The possibility of having a Christian school in Ballymoney was first considered in January,1982 after a challenging message was brought by Rev. Ivan Foster at the annual missionary weekend. Shortly afterwards a meeting was held to ascertain what interest there would be amongst parents for such a venture. A large group of people gathered to hear the Principal of Kilskeery Independent Christian School, Mrs. Ann Foster, outline the need for Christian education and report on the progress at Kilskeery since its commencement in 1979. At the conclusion, those in attendance had the opportunity to question Mrs. Foster on all aspects of Christian education. Further meetings were held in 1982 and 1983, one of which was addressed by Rev. Foster, chairman of the Presbytery Education Board.
Firm interest in commencing a Christian school in Ballymoney was expressed by a number of parents so, in light of this, the decision was taken to proceed. Application was made to the Education Board of Presbytery for their authorisation of such a step. In May, 1983, after a detailed examination of the situation, the Board approved the application.
The books and equipment for the school were provided through the generous contributions of interested members of the congregation and other individuals with gifts ranging from £5 to £1000. Desks and chairs were supplied by the Newtownabbey School , which also commenced in 1983.
Ballymoney Independent Christian School opened its doors on Thursday, 1st September, 1983 with Miss May Keys (now Mrs. Spiers) as Principal. Miss Keys was a member of Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church who had completed a four-year teacher-training course at Stranmillis College, Belfast . She had already taught part-time in Kilskeery Independent Christian School and while there, had been challenged by Christian education as a form of missionary service. She testifies of that time: “I looked upon Christian education, not as a job, but a calling to be fulfilled in total reliance upon the Lord. The assurance of the Lord’s call to Christian education came early in 1981. I contacted Rev. Foster and made known the Lord’s leading, but since at that particular time there was no opening in Kilskeery I prayed that the Lord would cause someone to approach me in His time and in fulfillment of His purpose. It was after two years full-time teaching in Bridgehill Primary School that the Lord’s purpose was realised in a definite call to Ballymoney.” Her desire for Ballymoney was summed up in the words of Psalm 144 verse 12: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.
Initially the Prayer room upstairs in the church was used as a classroom for nine pupils of primary school age. These were Vivienne Stevenson, Jean Tweed, Paul Clinton, James Curran, Mark McAuley, Ian and William Olphert and Glyn and Ewan Stronge. A full range of subjects was taught with emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic-the three R’s. What really set the school apart from any other was its Bible-based philosophy. Two matters in the early life of the school were seen as tokens of the Lord’s favour. Firstly, one of the pupils professed faith in Christ. It became clear that the Lord had been pleased to use what had been taught in morning devotions to speak to his young heart. The other matter was that the school was granted registration by the Department of Education even though there had been only one initial inspection of the school. By June, 1984 the number of pupils in attendance had almost doubled.
In September 1988 a High School was added, offering instruction in English, Maths, French, Spanish, Latin, Geography, History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Music, Art, Craft, Design and Technology (CDT), Home Economics, Word Processing and Computer Literacy. A report in the Ballymoney Times in June, 1989 noted that the catchment area for the school was wide and ever growing with pupils traveling from as far afield as Garvagh and Glarryford for classes each day. Although the Kirk Session of Ballymoney Free Presbyterian Church administered the school, its composition was multi-denominational with the Presbyterian and Elim churches and the Church of God all represented in the classroom.
Another step in the history of the work took place on Friday, November 23rd, 1990 when the Moderator, Dr. Ian Paisley, officially opened new classrooms. A service, conducted by Rev. Leslie Curran followed, in which the pupils of the school sang three hymns. Rev. Curran thanked all those who had worked sacrificially to see the new classrooms completed. Miss Keys gave a report of the progress of the school, since its inception. By this time there were three full-time and six part time members of staff teaching 54 pupils, ranging from P1 to Form 5. Appreciation was expressed for the financial support given to the school by individuals and groups and to parents for their co-operation. Looking to the future, the Principal could confidently predict that:
‘The work which His goodness began The arm of His strength will complete; His promise is Yea and Amen, And never was forfeited yet.’
Dr. Paisley brought the service to a conclusion with an exhortation from Philippians Chapter 3. After enjoying a supper provided by the ladies of the congregation, an opportunity was given to view the three additional classrooms.
In 1995 Miss Keys went to teach English to Bible College students in Cameroon . Miss Monica Hain, an American-born teacher, became the acting Principal for a time before Miss Noreen McAfee’s appointment in 1997. Miss McAfee’s great ability and leadership skills, as well as her winsome personality were a great blessing to Ballymoney Independent Christian School and she was a highly esteemed member of staff. In August 2000, having felt the call of God, she left Ulster to serve Him as a missionary teacher in Kenya . She was replaced as Principal by Mrs. Jamise McIlhagga. Due to insufficient staff in certain curricular areas the decision was taken in June, 2001 to close the High School department. This was a cause of much sadness for those involved in the work. Nevertheless the primary school continues to function with two members of staff, Mrs Julie Boyd (School Principal) and Mrs. Christine Ritchie from Londonderry . Miss McAuley commenced working in the school after finishing her studies in 1998, while Mrs. Ritchie joined the staff in September, 2000. Their main desire is not only to see the children fulfil their academic potential but more importantly, that they might come to trust the Saviour and follow Him fully.