Liam Neeson & Tim McGarry hail ‘Fresh Start’ for Ballymena’s Braidside Integrated Primary School
A new state of the art building for Braidside Integrated Primary and Nursery School in Ballymena officially opened today, Wednesday 24 November.
The £7 million project, funded through Fresh Start money, provides a 14 classroom school with a single nursery unit for 300 pupils.
While local legend Liam Neeson recorded a message of support for the event, comedian and broadcaster Tim McGarry helped pupils, staff and governors unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of their new multi-million pound primary and nursery school.
Also in attendance were Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen and integrated education champion, Baroness May Blood.
Ballymena born actor and Hollywood star, Liam Neeson, sent the following special message for the pupils and parents:
“I want to pay tribute to those founding parents who had the vision, courage and determination to establish Ballymena’s first ever integrated primary school.
“And with such a superb new school with first class facilities I know Braidside’s future is going to be even brighter.
“I am so proud of you all for bringing integrated education to my home town of Ballymena and for helping to make it an even better place for everyone.”
Tim McGarry, local broadcaster and comedian, commented:
“It is a real privilege to be able to help celebrate the opening of Braidside’s wonderful new school.
“For many years I have been delighted to support the cause of integrated education and help out with many fundraising and profile raising events.
“Today is what it is all about – enabling children to be able to learn and play together irrespective of their religious and cultural backgrounds, and to form lasting friendships, which hopefully they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
The Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen said:
“This is a significant day for the Braidside pupils, parents, staff and wider community in Ballymena.
“The £7million investment in the new accommodation provides Braidside Integrated with a state of the art school for the current pupils and also future generations.
“I would like to commend the staff, pupils and parents for their perseverance and patience over the last few years, as the project team has taken the work through from design to planning and construction.
“I hope these new, modern facilities will match the school’s collective enthusiasm and passion for learning and teaching and will help the school advance further on its education journey.”
Construction work on the new school began in April 2018 with the school opening in late August 2020.
Julie McAuley, Principal of Braidside IPS, said:
“I am so proud to lead this brilliant school and want to recognise all the founding parents and staff who had the vision and commitment to establish Braidside. It has been a taken a long time to get the facilities the children and staffdeserves but we got there in the end thanks to the efforts of many people.
“I want to thank Glasgiven Contracts Ltd (Contractor), Harte Demolition and White Young Green (Project Manager) for all their hard work.
“Moreover, without the support of organisations like the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, the Integrated Education Fund and the Department of Education, we would no doubt still be in mobile classrooms. I also want to thank the Treasury for making integrated education an integral part of Fresh Start Agreement and for making our dreams come true.”
Braidside Integrated Primary School opened in 1989 and was established by parents.
Its original location was the former shirt factory on the Wakehurst Road which they rented.
The new state of the art school replaces the temporary classrooms the school has had to endure since 1992, when it moved to its permanent site on Fry’s Road.
Braidside is the only integrated primary school in Ballymena and has grown to over 300 pupils. The new school has been funded by the UK Treasury following capital support for integrated education contained within the Fresh Start Agreement of 2015.