The Model system was set up in Ireland in order to encourage persons of character and ability to become teachers. Ireland was to be divided into school districts and in each district there was to be a Model School.
This school was to be a 'model' for all other schools in the district. The Belfast Model which was the thirteenth of its kind was opened in Divis Street on 19th May 1857. During its long history, the Belfast Model School has been located on 3 sites:-
- Divis Street 1857 - 1922
- Cliftonville Road 1922 - 1954
- Ballysillan Road (Boys) since 1957
The Divis Street Model
The new school accommodated 1,500 pupils and as in the case of all Model Schools, the pupils were given both religious and secular education. While children were taught during the day, there were evening classes for the adults.
Architecturally, it was a fine building with a well-balanced brick front, terraced lawns and rather formidable spiked railings around it. Examinations were held in all subjects especially the 3R's with Arithmetic being the most important and the most difficult. Judgement Books recording good and bad marks which parents had to sign every weekend were also issued.
There was real friendship between pupils and teachers and everyone worked to capacity everyday. Inspectors continued to give them good reports, the attendance remained high as ever and the school looked like lasting for another century. However problems occurred due to the establishment of Northern Ireland as a result of Partition in 1920. There was a lot of street violence in Belfast during the early 1920's and on the morning of 26th May 1922, after several unsuccessful attempts, the school was burned down.
The Cliftonville Model
Although the building was destroyed, the spirit of the school lived on. A site and a house were purchased on the Cliftonville Road and this marked the beginning of a new phase in the History of the Model. In 1923 the Model School consisted of a Boys Department and Girls Department only.
The school continued to prosper during the 1930's and many former pupils have happy memories of their time in 'the huts' and 'the big house'. However, the facilities were very cramped and the new building, which is now Cliftonville Primary School, was opened in October 1938.
The Model School remained throughout the war years but in 1947 a new Education Act was passed. A result of this was that the Model became two separate secondary schools - one for the Girls on a new site at Dunkeld Gardens and another for the Boys on Ballysillan Road.
The Belfast Boys' Model
The Boys' school is now situated on the Ballysillan Road, with many different buildings for each Department. There has been generous provision for Art, Science and Technology to develop the pupils abilities in many ways. The school is on high ground at the entrance to Carr's Glen and overlooks the city and Belfast Lough.
As you can see when you drive past the school many changes are happening. The mobile village is now built, with some Departments moving in December to these new rooms and others moving in the New Year. It is then the real building work will start on the new school.