Friday 24 May 2019

The history of Ballinode College

Ballinode Community College teaching staff in 1979.
Ballinode Community College teaching staff in 1979.

IN 1971, Ballinode College opened its doors for the first time at its new location. It had been located in Quay St. for over 60 years previously and was widely known as the Technical School. Here many generations of students who couldn't afford education in a secondary school achieved useful skills in various trades, in domestic sciences and in office and commercial skills. Many of the businessmen and entrepreneurs of those days (so idolised in Celtic Tiger era) honed their skills in the classrooms and workshops of the 'Old Tech'.

In the late 60's, big developments came about with the oncome of free education at Second Level and the growth of Third Level provision with the building of Regional Technical Colleges. Such a college was built in Sligo on a green-field site at Ballinode. At that time these Colleges were under the control of Vocational Education Committees. It was due to the foresight of the Town of Sligo VEC guided by the vision of the then Chief Executive Officer, Gus O'kennedy, that a new Technical School was built at Ballinode, on the same campus at the same time as the RTC.

In Sept. 1971, all students and staff were moved from Quay St. to the new school at Ballinode. Fears that the move would have an adverse effect on enrollments proved wrong and in the early years numbers increased rapidly. The students were now studying a full second level course, through Intermediate and up to Leaving Cert. For part of the 70's, numbers at the school were augmented by pupils from Grange and Coola Vocational Schools who transferred to Ballinode after Intercert because those schools were not allowed to continue to Leaving Cert at that time. This changed in the late 70's and student numbers stabilised from then on.

The first Headmaster at Ballinode was John Harrison who continued in charge for the next 25 years. As well as his work as Headmaster, his high profile in the town was helped by being a member of Sligo Corporation and Mayor of the town on two occasions. His lasting work for the school and for the town were duly recognised after his retirement when he was made Freeman of Sligo. He was succeeded as Headmaster at Ballinode by Padraig Keane and later by Justin Mccarthy. The present Head is Joe Carolan, a former President of the TUI, and a teacher for many years in Easkey and Coola Vocational Schools.

As the school entered the new millenium, it was decided to expand and develop a whole range of new Post Leaving Cert Courses in order to meet the ever-increasing need for third level and second chance education. A College of Further Education was established on the same campus as the second level school. New classrooms were built, old rooms were refurbished and the general ambience of the College was transformed to bring it up-todate for the challenges of the 21st century. As a result, students are thronging there in great numbers. There are now over 800 enrolled between second level and Post Leaving Cert Students.