‘Pupils will get the school they deserve’

Rossmar Special School, Limavady principal Brian McLaughlin.

Rossmar Special School, Limavady principal Brian McLaughlin.

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The Principal of Rossmar Special School in Limavady would be the first to agree a school is more than a building but, when it’s a case of dodging buckets in the hallways catching leaking rainwater, it’s a different case entirely, writes Sheena Jackson.

Brian McLaughlin said it’s 17 years since talk of a new purpose-built school which has 94 students, aged 3-19 years. Its catchment area draws pupils from Strathfoyle to Portstewart, and everywhere in between. School accommodation is in far from suitable conditions. The building is accessed on multiple levels, and has several sets of steep concrete steps, causing serious access issues for pupils using wheelchairs.

“It’s beyond use. On wet days there are buckets everywhere,” said Mr McLaughlin.

“Two years ago we invited the education minister to Rossmar so he could see for himself our contention the school building, as it was then and is now, is unfit for purpose. The minister agreed with us, that we are in dire need of a new school and, soon after, he announced that new school would be built,” said Mr McLaughlin.

“Since then we’ve been working with the WELB’s property services department to design a list of the required spaces for teaching, meals, therapies and treatments within a special school. We submitted that to the Department and recently found we had to submit an additional request for more space because of the increased demand we are having for post-16 placements within the school. We’ve submitted that and are awaiting a reply from the Department.”

Mr McLaughlin said the project is on schedule for 2015.

“Our kids will finally have the school and facilities they so much deserve and which will bring them up to par with the other school facilities here in this borough,” Mr McLaughlin added.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education confirmed work on the new build will begin on site in late autumn 2015, with completion in the spring of 2017.