Ballycastle could have its own Shared Education Campus facilities within the next four years.
One of only three sets of schools selected, Ballycastle High and Cross and Passion College were chosen by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland for the shared campuses which will involve two new core school buildings, shared practical subject accommodation as well as shared outdoor and indoor sports facilities.
During a recent Leisure and Amenities meeting, principals Barbara Ward of Cross and Passion and Ian Williamson of Ballycastle High gave a presentation outlining the current shared education arrangements and the shared campus plans. Mrs Ward explained that by working together, both schools were able to offer greatly enhanced provision for the pupils and that shared education within Ballycastle was a ‘daily partnership’. Mr Williamson continued: “Pupils in both schools benefit from a broad range of curricular choice allowing them to make the most of talents and all abilities. Staff also benefit from mutually supportive networks.” Mr Williamson also highlighted that the facilities would “offer wider community involvement with leisure and sports facilities to be provided.” The plans include a full size grass GAA pitch with floodlighting, full size 3G soccer/multipurpose pitch, full size 2G hockey pitch, changing room pavilion, sports hall, gymnasium, fitness suite and multi-purpose halls.
Following the presentation, councillors praised the vision, however expressed concern over its certainty. In response, Mr Williamson explained: “The whole process is a work in progress. At the minute the plans and funding are following protocol and procedure.” However he assured members that there was a strong commitment from all concerned to move the project on and minimise any delays. Agreeing Mrs Ward added: “The timeline involves hopefully appointing a design team early 2017, then getting a contractor appointed. If everything goes to plan we are hoping that Year 8 and 9’s will be in the new school before they leave. We are confident that, subject to a successful economic appraisal, the funding is there and the plans will go ahead. We wouldn’t get this far if it wasn’t.” Concluding Director of Leisure and Development Committee, Richard Baker questioned councillors over Council involvement in the facilities asking if they wanted “direct involvement” or to allow the school to have “ownership from 9am to 5pm, evenings and weekends”. He added: “Sheskburn is a poor facility and the community needs somewhere.”
Cross and Passion and Ballycastle High Schools will continue to retain their own ethos, identity and governance arrangements as part of the Shared Education arrangements.
Highlighted during a Council presentation, Mrs Ward also stated that both schools “will have a bright future”. Principals Mrs Ward and Mr Williamson also explained that the Moyle Road schools had an enrolment of 737 in Cross and Passion and 417 in Ballycastle High, of which roughly 300 pupils share classes each week with 180 going from Cross and Passion and 120 from Ballycastle High. Mr Williamson continued: “This partnership provides a wide range of subjects at Key Stage 4 and 5 allowing both schools to meet the Entitlement Framework of 24 subjects at GCSE and 27 at A level.”
Not only sharing classes, both schools also have joint sports teams and coaching, combined fund-raising and social activities and even co-ordinate parents afternoons together.