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Controlled school Principals share their lockdown experiences

CSSC wishes to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment of the teaching community within controlled schools. Thank you to the Principals that have shared their thoughts on teaching in lockdown with us.

Stephen Gray, Principal, Ballymacash Primary School

“I think the lockdown period has been the most challenging we have ever faced as a profession and I can’t speak highly enough of how my staff responded. Even before the 20 March closure, the teaching staff set about preparing for the challenge of home learning, upskilling themselves in seesaw and as the weeks rolled on, they continued to go beyond the call of duty in terms of their creativity, commitment and hours invested in planning, preparation and work feedback. They maintained regular interaction with the pupils via seesaw and on at least one occasion a checkup by phone, as they tried to provide lesson materials and resources to support parents in delivering home learning, while many also juggled home schooling their own children!  Many staff also volunteered for key worker childcare. I would also pay tribute to my colleagues in the Lisburn Association of Principals for their amazing support, as we each tried to support staff and lead our schools through this difficult period.

“During the last week of term in Ballymacash Primary, we offered each year group a three hour window to come into the school grounds and collect reports, but more importantly for pupils to reconnect with school in preparation for the August return. Almost 90% of our school community availed of this opportunity, with many pupils reassured by the smiles and welcoming words of their teachers and assistants. Our parents couldn’t have been more affirming of the support of the school during lockdown. We have now reached July, shattered and ready for a break, but with provisional plans in place for our August return. Whether it is with a half or whole class, I am confident that whatever new challenges ‘blended learning’ and ‘protective bubbles’ present, all teachers and assistants, not just in my school, but across the province will again rise to the challenge of meeting the needs of the children in their care. Why? Because for most teaching isn’t just a profession, it’s a calling and this has been the case since before and will continue after COVID-19.”

Robin McLoughlin, Principal, Banbridge Academy

“Teachers and school staff across the country deserve great credit for all they have done, over the past few months, to support the young people in the communities we serve. I am extremely proud of my colleagues in Banbridge Academy and I thank them for their sustained commitment, throughout the pandemic, to our students’ learning and wellbeing.

Clare McMenamin, Principal, Culmore Primary School

“The teaching staff of Culmore Primary School have pushed themselves beyond their imaginable limits throughout this crisis. They have managed to remain positive and driven throughout so that our children can access a well presented and enjoyable curriculum of a very high standard.

“They deserve an extra qualification for their expertise in ICT alone as they have uploaded detailed suggested weekly activities, links to many online resources and video clips to support the children through their individual learning. They have celebrated, and commented on the pupils' work daily, offering constant encouragement and guidance but always mindful of the health and well-being of each ‘lockdown child’ they are replying to. 

“They have humbly stepped up to the mark by volunteering to supervise key workers' children right from the outset, regardless of personal fears or uncertainties in doing so.

“They have always maintained a positive outlook throughout because they have known that our children and parents need us to gently guide and encourage them through this; after all, the majority of these parents didn't ever sign up to be ‘teachers’. 

“They have been an inspiring, caring and protective support to each individual child. 

“They are now ready to recharge their batteries before they return again, on 17 August, as they prepare to face a very different ‘new school day’.”