by JULIE SPENCE
When the last bell rings at Maze primary next month it will mark the end of nearly 120 years of education at the school.
Its long and distinguished history dates back to 1884 when the school was opened by the Church of Ireland Parish, St Matthews in Broomhedge.
Based on the Kesh Road, the first Principal was Mr James Atkinson, who started off with just 31 pupils, both boys and girls.
The school is lucky enough to have retained many of their historical records, including a corporal punishment record, roll books and even inspection reports dating back to the school's earliest days. The records in themselves are fascinating reading with punishments being dealt out for fighting, breaking windows and bullying girls in class.
One of the current school principals, Mrs Colleen Compton, commented "I am enthralled by history in general and get very caught up in looking over the old records. They give us a remarkable insight into the history of our school."
In the early years inspection reports were brutal and faults were harshly pointed out.
In 1895 one report, written by Inspector W MacMillan, read, "The infants know absolutely nothing, and there were numerous failures in reading in first and third classes." In 1914 a concise report merely said, "Children are neat and tidy".
As time progressed the reports became somewhat less harsh, however in September 1922 Inspector WH Welpy was obviously less than impressed by one particular teacher.
"It is unfortunate that Miss Watson did not bring to school today her preparation for daily work. I cannot call her every week to see that Miss Watson does her duty in this respect."
As the years passed the school remained popular in the local community.
It was always known as Maze (2) as another primary school, Maze (1) had been set up in close proximity by the local Presbyterian Church.
Mrs Compton explained: "The two primary schools were very close together on the same road but one was Presbyterian and we, of course, were Church of Ireland. Apparently the children were in constant competition with each other and regularly got caught up in fights and disputes."
With the school now almost 120 years old, it has remained a small yet dedicated primary school for local children. Some 90 pupils are currently enrolled and are joined by two principals, Mrs Compton and Mrs McRobert, as well as four teachers, Miss Campbell, Miss McClelland, Mrs Jackson and Mrs Sinton.
In recent years the school has gone from strength to strength with many awards and achievements to its credit.
In 2002 the school won the Golden Owl Award, a national competition for websites. In the same year they also won School Choir of the Year and became winner of the Small Schools Netball League. Just a few weeks ago the pupils appeared on the popular UTV programme 'School Around the Corner'.
Over a century has passed since Maze was established and now it is preparing to close its doors forever as the children move to Meadow Bridge Primary.
Mrs Compton said: "Of course we are sad the school is closing but the resources and facilities at Meadow Bridge are fantastic.
"The children do have mixed feelings about the move. They are excited and eagerly looking forward to the change but as it will be a much bigger school they are naturally a little anxious as well."
To commemorate the momentous occasion, the staff and pupils have arranged two major events - a sports night and an open night and everyone is more than welcome to go along and join in the fun.
Mrs Compton said: "Over 180 invitations have already been sent out for the events but we are concerned we might have missed some people out.
"Anyone who would like to come along is more than welcome to join our celebrations."
The school is also appealing for any past pupils or anyone who has been connected to the school to get in touch and share their memories and experiences.
Anyone who would like to share memories can contact the school by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and further details can be found on the school website www.maze.ik.org.
Last race at Down Royal for pupils
TO celebrate their history and commemorate the final days of Maze Primary School, the staff and pupils have arranged a number of special events.
For many years Maze Primary have held their annual Sports Day at the Down Royal Racecourse winners' enclosure. The final whistle will blow on Tuesday June 3 to mark the end of an era.
To keep up with a previous tradition of many years ago, when Lurganure Silver Band paraded the children back to school on their sports evening, the school will be re-enacting this event along with Banbridge and Garvey Silver Bands.
After the parade the bands will perform a short concert at the school following which there will be a prize distribution for sporting achievements.
A light supper of tea, coffee and tray-bakes will also be served on the night.
The event will begin at the Down Royal Racecourse with the sports might at 6.30pm and the band parade and supper beginning at 8pm.
All past pupils and friends are very welcome to come and share their memories of Maze Primary, relieve this historic tradition and say farewell to the school.
End of an era celebration at school
To MARK the end of an era at Maze the staff and pupils will present a family fun open night on June 20 at 7.30pm.
There will be an historical exhibition covering the years of Maze Primary's existence.
With photographic displays, video and slide presentations, the evening is a chance for current pupils to learn more about the history of the school and past pupils to relive their memories and cherished moments.
On this evening there will be a special presentation to all existing pupils to commemorate this momentous occasion.
There will be short speeches from Mr Stanley Burns, past principal and Mr Paul Good, Meadow Bridge principal.
There will also be activities for all the family including face-painting, hair braiding and a bouncy castle.
'The school is also planning to hold old-style playground games such as skipping, hula-hoops and hop scotch.
The evening will be rounded off with tea, coffee and tray-bakes and there will be a free historic newsletter for everyone who attends.
Invitations have already been sent out for the open night. However anyone: who hasn't received an invitation will be made more than welcome and any past pupils or friends of the school are encouraged to come to the event or get in touch with the school to share their memories.