To school through the fields

By Ciara Quinn

NESTLED on the Glenavy Road on the outer, outer limits of West Belfast sits a picturesque little primary school.

Ballymacward PS is a modern, high-performing school with a pupil-teacher ratio that large city schools can only dream of, and it’s set amidst some of the North’s most breathtaking rural scenery.

“We are only seven minutes’ drive away from the gates of St Joseph’s Church at Hannahstown and have been a integral part of the teaching community for the past ten years, yet a lot of parents still don’t know where we are,” explained Ballymacward Interim Principal Brendan Sadlier.

Brendan points out that the school is very close to the Ballymac, with which West Belfast folk are very familiar. Records show that the school dates back to 1859.

“We have such a beautiful, modern school here, but we go back a long while and there has long been a school on the site,” Brendan tells me. “We have 60 pupils, but we could have 145 here and we are always trying to build on our numbers. We are driving very hard to let people know about our school and its successes.

“We have 17 pupils in our Primary Six and Seven classes. This year we have introduced a Breakfast and Waiting Club where parents can come and pick up their children. Our parents are wonderful and extremely supportive of these initiatives with many volunteering to come in and help.”

Brendan said transport to and from the school is an old problem that has eased with the changing times.

“We used to get free transport for the pupils to and from the school. It was stopped, but families are more mobile now and we are en route for parents coming into Belfast from Crumlin, Glenavy and Lisburn, and of course we are just that seven minutes from Hannahstown and the Glen Road. We have close links to the GAA in the area, especially the Lamh Dhearg, which is our local club.

“We’ve a packed 2013 ahead, working with Lisburn Council to launch Lisburn European City of Sport, we have a Formula One project and a dance club about to get up and running with one of our teachers, Sarah Martin, being a fully qualified dance instructor. We are lucky to have such a beautiful set-up here. Our children get a lot of attention and we are always looking to roll out the next big idea. We pride ourselves on the fact that  while Ballymacward Primary may be a small school, we have big ambition.”

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