The Chief Executive of the Education Authority, Gavin Boyd, praised the enthusiasm and talent of pupils during the official opening ceremony of the new £4m extension and refurbishment project at Willowbridge School, Enniskillen.
The project funded through the Department of Education’s School Enhancement Programme, provided Willowbridge School with a single building providing state of the art accommodation for 130 pupils from 3-19 years with a range of complex special educational needs.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Mr Boyd said, it gave him great pleasure to be present for such an important occasion and told assembled guests:
“It is obvious that every effort is made at Willowbridge School to ensure that children and young people’s full learning potential is achieved in a happy, relaxed and stimulating environment for learning and teaching for nursery, primary, post primary and post 16 pupils.”
He continued: “Part of the EA’s vision for education is to given our children and young people the best start in life in a fit for purpose, modern schools estate capable of meeting the ever-changing needs of our children and young people. I believe we have achieved that vision today as we look around this impressive school.”
The new extension created new classrooms for art, home economics and general studies along with a new sixth form, dining room, staff room and general offices.
In her welcoming address, Vice Principal Willowbridge School, Bernie Cornyn, referred to the positive impact the new school has had on the pupils, staff and the entire community;
"Today is a great day of celebration for the community of Fermanagh and all those connected with Willowbridge School. The new extension has provided the students of the county with the most modern facilities and technological benefits.”
She added: “In this rapidly changing world for staff and pupils, the importance of modern teaching accommodation cannot be overstated. If we are to lift teachers and students aspirations, we must lift horizons with the types of surroundings and equipment provided for learning.
To prepare for a modern world we need to provide education in a modern setting with all the technological benefits this can provide. This wonderful new school is built to meet the needs of pupils, staff and the local community for the 21st century."
Pupils showcased their talents through music and dance to celebrate the special occasion. Invited guest Stephanie Maguire Fermanagh Rose joined in the celebrations with a surprise jive with Mr Boyd; pupils eagerly joined in the fun to a rapturous applause from parents and guests.
Chairperson of the Board of Governors, Mr Tom Palmer, looked back at the history of the school, he said:
"We have come on a long journey since our first class in St Macartan’s Cathedral Hall in 1961; it has been fascinating to see all the changes the school has undergone over the years including the amalgamation of Elmbrook School and Erne School to Willowbridge School in September 2012.
The sod-cutting ceremony took place April 2015 to begin construction works with pupils moving to the new extension in February 2017. The transformation from two buildings to one site has provided a state of the art accommodation which will make a real difference to the lives of all our children and young people for many more generations to come.”