Derry's first integrated primary school is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
When Oakgrove Integrated Primary School opened its doors for the first time back on Monday, September 4, 1991, it was a momentous occasion for the staff, parents and families of the 68 pupils who put their faith in change by sending their children to the city’s first integrated primary school- a pioneering breakthrough in education locally.
The journey to integrated education started at a summer barbecue in August 1990, when a group of parents discussed their dream to offer the next generation of children integration not segregation.
They wanted their children to play, learn and grow together with children from different religions, faiths, backgrounds and abilities.
As the drive for integrated education gained momentum, more parents joined the group and the fundraising drive began in earnest with meetings at Lisnagelvin Leisure centre, Templemore, the Everglades Hotel and karaoke nights at Prehen Golf Club.
With the support of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and Foyle Trust for Integration (FTIE), Oakgrove Integrated Primary School’s new premises were secured through Derry City Council in the old Housing Executive offices at Rectory Field on Limavady Road.
Dr Anne Murray was the school’s founding principal.
In the first year, the school doubled in size and over the next four years surpassed its original target to become a two form entry primary school catering for 400 children.
Oakgrove Integrated Primary School achieved the ‘European Foundation for Quality Model Excellence Award’ in 2010 and was the first school in Northern Ireland to achieve Level 2 of the ‘UNICEF, Rights Respecting School Award’ in 2011.
The most recent award presented to the school was the prestigious ‘Excellence in Integrated Education Award’ in 2014.
In June 1999, Oakgrove Integrated Primary School moved into its current building and the nursery unit was added two years later.
The nursery caters for 52 children on a part-time basis each year.
After her retirement, Dr Murray’s integrated education legacy continued on in her successor, Mrs Larraine Coulter.
She was later succeeded by current principal, Mrs Ashley Donaghey, who said: “The mission statement of the school is Celebrating Diversity – Learning Together for Life.
“Oakgrove continues to provide a vibrant, happy, and successful community of people drawn from all parts of our divided society.
“In celebrating 25 years of integrated education in Derry-Londonderry we are also celebrating mutual understanding and embracing diversity, both of which are paramount for every child growing up in N. Ireland.”
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