly hall double the size of the current facility.

“New toilets will also be a luxury,” added Mr Cochrane, “as the facilities we have now date back to 1938 and are absolutely atrocious.”

The principal now expects the first sod to be cut sometime during spring next year, heralding the possibility that pupils and staff can move into the modern new building either September 2014 or January 2015.

Mr Cochrane paid tribute to the support he had been given by the Southern Education and Library Board and he also thanked the school’s board of governors for “all their support and drive”.

Lagan Valley MLA Jeffrey Donaldson, who has been a strong supporter of the campaign, also expressed his delight at yesterday’s announcement.

“I am delighted with the news that the Department of Education has approved funding for the new primary school building that will accommodate Dromore Central Primary School,” said Mr Donaldson. “I would like to congratulate Mr Cochrane and his team for working so hard to turn this into reality and I also commend the SELB which has been very supportive and gave this project top priority.”