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McIlvanney’s next chapter marks new era for education in East Ayrshire

Heralded by messages of support and congratulation from renowned Scottish authors, educators and politicians from all parties, the £45 million William McIlvanney Campus in Kilmarnock has today (11 September 2018) been officially opened.

William McIlvanney was a former Kilmarnock Academy pupil, who became a teacher, before achieving global recognition for his writing. He died in 2015.

To formally mark the campus opening, a plaque was jointly unveiled by Professor Liam McIlvanney and Doctor Siobhan McIlvanney, the late author’s son and daughter.

The event was also attended by members of Mr McIlvanney’s family, including his partner Siobhan Lynch, his grandsons Andrew, Caleb, Isaac and Diarmid, and close family friends, who joined over 100 specially invited guests – including pupils, parents, campus staff, MSPs, Church Moderators, dignitaries and representatives from media, publishing, education, construction and local government.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, MSP, who laid the foundation stone at the campus in October 2016 and who is currently in Los Angeles, led the tributes in a letter saying: “This is a landmark day for the pupils and staff of the William McIlvanney campus, for the McIlvanney family, for East Ayrshire Council and for Scotland.

“It is a day of great hope when we formally open a magnificent centre of learning, celebrating the profound contribution to our national life of one of our greatest writers.

“This new campus will provide the opportunity to transform the lives of young people in Kilmarnock, inspired by the creative strength of William McIlvanney.

“The facilities are of a different league, offering pupils and staff new opportunities to shape the curriculum to create the best in innovative educational practice that meets the needs of every young person regardless of their background.

“I pay tribute to the vision demonstrated by East Ayrshire Council in this bold and transformative project and celebrate the partnership between the Scottish Government and the Council that has brought it about.

“Today, we open a literally world-class centre of education, an investment in the children of Kilmarnock, to help them grow and thrive, built – as William McIlvanney once wrote – on the foundations of giving, not taking”.

The multi-million pound state-of-the-art campus houses three superb new schools:

• Kilmarnock Academy • James Hamilton Primary School and Early Childhood Centre and, • Sgoil na Coille Nuaidh (New Woods School for Gaelic education).

Welcoming the McIlvanney family and distinguished guests, Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council said: “William McIlvanney was a local lad who showed us all that with hard work, determination and passion, anything is possible.

“That’s the ethos we have embedded at the heart of this stunning new campus, and today’s formal opening marks a brand new chapter in how we deliver a first-class education to the young people of Kilmarnock and beyond.

“I am delighted Willie’s family has taken such a keen interest in the development of this stunning campus and it is absolutely fitting that Liam and Siobhan perform the formal opening ceremony in honour and memory of their father.”

Unveiling the plaque – and formally opening the new campus – Liam and Siobhan McIlvanney said: “Education was in many ways the guiding thread of our father’s life as a teacher and a writer.

“His Kilmarnock roots mattered hugely to him and he would have been very proud – as we are – that his home town has chosen to name this extraordinary educational campus in his honour.”

Michael McBrearty, Chief Executive of Hub South West and Paul Wilson, Senior Project Manager, Kier Construction gave a presentation on the construction of the Campus.

A vote of thanks was given by David Rose, Kilmarnock Academy Head Teacher and Diane Wright, James Hamilton Primary School and Early Childhood Centre, Head Teacher.

Between formalities, pupils from all three schools put on a sparkling and energetic programme of entertainment, before making a presentation to Professor and Dr McIlvanney as a thank-you gesture for opening their schools.

The ceremony closed with a prayer of dedication from Carol Baird, Youth Pastor, Central Evangelical Church, Kilmarnock and a tour of the new campus.

Councillor Reid concluded: “Willie was a passionate advocate for high quality, equal education for all young people, regardless of their background and I’m very pleased that this legacy continues through his son and daughter, both distinguished academics and education leaders in their own right.

“I know how proud Willie was of their literary and linguistic achievements and am certain their dad’s inspiration will excite, motivate and encourage the next generation of eager learners to follow his example, writing their own journeys of excellence into a new chapter of history at the William McIlvanney Campus.”

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