Families welcome Rossmar new build as ‘long overdue’

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Families of students at Rossmar Special School in Limavady say news of £6.4 million for a new build is “long overdue” and will be “life changing” for pupils and staff.

Education Minister John O’Dowd announced the news on Monday, bringing delight and relief to staff, students and parents.

Rossmar, located at Greystone Road in Limavady, is an amalgamation of the former Glasvey School in Ballykelly and Limegrove School. Plans were put forward for a new build eight years ago, but were scrapped. Since then the school has been forced to accommodate 85 pupils in far from suitable conditions, including leaky roofs, and with serious access issues for pupils using wheelchairs.

Principal Brian McLaughlin told the ‘Journal’ earlier this week that a new build would be life changing for staff and pupils and parents agree.

As parents gathered on Tuesday for a school awards event, they told the ‘Journal’ what a new school would mean for their children.

“I cried all day when I heard the news,” said Tammy Cartin, whose 10-year-old son Michael goes to Rossmar.

“I think it’s brilliant news, just fantastic. The education here is the best and I have seen such a difference in Michael being here. It will make a huge difference for the staff, who are excellent,” said the Feeny woman. “It also means, importantly, standards will be brought up to the appropriate levels.”

William Matthews’ son, Aston, aged 5, is a pupil at Rossmar.

“Staff, headed by Brian McLaughlin have done the best they can here and it’s absolutely brilliant news they will get a new facility. I agree it will be life changing as it will bring the school into line with every other school, as it should be. When we heard the news we were relieved.”

The Limavady man added: “The staff at Rossmar do a tremendous job and this will make things easier for them, and parents.”

Dromore woman Rhonah Clements was a pupil of the school back when it was Greystone Hall. Her son, Mark, aged 14, is a pupil at Rossmar and she is delighted to know pupils and staff will get funding for a new build.

“It’s long overdue, but it’s fantastic for everyone,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it to be honest. The teachers and staff here do brilliant work and I think this should have happened a long time ago. In particular, I’d like to thank the principal, Brian McLaughlin. He is fantastic.”

Rossmar is one of 18 schools across the North that will receive new facilities as part of a £173 million investment in the schools estate.

Minister O’Dowd said: “These schools come from right across the north and were identified as the highest priority projects following a rigorous selection process.

“Furthermore, I am particularly aware of the need to ensure we support the most vulnerable in our education system.

“No-one visiting our special schools could remain unmoved by the needs of the children attending these facilities. I would dearly like to be able to advance every deserving case immediately. “However, within the limits of the funding available to me, I am determined that we make progress with a number of cases at this time.”