The case for a new school building at Woodburn Primary has been highlighted during a visit from Education Minister John O’Dowd.
Mr O’Dowd visited the rural primary, which has previously been identified as ‘high priority’ for redevelopment by the North Eastern Education and Library Board, last Thursday morning.
The “positive” visit has led to renewed hopes that the school will be included in this year’s round of capital funding, due to be announced next month.
Woodburn principal Melanie Craig said: “It was a very positive visit and the Minister assured us he would give the school his full support.
“There was originally a proposal that the school be extended [under the Schools Enhancement Programme] but the Minister could see that the children and staff would benefit most from an entirely new build.
“Land was purchased in 2006 at the back of the school so that’s ready to go; all we need is the funding through the Schools Capital Build programme so we’re hoping that we’ll be included when that is announced.”
Councillor Andrew Wilson, a member of the school’s Board of Governors, said Woodburn’s needs were “well-known” among the local community.
“During the visit Mr O’Dowd was able to see the needs of the school for himself; it is now clear that the Minister agrees with the school, Parent Teacher Association and Board of Governors that funding is required for a new Woodburn Primary School,” he added.
“A new build would also go some way to alleviating localised traffic issues, which are currently a problem on the Woodburn Road.
“It would complement the recent funding announcement that we secured from DRD for the £45,000 crossing with lights at Gault’s Corner.
“We should be seeking every opportunity to invest in our school infrastructure and as a result, in our children.
“The school is vital for the urban-rural Woodburn area and I firmly believe that every one of the 193 pupils at the school deserves modern facilities in order to fulfil their maximum educational potential.”
However, a statement from the Minister cautioned that any funding announcement would be dependent on a “detailed assessment”.
“Woodburn Primary School has been delivering quality education to children in this part of the Carrick area for well over 100 years and is very much part of the local landscape and community,” Mr O’Dowd said. “While I acknowledge that the North Eastern Education and Library Board in December 2013 identified Woodburn PS in a list of priority capital projects, I am not currently in a position to confirm when or if any such project will proceed. Further capital announcements will be dependent on a detailed assessment of priorities across the schools estate in the north, balanced against the capital funding available.”