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Landmark day as foundation stone is laid at new school 18 June 2010

A RETIRED headteacher this afternoon laid the foundation stone for a new secondary school building, describing the occasion as ‘the final stage of a momentous journey’.

George Quayle, who retired last summer after 39 years in teaching, 24 of them at St Ninian’s High School, was invited by Minister for Education and Children Eddie Teare MHK to carry out the honour at the new St Ninian’s Lower School, being built at Bemahague, Onchan.

The £33.8 million school is rising rapidly from the ground on an 18 acre site bordering the TT course and is set to open in September 2012. It will accommodate the whole of Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9) from the current St Ninian’s High School – some 800 students – and will have capacity for 300 more as rolls grow. It will boast extensive sports facilities that will benefit the whole community.

Minister Teare and Mr Quayle

Minister Teare told guests the ceremony represented ‘an important step forward for the future of secondary education in the east of the Island’.

He said the new building would bring together pupils in Key Stage 3, who are currently divided between the Lower School (Park Road) and Upper School buildings, and would free up the current St Ninian’s High School for Key Stage 4 and sixth form (Years 10-13).

‘Chairman Mao was quoted as saying that the 1,000 mile march started with the first step and for this new development the first step was taken some 30 years ago following the completion of Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel,’ the Minister said.
‘Since that time, rising secondary numbers and expansion of facilities for post-16-year-olds has put further pressure on our schools and it became apparent that the facilities in the Douglas areas were inadequate and not conducive to modern teaching requirements.’

The Minister said work started at Bemahague in January 2009 and he was pleased that Auldyn Construction Ltd was on schedule to have the school ready to receive pupils in September 2012. He said he was delighted that Mr Quayle, who was headteacher at St Ninian’s for 15 years, had accepted his invitation to lay the foundation stone, adding: ‘In that position, he had a very significant input into the design of the school.

‘Interestingly, his letter of application for the post quotes Bede as describing St Ninian as a man who built while the world was falling. While St Ninian’s Lower School is not falling, our finances are under pressure and his comments were certainly very prophetic.’
Bemahague Stone

Laying the stone, Mr Quayle said he was ‘always convinced of the need for a replacement for the Lower School at Park Road that dates from 1894’, adding: ‘Many have been the times during that period when my hopes have been raised, only for them to be dashed. Reaching this point, therefore, seems to mark the final stage of a momentous journey for me.’

He paid tribute to the ‘huge collective support’ for the project, mentioning the ‘perseverance of successive Ministers of Education, Steve Rodan MHK and Anne Craine MHK, the commitment of officers of the Department of Education and Children, the professionalism of the design team and the dedication of the project management team’. He said: ‘It is also appropriate to commend the Treasury for having the courage to commit to such a huge capital project at such a difficult time.’

Mr Quayle said:

‘People matter most in any establishment, but I have no doubts that the environment in which people work makes a great difference to the quality of their interaction and achievement. I am therefore confident that this splendid building will provide a wonderfully stimulating place in which the students of St Ninian’s High School can learn and thrive. The high quality facilities on this magnificent site are clearly most appropriate in the education of our young people in the 21st century.
‘Exciting possibilities also exist for the people of Onchan and I hope this campus will provide a focal point in the local community in the broadest sense. The sports facilities will also be a tremendous asset to sportsmen and women across the Island.’

Among guests at the stone-laying ceremony were Treasury Minister Anne Craine MHK (who, as Education Minister, gained Tynwald’s support for the project); Department of Education and Children members Dudley Butt MLC and David Quirk MHK; MHKs for Onchan and Douglas; Mayor of Douglas Cllr Ritchie McNicholl; St Ninian’s headteacher Andy Fox; head boy Charlie Williams and head girl Michelle Alford; the school’s governors and representatives of the design consultants and contractors.

The future of the Park Road building is undecided.

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