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GALLERY: Balloughry Primary School going strong at 154

Ballougry PS may have just celebrated its 154th anniversary, but it is very much looking to the future.

Ballougry Primary School may have just celebrated its 154th anniversary, but it is very much looking to the future.
The picture-perfect old school house on the Mullenan Road close to the Irish border at Killea with its high ceilings and wooden  beams, has all the character you would expect from a building of its age.
History is very important to the school, which enjoys strong links with The Honourable The Irish Society which provides financial support and make a yearly visit.
Integrated in all but name, the school welcomes  children of all faiths from all across the city.
It also has cross-border links with schools in Ramelton and Rathmullan in Donegal.
As a teaching principal Dami O'Kane is in class with the P6 and 7 group three days a week.
"I really enjoy that aspect of my job but because of the size of the school you have a strong link with the children anyway," he explained.
"I know all their names and they all know me.
"There is a family feel because it is a smaller school and the amount of attention the children get from their teachers and classroom assistants is very high.
"We have access to all the same resources as larger schools too."
The school currently has 47 pupils and is growing in numbers.
"We have positive numbers starting in September which is great to see," said Mr O'Kane.
"And there are still some places available.
"We have the capacity to take children of any age and we can accomodate them at any time during the year.
"We have the resources, capacity and drive to want to improve our numbers and I am happy to talk to parents at any time and show them around.
"We can also facilitate the paperwork needed to transfer from another school.”
The school offers both a breakfast club and  an after school club to help working parents.
"Children can be dropped off at 8.15am and  the after school club stays open until five," continued Mr O'Kane.
"We facilitate their homework  too which is very important because children can get tired later on in the day.
"There is  also a full programme of activities in the club such as cooking and art and they  make full use of the garden at the front of the school too." 
Many of the pupils at  Ballougry PS have a family link to the school and children come from as far afield as Eglinton and Donemana to be educated there.
"We have children whose parents, grandparents and even great grandparents have been at the school.
"The parents have such fond memories of their time here that they want their children to enjoy the same type of education, no matter where they are living."
Mr O'Kane believes  that attending a small primary school equips children well for the transition to secondary school.
"In a small school setting you have to get on well with everyone and the children thrive on it.
"In bigger schools you can jump around friendship groups if things aren't working out, but here you just have to work it out.
"We were very happy with out recent transfer test results and our children will be moving on to every  post primary school in the city.”
Mr O'Kane concluded: "The feedback that we always get is that the children really do represent us well."
Among the school's best known past pupils is renowned actress, Amanda Burton, well known for her television roles, including Heather Black in the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside, Beth Glover in Peak Practice, Sam Ryan in the BBC crime drama series Silent Witness, Clare Blake in The Commander and Karen Fisher in Waterloo Road.
Her father was a headmaster at the school.

Photos: Tom Heaney (nwpresspics)

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