MLA bids to save Causeway School

Adam McConnell Harvey Hill and Andrew Brindley at the Causeway School Museum. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA
Adam McConnell Harvey Hill and Andrew Brindley at the Causeway School Museum. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/KEVIN MCAULEY PHOTOGRAPHY MULTIMEDIA
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The Causeway School Museum at the Giant’s Causeway is set to close at the end of June.

The school has been operating as a living history experience since 1987.

It was given in trust to the North Eastern Education and Library Board by the MacNaghten family to be used for educational purposes.

However, the Board said last week that it could not continue to run the service due to budget contraints.

In a bid to save the school, Independent MLA David McClarty will meet the NEELB’s Senior Education Officer, Ray Gilbert, later this week.

Speaking to The Coleraine Times on Friday, Mr McClarty said: “I am being told by Mr Gilbert that there has been some interest from other bodies about taking over the facility.,

“I have also been contacted through facebook and via email by a number of retired teachers who would give up their time for free to help out.

“There is a real depth of feeling in the community, there is a real desire to see the continuation of the Causeway School.

“It is used extensively, not just by schools here in Coleraine, but by schools across the NEELB area and even the WELB.

“We are being told that the net costs to keep the museum going are around £25,000, a pitance of the £3 million budget. Surely savings can be found somewhere.”

The MLA went on: “The whole experience of the Causeway School is one that children never forget, bringing a jam sandwich, dressing up - it is fantastic, and it would be a real shame to lose it.”

In a statement last week, Mr Gilbert said: “Regrettably, we can’t continue to operate as we have done because of budget constraints, but we are actively seeking to see if someone else can take on the building so it can remain open.

“We have a lease on the building until 2026 but there may be a way to extricate ourselves from that if a suitable alternative tenant can be found.”

Back in 2008, nearly £100,000 was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in order to increase public access to the museum and allow for greater community involvement.

Mr Gilbert said the grant was mostly spent on employing an additional member of staff to carry out research work.

The MacNaghten family gave the building to the board on the basis that it was used for educational purposes.

Sir Malcolm Macnaghten (12th Baronet), who currently spends much of his time in England, says it was his family’s desire that the building should remain in public use.

“The building is owned by a charitable trust, not directly by the family, but it is true to say that we would like it to continue to be used for educational purposes as set out in the original lease to the board,” he said.

FEATURE: Nichola Forgrave