Principal navigates school towards success

Emma Quinn was officially appointed to the position of head teacher at Rathcoole Primary six years after first stepping up to cover an interim position in 2015. Thanks to Emma for sharing her story of the challenges she has faced ….

Emma Quinn Principal Rathcoole PS

Six years ago the school was challenged when the Principal, Vice Principal and caretaker all left their posts in the same year. Pupil numbers were falling and staff were exhausted. The role of Principal was one that I knew I would like. I had an idea of the direction I wanted to take the school, but I knew it would be a challenge. For me it was about getting the right staff in at the beginning and creating stability … a solid foundation if you like.

“I have been a part of the school community for 21 years, and initially arrived here on a teaching placement, when studying Humanities at University. I returned to the school for teaching practice as part of my studies for the PGCE in Coleraine University, and following that I then subbed for one year before becoming a permanent member of staff in 2001.

"It has been a real journey. I love it here, it’s just somewhere I felt I should be, working with the community.

“Rathcoole Primary School is the only school based within the Rathcoole estate. Over the last six years we have worked hard to build up the excellent relationship we now have with parents and in ensuring that the school is seen as a key part of the community. Our school is desperately needed in the community and offers a support and service that is unique to our setting. 

We are a “safe” school offering support to pupils and parents on a range of issues which affect our school community, particularly matters of domestic violence. It is somewhere where anyone from the local community can be signposted to advice and support, on a private and confidential basis.

“In recent years incidents with children’s behaviour have greatly reduced. Our focus is on really listening to the children, letting them know that they have a voice and that their voice will be heard. Promoting a nurturing approach for pupils, staff and families is at the forefront of what we do. This approach has meant that detention is a thing of the past and suspensions are next to none.

"Parents and the children have been absolutely phenomenal. Whilst it was hard work, once the trust was built it has proved to be a fantastic and rewarding place to be.

“Our school is very much at the forefront of conversation and practice about the nurture approach and outdoor play and learning. Our children are provided with freedom and choice.

“Outdoor activities are a big part of learning at the school and this week pupils completed their outdoor classroom. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff, the school was awarded the Marjorie Boxall Quality Mark Award for Nurture provision in 2016 and in 2017, a PlayBoard TOPS (Taking Outdoor Play Seriously) Award for outdoor play in schools and accredited as a Forest School through the Northern Ireland Forest Schools programme. 

“The school’s new Autism Specific classroom, the Sunflower Room, was opened in November 2021. It offers specialised support to children and pupils in the local and wider community. 

"I often ask staff to stop and look back on what we have done to date, to look at the children and their engagement, and to celebrate our successes. Without the support of the community, we wouldn't be where we are! It is a privilege to be in this position.

“We have a strong, positive team and I am really proud of them and our pupils. The school continues to grow from strength to strength.”


28 May 2021