MINISTER of Education John O’Dowd will be welcomed by an honour guard of students today when he arrives at Coláiste Feirste to turn the first sod on the £11 million expansion of sport and teaching facilities at the school.

Coláiste Feirste, which currently has in excess of 600 students, is the fastest growing Irish medium school in Ireland and continues year after year to produce outstanding results for its students.

The investment by the Department of Education is the latest in a series of critical investments which are set to make 2016 a decisive year for the burgeoning Gaeltacht Quarter on the Falls.

Announcing the investment during the September 2015 Gaeltacht Quarter Recall Conference held at the school, Minister O’Dowd said: “Education through the medium of Irish is at the heart of the development of the Gaeltacht Quarter.”

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“Coláiste Feirste is a well-established school, which is growing from strength to strength in terms of the educational outcomes for its students. An investment of £11million will see a refurbishment and new facilities at the school.”

Chair of Coláiste Feirste, Seán Mitchell, said: “This is a milestone in the development of the college and of Irish medium education in the north, but first and foremost it is about the development of the students of Coláiste Feirste.

“This is not just a major capital investment, it is an investment in the potential of the 600 plus students currently attending the college and the thousands who will continue their educational journey in Coláiste Feirste in the coming years.

“The physical regeneration of Coláiste Feirste will match the excellent progress made by the school in recent years in terms of academic, sporting and cultural achievements. We will have an environment that is fit for purpose which matches the ambition of the school and wider community and which is another building block in the Gaeltacht Quarter which is set to make this area an exemplar across the island and across Europe in terms of community-led and community-centered regeneration.”

The building project which commenced on Monday is being undertaken by Woodvale Construction and will run for another two years.