The community at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School was delighted to welcome a special guest recently when the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Smith MP, visited the school.
Mr Smith was greeted on Friday, January 26, by Hazelwood IPS pupils and the principal, Patricia Murtagh, along with representatives of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and the Integrated Education Fund (IEF), who had jointly co-ordinated the visit.
After touring the school, which is situated against a “peace line” in North Belfast, the MP took time to chat to a group of pupils and to a past pupil of the school. He was then keen to talk to staff about the history of Hazelwood IPS and to hear about the importance of integrated education in the area.
Patricia Murtagh said: “We are honoured and delighted to welcome Owen Smith MP and show him the work we do to prepare our diverse pupils for life as future citizens of a prosperous and peaceful Northern Ireland. The children did us proud today. I think they showed that Hazelwood IPS
prepares children of all backgrounds, abilities and traditions for the next step in their education and also to play their part in building a united community.”
Hazelwood IPS opened in 1985, thanks to a determined campaign by 16 local parents. Owen Smith heard that all integrated schools in Northern Ireland have been established based on parental support.
Baroness May Blood, Campaign Chair of the IEF, said: “I was very glad to meet Owen Smith today and show him a great example of the excellent
work done in our integrated schools. As our education system faces massive budget problems, and the need for rationalisation becomes ever more apparent, Hazelwood IPS proves that uniting children of all faiths and none, of all backgrounds, in a single school, can be done successfully.”
Roisin Marshall, Chief Executive of NICIE, said she was delighted that Mr Smith had taken time out of his busy schedule to find out more about integrated education.