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School History

Why was Lagan College founded?
Lagan College was founded in 1981 as a religious response to the challenge of community conflict and a religiously divided school system in Northern Ireland. Since 1974 the All Children together Movement (ACT) had been lobbying the Churches and the Government to take the initiative in educating Protestant and Catholic children together. Religious segregation of school children was almost complete. Practically all Catholic children attended Catholic schools. State schools were de facto Protestant. ACT argued that one of the most powerful responses which Christians could give to the charge that the fighting was about religion would be for Protestants and Catholics to educate their children together in the same schools.

By 1981 there had been virtually no initiatives from either the Churches or government in the direction of integration at school level. A small group of parents with children at the age of transfer from primary to secondary school decided to take the initiative. With the support of ACT they called a public meeting in February 1981 and founded a new school in September. They called the new school Lagan College after the river which flows through Belfast. It opened in temporary premises at Ardnavally Activity Centre beside the river Lagan in South Belfast, thanks to the hospitality of the Scout Movement.

On the first day there were 28 pupils, the Principal, Mrs. Sheila Greenfield, one full-time teacher and five part-time teachers. The college became homeless that Christmas but was able to move in time for the start of the Easter term to a redundant primary school at Castlereagh on a hill-top overlooking Belfast from the South-east for September.

How was the college developed?

From September until Hallowe’en in 1983/4 the new first year pupils, thanks to the hospitality of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, were taught in the Manor House at Cultra until a new building was ready. For the first three years, the College, which aimed to serve the whole community – rich and poor alike – received no Government funding. Parents of pupils contributed what they could afford towards the costs.


Over £500,000 had to be raised, so an appeal for benefactions by private individuals and charitable trusts locally and around the world was launched to bring the College to the point where it could develop into an economically viable institution. Maintained status was granted in 1984. This meant 100% of running costs were met by the Department of Education and the College governors were responsible for 15% of capital expenditure.

From 1985 to 1987, again because of accommodation difficulties, the 98 new First Year pupils were taught several miles away from Castlereagh in the Balmoral area of South Belfast in premises shared with the newly opened Forge Integrated Primary School. A permanent home for the College was eventually found not far from Castlereagh at Lisnabreeny, this time thanks to the hospitality of the National trust. The first temporary buildings were opened at Lisnabreeny in September 1987. The travelling between the two, continued until September 1991 when the first phase of the permanent school building was opened.

Following new legislation in 1989, and concerned wih the development of integrated education, the then Minister, Dr Brian Mawhinney, confirmed Lagan College as a Grant-Maintained Integrated School in 1991. This means that 100% of the costs, recurrent and capital, are now funded directly by the Department of Education for Northern Ireland.


In 2003 Lagan College sought to be considered for a new build programme under the Department of Education’s Private Finance initiative. After many years in the planning, Education Minister Catriona Ruane confirmed that permission had been granted on 14th April 2011 to complete the permanent buildings on the Lisnabreeny site.

On 17th June 2013 phase one commencement was completed providing the College with state of the art facilities fit for the 21st Century and comprising of many fabulous features. The students’ learning potential will no doubt be enhanced by signature spaces that boast of a new library, with panoramic views of the countryside, an Internet cafe, 11 E-learning suites, a new Music building, 2 Dance/ Drama studios, a well resourced Sixth Form study space and modern well equipped general classrooms.

The build programme also enabled the College to fully refurbish the existing Technology and Breeny main buildings. The school is now a complete circle- inclusive of all and providing a warm, safe and pleasant learning environment for staff and students

Special features include a link bridge between new and existing, signature spaces, stained glass windows, mosaic viewing gallery, art work all designed by students and staff.

The vision of the founding parents and students has been finally been realised with a permanent Lagan College for many generations to come. At the heart of the school is the social heart inclusive of the stunning library and Chaplaincy led by our joint Chaplains representing the two major faith traditions.

Today Lagan College is a beacon of hope to others showcasing that the integration of young people does work and all children can play, learn and grow together. Lagan College continues to be a welcoming school of all children, respecting the rights of individuals to be themselves and foster a sense of pride, along with cultural, social, political and religious individuality and our ability to be respectful, show fairness, serve others, and reconcile our differences under one roof.

Over 1260 students attend the College, with 135 staff members and a total of 1000 families all committed to making a difference in N Ireland and building peace.

Lagan College , 44 Manse Road, Belfast BT8 6SA - t:028 90401810 f:028 9070 3269

The Art and ICT Departments at Lagan College have enjoyed making this site since 2001

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