Ballykeigle was a one-storey primary school with three classrooms, two bathrooms for pupils, one bathroom for teachers, a canteen and a server room. It extended onto 0.9 acres and outside, there was a large playground which was encompassed with miles of fields. The playground had hopscotch and even a climbing frame. There was a small basement area which was used for storage.
In 2011, it was announced that Ballykeigle Primary School, along with three other primary schools, were being closed down after it was determined they were unviable in terms of pupil numbers. Ballykeigle Primary School in particular had been in the lower quartile of the FSM band in three of the past four years in English and maths. There had only been 40 pupils over the past three years and the school was £9,512 in debt.
Teachers and parents of the pupils would fight for Ballykeigle to remain open, arguing that it was a community school which was vital to the area. Moreover, the Ulster-Scots Agency expressed an interest in setting up a two-year pilot project at Ballykeigle Primary School in an attempt to secure its future. This would have seen Ulster-Scots culture and heritage being delivered through the curriculum at the primary school. Ultimately, however, they would lose their battle against closure and in March of 2012, Education Minister, John McDowd, approved a development proposal to close down the school.
In his announcement, he said: “It is with regret that I have agreed the closure of this school. However, with a steady decline in enrolments over a period of several years, leading to a total enrolment of only 40 pupils in the 2011/12 school year, I feel that my decision is in the best educational interests of the current pupils and future generations. I would like to pay tribute to all those connected with Ballykeigle Primary School who over many years have shown their commitment and dedication to pupils in the locality.”
In June of 2012, the 28 remaining pupils of Ballykeigle Primary School said goodbye to their teachers and the school that they had grown up in. Their final day had included bouncy castles, face-painting, an ice-cream van and a visit from Spongebob Squarepants. Emotion among the pupils, teachers, and parents ran high as one pupil said to the Belfast Telegraph: “I am a wee big sad because the school is closing and it’s the best school in the world.” Another added: “It has been really fun at Ballykeigle and I really enjoyed it. The teachers are the best in the universe.”
Following the closure of the school, it was put up for sale with a guide price of just £100,000. It has recently been sold, gone under re-development and has been gutted inside.