The small school with a big heart

NEW GROARTY PRINCIPAL. . .Mr. Nick Tomlinson, new principal of Groarty Primary School, pictured with some of his pupils this week. DER3714MC007
NEW GROARTY PRINCIPAL. . .Mr. Nick Tomlinson, new principal of Groarty Primary School, pictured with some of his pupils this week. DER3714MC007

Nestled on the outskirts of Derry, Groarty PS is different from other schools in the city.

In fact the school, just along the Coshquin Road, which overlooks the hills of Donegal, could almost be missed if you don’t keep your eyes open.

Small in stature, it has a small number of pupils enrolled in each class with no more than 13 pupils vying for the attention of each teacher. A number of composite classes also exist, which according to newly appointed principal Nick Tomlinson ensures each pupil is given copious amounts of one to one attention.

“The size of our school means that our teaching staff are able to meet the needs of all learners regardless of ability - from those who thrive academically to those who require a little support to fulfil their potential.”

Originally from Burnley in the North West of England, Nick, a father of four boys, moved to Northern Ireland in the late 90s when he married a local woman.

He started working first of all in Belfast before moving to the Western Education and Library Board.

He worked for a time at Foyle View School (now Arndnashee College) before taking up a post as Vice Principal at Knockavoe Special School in Strabane.

When the post of principal at Groarty PS came up it was something different from his previous work - but the school itself held a great appeal for him.

“What impressed and continues to impresses me most about Groarty PS is that there is a real community feel about the place.

“There is a real family environment here and as we are celebrating our 150th anniversary next year, it’s also a very important time in the school’s history.”

Nick also wanted to work within an Integrated setting - so was happy to come along to lead the helm at the school which welcomes children of all backgrounds.

While he has only just started at the school he has, he said “hit the ground running” and is already planning how to build on the school’s strengths and the good work which is being done by the staff in Groarty PS.

“It’s my hope to avail of the extended school’s programme more and to get our children out into the community. We want to get them involved in learning experiences in different venues and environments.”

Nick has already starting working to build links with community groups local to the school, acknowledging that he “needs to be proactive in developing relationships and programmes which will be of benefit to all our pupils”.

One of his key short term goals is to help develop sports teams who can represent the school believing “such activities teach vital skills which help children in many different areas of their lives”.

The size of the school - at a time when many schools are facing amalgamation or closure - may seem like something of an anomaly for a school which sits comfortably within the boundaries of the city.

But Nick has few concerns about the school’s long term future.

“Of course there is room for expansion and that is something we do want to look at because we feel our school has a lot to offer, not least to take a very holistic approach to a child’s education and development.”