Work is set to begin later this year on a new ‘shared education campus’ for two high schools in Limavady.
The two schools — Limavady High School and St Mary’s High School, Limavady — sit right next to each other on Irish Green Street and have a history of partnership dating back to the 1970s.
The plan for a shared campus between the schools was first announced back in 2014 by the former education minister John O’Dowd under the Stormont executive’s Together: Building a United Community initiative.
Amongst the aims of the ‘shared education’ policy introduced at that time is to encourage reconciliation between children from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds through schools working closely together.
Former education minister Peter Weir said confirmation that construction work is to get under way in the coming months is “good news”.
He said: “As we move forward to try and solve some of the problems facing schools, there will be a need for a range of solutions. I think this is a good example of some of the things that could happen elsewhere in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “That sharing between the schools and between the pupils in a very positive environment is good news for the North West and good news for Limavady in particular.
“This is a very common sense solution for Limavady.”
The plans, put forward for planning approval at the Causeway Coast and Glens Council in April last year, include a new state-of the art centre for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a sixth form centre and a careers and media hub.
The principal of Limavady High School, Mr Darren Mornin, told BBC Radio Foyle that work should get under way later this year.
It is hoped planning permission will be granted before the end of the summer.
“We’re now moving onto stage four out of five — five being completion. Planning permission has been submitted to the Causeway Coast and Glens Council in April 2018 so we’re hoping that everybody is on site by December-January.”
He continued: “It’s been a long journey, a lot of grey hairs since the start of this, but it’s been a very, very valuable journey and a significant investment into the education of the young people in Limavady and the Roe Valley area.”
Referring to the two schools’ long history of collaboration, Mr Mornin added: “I think it’s fair to say Limavady have been trailblazers in shared education for over 40 years.”
St Mary’s principal, Mrs Rita Moore, said the close proximity of the two schools in the town isn’t the only reason for the success of their collaborative efforts over the years.
“I think it’s a mistake sometimes that people make to think that it works in Limavady because we sit side-by-side — it is people who work together. The fact that we’re geographically very close together isn’t necessarily the recipe for success.”
The school principal added: “The bottom line is the staff the students and the parents want it.”