On September 1st 1985 Hazelwood College opened its doors to its first intake of students, all 17 of them.
The first building had no proper classrooms, very few resources, no natural light and no outdoor space for children to play. Our Board of Directors were kept busy: raising money to pay wages and essential resources and searching for permanent premises. Essentially it was support from the Nuffield Foundation, the Rowntree Trust and the John Paul Getty Trust which ensured the College’s survival in those early years. The support of BELTIE (Belfast Trust for Integrated Education) in the fund-raising was invaluable.
However, everyone of us suffered from the inadequate resources, lack of space and lack of natural light in our building at York Lane. Graymount Girls’ School had been closed in June 1985 and after much wrangling and negotiation DENI instructed the BELB to sell it to Hazelwood in June 1986. We opened there in September 1986 with 35 new Form 1 students, a total student body of 70. On 31st August 1988 the College was granted maintained status. This was significant both for Hazelwood and for Integrated Education. For us it marked the end of uncertainty and worrying about money and resources, for parents it validated their faith in Hazelwood.
Most importantly it legitimised the position of Integrated Education. From 1981 to 1985 there had been only one integrated school – Lagan College. The two Hazelwoods and Forge Primary School were established in 1985. The granting of recognition to Hazelwood gave a spur to the integrated movement – since 1988 the growth of Integrated Education has been steady. There are now 42 integrated primary schools and 20 integrated colleges and the numbers continue to grow. The recognition of Hazelwood was followed by the Education Reform Order of 1988 which enshrined government support for Integrated Education. This Order also opened the way to us to apply for Grant Maintained Integrated Status.
In May 1994 the Minister of State for Education, Michael Ancram, visited the College, met students and staff and saw for himself the state of disrepair of our buildings. By March 1995 we had moved into a top priority category and a grant of £9.9 million was announced to provide us with a new school. By 1999 the college had moved into new state of the art facilities in the Graymount, Millennium and Assembly buildings.
Over the past thirty years student numbers have continued to grow at Hazelwood and this year, with excellent GCSE results, we have welcomed back our largest ever Post-16 cohort. With the generous support of the Integrated Education Fund and BELTIE we have established a growing Sixth Form Centre.