Northern Ireland

Strule shared education campus to be open by 2020

John O'Dowd and Arvalee pupil Conor Canning in 2013 at the start of work on the shared campus
John O'Dowd and Arvalee pupil Conor Canning in 2013 at the start of work on the shared campus John O'Dowd and Arvalee pupil Conor Canning in 2013 at the start of work on the shared campus

A massive multi-million pound shared education campus will be fully operational within the next five years.

Education minister John O'Dowd is today in Omagh to see the progress on the flagship project, which will now be named Strule Shared Education Campus.

Schools in Omagh are re-locating to the former Lisanelly military barracks on the outskirts of the town in a £130 million redevelopment.

The co-location is intended to increase opportunities for collaboration and sharing of facilities.

Six schools are involved in the project: Arvalee School and Resource Centre, Loreto Grammar, Omagh High, Sacred Heart College, Omagh Academy and Christian Brothers Grammar.

Drumragh Integrated College had been invited to be part of the proposed shared campus at Lisanelly but instead opted for a building of its own.

Plans were first announced in April 2008. The campus is expected to be complete in 2020.

The first school on site will be Arvalee School and Resource Centre and work is well underway. With facilities for more than 175 pupils and staff, the new special school will have sensory rooms and hygiene and hoisting facilities, as well as bespoke teaching areas.

The original Arvalee school was destroyed by a fire in 2012. It will be joined by five other schools before the campus is complete. It will bring together around 4,000 pupils from local schools with representation from the controlled, maintained and voluntary sectors. Each school will retain their individual identity and ethos while maximising the opportunities provided through collaboration and sharing.

Mr O'Dowd will today meet pupils from Arvalee, who will join him in planting a tree beside their new school, due to open in September 2016.

"Since demolition work began in March, I am delighted to see the progress that has been made. Arvalee school is beginning to take shape and what were once virtual designs, are now a reality with new steel and brick work now rising up again," Mr O'Dowd said.

"I am particularly pleased that the first school on site is Arvalee, whose existing school building was badly damaged by fire. Arvalee pupils will have state of the art facilities to support their learning, as will the thousands set to join them on site in the years to come.

"The Strule Shared Education Campus provides the town of Omagh with a unique opportunity to lead the way in developing shared education facilities; facilities that can improve the educational outcomes for all the young people of the area. I believe it will serve as a model showing the way forward for other educational communities across the country. It is truly about putting pupils first and securing a shared educational, social and environmental future for our young people."