A £25 million South Belfast school has officially opened its doors, marking nearly 30 years since its inception.

The new school building at Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock was officially opened last Friday (February 10) by Education Minister John O’Dowd and Bishop Donal McKeown of the Down and Connor Diocese.

The building at the school, which was founded in September 1985 with the amalgamation of Sacred Heart of Mary Grammar School in Holywood and St Patrick's College in Knock, has been in operation since last April, ensuring the college’s 1,265 pupils and 146 staff have settled in well already.

School principal Dermot Mullan said it was the culmination of a long expedition by everyone involved with the college.

“At times it seems to have been a lengthy journey to where we are today in such magnificent surroundings. While the old school, which was so much the work of Canon Joseph Conway, was in its day a state-of-the-art building, increasing enrolment was matched by increasing accommodation pressures.

“It is on days such as this that I think of all the work that was done through the years by so many which has resulted in this fantastic accommodation.

“Our college crest carries the Latin inscription Gratias Agamus, meaning ‘Let us Give Thanks’ and this is certainly such a time for rejoicing and celebrating what we have received.”

Mr Mullan said the new surroundings reflected the “unique” atmosphere of the college.

“A school is not a building, just as a house is not a home. It is our ethos and the atmosphere that permeates the building which gives us our unique stamp as Our Lady and St Patrick’s College.”

New features at the school include eleven science laboratories, specialist classrooms for art, drama studio and assembly hall with seating for 750 people. A fully equipped music department contains performance rooms and a recording studio, while all classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards.

On the sports side of things, a floodlit synthetic grass pitch, full size GAA pitch, basketball and tennis courts are all now part of the Gilnahirk Road school.

Bishop Donal McKeown, a trustee of the school, said the new building was “a wonderful asset” to Our Lady and St Patrick’s.

“The board of governors of the college knows this school is not an island, serving only its own constituency. It is part of the public educational service which works in the interest of the common good.

“We are committed to working with all our partners in the Catholic education and beyond so that all our young people can be fully prepared for tomorrow and not just for yesterday.”