Magherafelt’s Spires Integrated Primary School is this week marking its 20th anniversary, beginning with a celebratory cake and fun activities for the children.
The school on the Moneymore Road owes its birth to the hopes and dedication of local parents and grandparents keen to see integrated education in the town.
People, who differed greatly in background, shared a common desire - to see children from different cultural and religious backgrounds educated together in an environment in which the traditions of all are valued equally.
Its name derives from the three church spires which are evident on the town’s sky line.
With the support of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and through public meetings a steering group, consisting of local parents, grandparents and others was formed in 1997.
From then until September 1999, the steering group, under the leadership of Nigel Spiers, engaged in numerous activities to encourage and promote the establishment of an integrated school in Magherafelt.
This included organising public meetings, giving out leaflets in the local shopping centre, fund raising events and developing a school prospectus. It organised family fun days to promote the school and to bring families together who had never met before.
Mrs Joan Bell, principal commented: “Our current school community owes a great deal to the work completed by the steering group and the courage shown by the first parents of Spires IPS who took a leap of faith by sending their child to this new school.”
Indeed, by August 1999, the site had not yet been prepared and sheep grazed happily in the field where the school was to be situated. A few busy weeks ensued and on 1 st September 1999, Spires IPS opened in temporary mobile huts, catering for 58 children in P1- P4, with Mr Paul Trainor as its first principal.
The staff and pupils moved into purpose built accommodation in January 2000 and now have an enrolment of over 200 pupils.