The principal of a new special school in Derry says his primary aim is to create the “best possible” provision in the city for children and young people with learning disabilities.
Dr Michael Dobbins was recently appointed head of the newly amalgamated Belmont House and Foyle View Schools.
He will shortly take up his new role and both schools will officially merge on September 1, 2014.
A new build school is due to be completed in 2017.
Dr. Dobbins says he is delighted to be able to work with the new Board of Governors and the school community in “taking our new school forward.”
The new school, which will be named following consultation with the new school community, will be one of the largest schools of its kind in these islands.
Dr Dobbins is a native of the city and has been the principal of Foyle View Special School for the last fifteen years. He previously spent eight 8 years at Belmont.
He has previous experience in both the primary and post primary sectors and in managing learning disability support services at a regional level.
In 1999, the University of Ulster presented him with the Biggar Award in Education Studies for his research into creating enabling environments for students with learning difficulties.
An Executive Council Member of the Education Research Network (NI), he has published several papers in internationally peer-reviewed journals in both Europe and North America, authored and co-authored several reports and is the author of the book, ‘Learning to Enable’.
A former Fulbright Scholar and Principal Assessor with the DENI HMI Inspectorate, he was awarded Northern Ireland Headteacher of the Year in 2009 at the National Teaching Awards.
He is a special advisor to UNICEF and serves on a range of public and community sector Boards. He is actively committed to community leadership and is founder and chair of the Liberty Consortium, an award-winning, nationally recognised, multi-sectoral body promoting inclusive play, community infrastructure and quality services for children and adults with learning disabilities.
Dr. Dobbins says it is a “privilege on a personal and professional level” to work with Foyle View and Belmont in moving forward.
He told the ‘Journal’: “The process of merging will be done through open consultation with pupils, parents and staff and the new build scheduled to be completed in 2017 will facilitate a continuum of provision to meet a diversity of need.
“Quite simply, this is the best opportunity to improve educational services for children and young people with additional needs for decades.”
The chairperson of the new school’s Interim Board of Governors, Mr Martin Hegarty, added: “Michael has an excellent record in school leadership and, given his unique experience, is well placed to take forward this hugely exciting opportunity for special education in our city.
“Governors are looking forward to working with Dr Dobbins in building a new all-ability special school with a new identity and with state of the art facilities.”