Cortamlet PS Principal Heather McKenzie has described the installation of a new synthetic sports pitch as the ‘icing on the cake’ for the thriving South Armagh school.
New Regional Development Minister, Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy cut the ribbon to declare the impressive play facility officially open, at an event attended by a couple of Northern Ireland’s leading sports stars and other dignitaries.
It has been an extremely encouraging period for Cortamlet, near Newtownhamilton, with the official opening of the sports field coming on the back of a very positive Inspection report in which the school received a ringing endorsement.
Bucking the trend of falling enrolments elsewhere, Cortamlet’s pupil numbers have, incredibly, increased by more than 50 percent in the past six years – going up from some 60 to more than 90 children attending.
During that period, Cortamlet’s multi-purpose hall has been opened – a tremendous facility which has not only had a positive impact on the school but been well used by the local community.
However the size of the overall site was below Department of Education guidelines so the SELB purchased land to the rear of the school where the synthetic play area has been developed at a cost of £88,000.
The contract to install the play area together with associated paths, fencing, drainage and landscaping works was awarded to MP Coleman Ltd of Stewartstown with work taking some six months to complete.
Speakers at the official opening included Danny Kennedy, SELB Chief Executive Tony Murphy, former Ireland cricket captain Kyle McCallan and the Rev Ker Graham, Chair of Cortamlet’s Board of Governors.
Both Mr Kennedy and Mr Murphy paid tribute to Cortamlet as a success story, making mention of the impressive inspection report and increase in enrolment as indicators of the school’s state of health and good reputation.
Typifying the strong community spirit and local pride in the school, the event was attended by many dozens of pupils, ex-pupils and parents with a dads’ football match and children’s races being among the highlights.
A travelling menagerie of animals also captivated the younger children and Northern Ireland netball star Hannah Irvine, who will be playing in the World Cup in Singapore in a few weeks’ time, joined in a game to the delight of the little girls some of whom hopefully will be inspired to follow in her footsteps.
As PE teachers by profession, both she and Mr McCallan emphasised the importance of good facilities and space to play in helping encourage children to take an interest in sport and hone their skills.
That view was echoed by Principal Mrs McKenzie, who agreed it would now be “easier to stir the imagination of our pupils in relation to sport in the run-up to the Olympics now that we can have our own sports nights.
“These facilities will make a very significant contribution in enabling children to develop their physical abilities and also social skills as they will be able to interact freely and learn about teamwork as well as undertaking healthy activity and experiencing sport.
“When I arrived at Cortamlet, PE had to be done in a mobile and we had split playground times but the quality of these new facilities, indoors and outdoors, are second to none never mind the importance in itself of simply having the additional space.
“Especially with our numbers rising, this was the logical next step and the opening of the pitch is the icing on the cake of what has been happening at Cortamlet.
“Having these facilities will help us in our aim to develop the ‘whole child’ and I would like to thank the SELB for their support in these projects being brought to fruition,” she reflected.