Having worked in the education sector for his entire career to date, it’s no surprise to learn that Michael Allen is relishing the next high point, when he becomes principal of Lisneal College in September.
In fact, he’s so looking forward to the post he admits that he’ll most likely spend most of the summer holidays in the school.
He said, “Officially I don’t start until September but there’s a lot to get organised and as a result I know I’ll be in for most of the eight weeks ‘off’.
“I’ve lived in the city my whole life and watched the school amalgamate when Faughan Valley and Clondermot came together.
“There’s always been something about Lisneal for me, that I’ve always thought about taking on a Principal post here so when the position came up earlier this year I grabbed the opportunity.
“There is so much potential at Lisneal, with both the staff and the pupils.
“I’m genuinely looking forward to getting to know everyone - that may take some time as there are 650 pupils and around 45 staff, but I can’t wait to get started.
“How could I not be?”
This passion for the role is clearly evident and is a clear indicator of what the staff and pupils there can expect come September.
Of course, the school has gone through some transformation in recent years, after a school inspection in 2011 reported that the ‘quality of education provided by the school remains inadequate’.
A follow-up inspection showed significant improvements but it’s something Michael is aware of.
“That’s in the past and the current principal David Funston, along with the team here, ably assisted by the Vice-Principal Susan Wilson, rallied and have made significant progress year on year.
“It’s my job to build on that.”
The conversation turns to the pros and cons of the grammar and non-selective school system.
Michael is very clear, “There’s a belief here that the grammar schools are superior, but I believe that a non-selective school has to work harder, we have a greater mix of children with different needs and talent.
“We also have greater opportunity to tailor the curriculum to suit the needs and abilities of the pupils.
“The approach is more pastoral and there are opportunities for pupils to take both the academic or vocational route for their career progression.”
Lisneal is also one of a growing number of non-selective schools which is providing sixth form provision.
“There are now 150 pupils across two years at Lisneal, taking A-levels and AS-levels, and that’s something I’ll be looking to develop further.”
Additionally Michael has been impressed by the special needs provision at the school.
“The provision for children with additional needs at Lisneal is superb, and we have the ability to cater for pupils with a wide range of abilities. I’m very much looking forward to learning from the staff here in that regard.”
Michael is coming to the post from Limavady High School where he is currently Vice-Principal.
“I’ve worked there for over 12 years and I am very fond of the school. I started as a teacher of Technology and Design and English, before working my way up the ladder.”
Posts at Limavady High have included Head of Year, Head of Learning for Life and Work, Senior Teacher in charge of Curriculum and Timetable and finally Vice-Principal.
His career started when he left Foyle and Londonderry College to attend Stranmillis.
“I was at university for four years and for five weeks every year I spent time teaching at various schools in Northern Ireland.
“It was this hands on approach that appealed to me.
“I soon discovered that I was quite good at building a relationship with the pupils, which I think is the most important part of a teaching role.
“After graduating I spent six years at Castlederg High School which was a great grounding. There’s no better way to be a teacher than to actually do it.
“When I started the GCSE results for Technology and Design was low but by the time I left they had a 100% pass rate.”
Before the role starts at Lisneal officially, Michael is planning some time out, even if it’s not for long.
“I’m going to Legoland with my wife Jacqueline and youngest son William for a few days, but that’s it. This summer will mainly be about getting ready to start properly in September.”
Yet, when he is getting some ‘me time’ you will find Michael on his bike.
“I’m a member of the Foyle Cycling Club. It’s a great hobby to help clear your head and they are a great bunch of cyclists. It’s something I do to keep fit and relax too.”
Come September there will be plenty to occupy Michael’s mind, but there’s no question that he’s ready for the post, and the challenges ahead.