Eamon Devlin admits when he walked through the doors of St. Patrick’s Primary School to take over as principal he was filling “very large shoes”.
The former Longtower head has taken over from previous principal Martin Coyle who retired in June. “I have known Martin for many years - we would meet at principal meetings and I think we share a lot of them same values when it comes to teaching. This of course makes the transition to this school so much easier.”
And it has been a big change for Eamon - who has been teaching for 24 years. He describes his eight year stint as principal of Longtower as “brilliant”.
“I loved it. I believe we brought about a lot of improvements in the school - and of course I could not have done that without the support of the teaching staff, the families of our pupils and of course the pupils themselves.”
There is no doubt there are big differences between Longtower and St. Patrick’s. The former has in the region of 250 pupils on the books and is set on a split site, incorporating two older buildings “loaded with character”. St. Patrick’s is Derry’s largest primary school with almost 850 pupils on the books in a state of the art building.
With so many pupils in his care Eamon says he is blessed with a wonderful support staff at St. Patrick’s. “My two VPs have been a great source of support to me. They know each and every child in the school and they, along with the other staff, keep the school running very smoothly.
“For now I’m just trying to get out and about - to make myself visible to the pupils and to get to know them.
“I have been made to feel very welcome and have been surprised by the number of parents who already know me through St. Johns, where I taught for 14 years, or Longtower.”
His plan for the future is to continue to build on the very strong foundations laid down by his predecessor - which have seen the school recognised as one of the city’s finest.
“If it isn’t broken, I see no reason to fix it,” he said. “Changes will come but for now we will continue doing what we do best which is working with children and preparing them as best we can for life after primary school. I feel exceptionally privileged to be allowed to do that.”