Strabane's new Holy Cross College "should act as a beacon to the rest of the island", Education Minister Catriona Ruane said yesterday at the official opening of the flagship school.
Holy Cross College was created five years ago with the amalgamation of Strabane's three Catholic post-primary schools, the Convent Grammar School, St Colman's High School and Our Lady of Mercy High School.
The College had been operating across the three sites until its 29m state-of-the-art new building opened in September, catering for 1,400 pupils.
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Holy Cross is a co-ed bilateral college, which means it offers grammar status education within an all-ability school.
It is regarded as a blueprint for the future of education in Northern Ireland because it caters for both academic and vocational paths.
Speaking at the official opening yesterday, the Education Minister, Mrs Ruane said: "This school should act as a beacon to the rest of the island as to what can be achieved when schools in an area come together for the benefit of all children.
"Holy Cross is the embodiment of my vision for education. It is an all-ability school with academic bands where all pupils' needs are met on one campus.
"This is a wonderful school with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. In the future the children and young people from West Tyrone will be served by a school estate fit for the 21st century."
Referring to the amalgamation, the minister said: "This school demonstrates what can be achieved when three schools, instead of each competing for new buildings and facilities, come together. The school has been a long time in development and has had many difficulties placed in its way but it has finally arrived to serve the needs of the community.
"Congratulations to the Principals, the Trustees and the community whose vision and determination has made this project possible," she said.
Sean Bradley, Principal of Holy Cross, said the school was "committed to offering students, parents and the local community access to a progressive, flexible and motivating curriculum in a modern and stimulating environment."
Speaking on behalf of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, Chief Executive, Donal Flanagan described Holy Cross College as "a perfect example of our commitment to high quality education provision in a school which can meet the needs of students with a full range of abilities".