Bell tolls on Cork's northside as two primary schools merge

Strawberry Hill National School will open in September, with the amalgamation of Sunday’s Well Boys National School and Sunday’s Well Girls
Bell tolls on Cork's northside as two primary schools merge

Fifth class pupil Bartosz Lenartowicz rings the bell in the schoolyard marking the end of an era at Sunday's Well BNS. Pictures: Larry Cummins

As one door closes, another opens, and a new era for education begins for students in Cork City.

Strawberry Hill National School will open at the beginning of September, with the amalgamation of Sunday’s Well Boys National School (BNS) and Sunday’s Well Girls to form one co-ed school.

Sunday’s Well BNS marked its closing with an outdoor ceremony, bringing to an end a long chapter of its history which began in 1835.

“We’re looking forward to September with enthusiasm and in anticipation of what we can do to make it an even better learning organisation for the community,” said Martina Barry, principal.

“We’re all full of hope, change is always good." 

 Junior infant pupils listen to principal Martina Barry addressing the school community.
Junior infant pupils listen to principal Martina Barry addressing the school community.

The school was first opened where the old community centre in Strawberry Hill was based. 

“The boys were downstairs and the girls were upstairs. The city jail was being built and there was lots of stone left over. 

"They offered the stone for free to anyone who would take it, and so they built the school from that stone. At one time it was known as the ‘jail school’ because of that.” 

In 1978, the school moved to its current base. The boys' school is located on one side of the site, the girls on the other, connected by a multi-purpose hall.

When it comes to amalgamation in September, we are all staying where we are,” Ms Barry said. 

“What we are probably going to do next year is have a junior end and a senior end.” 

Some classes when they return in September will be mixed, but a decision on what year groups this will apply to has yet to be made. 

“Some schools decide to mix the whole way up and others decide to start at junior infants and let it work its way up, but that would take eight years. 

"We were hoping to mix as quickly as we could. The decision hasn’t been totally finalised yet but we will be mixed in the majority of classes.

 Three generations: Senior infant pupil Frankie Peyton with his dad Jamie and grandad Cliff, who are both past pupils of the school.
Three generations: Senior infant pupil Frankie Peyton with his dad Jamie and grandad Cliff, who are both past pupils of the school.

Students have had a mixed reaction to the move, but mainly are excited. “We’ve all been building for this for some time. We’re all excited, and looking forward to it. It’s a new era.”

The amalgamation process was quite lengthy, agreed upon three years ago, and negotiated and planned through a steering committee set up by the school’s shared dioceses. Enrollment is expected to increase. 

"Being co-ed appeals to families and there are new developments as well in the local area," Ms Barry said. 

"Sunday's Well BNS has also had a good reputation in terms of the experiences offered to the boys, whether it be music or sport. We will be bringing that with us when we amalgamate with the girls' school. 

"All the positives from both sides will be brought into the new school."

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