A massive education facility, bringing together post-primary schools from different sectors, is to be built on the site of a former military barracks in Omagh, Co Tyrone. It is expected that six schools will relocate.
The town’s only integrated post-primary school, Drumragh College, moved into its own
£22.5 million building recently, however. Drumragh is oversubscribed and wants to increase its pupil numbers by 30 per cent to meet parental demand.
An official request to increase numbers has been rejected by the North’s education minister John O’Dowd – a decision the school says it disagrees with fundamentally. Principal Nigel Frith says one of the reasons for the minister’s rejection is that Drumragh only received its new building in 2009. Before having new accommodation built, the school spent 10 years in a former psychiatric hospital.
Mr Frith says the school had no real choice but to accept the offer of a new build when it was presented given that pupils were being taught in “old, unsuitable, potentially unsafe accommodation”.
He is now preparing a fresh proposal for expansion.
“This matter is not over. Currently Drumragh is being told it cannot expand to meet parental preference on its current site, nor will it be considered for the Lisanelly shared educational campus,” Mr Frith said. “One or both of these short-sighted views needs to be reversed, and the college will be working hard to achieve this. Will the Lisanelly campus ultimately become integrated or even shared in the deeper sense; time will tell. Drumragh Integrated College has so far effectively been barred from Lisanelly and is being told it cannot expand, but we will not give up.”
The Department of Education says Drumragh initially rejected participation in the Lisanelly development.
The school principal, however, has since expressed interest, through correspondence and during meetings with the minister, in relocating to the Lisanelly site.
“These approaches were rejected, primarily on the basis that Drumragh had benefited from a very significant capital investment of £22.5 million to provide a brand new school building,” a spokesman said.