The incoming principal at St. Joseph’s Boys’ School said she was “privileged and delighted to be given the opportunity to lead this great school.”
Martina McCarron was speaking as she prepares to take over the reins from outgoing principal, Damien Harkin, at the start of the school year.
No stranger to staff or pupils at St Joseph’s, Mrs. McCarron has been a vice-principal at the school since 2008.
And the second female principal in the school’s 55 years history told the ‘Journal’ that her priority in her new role at the helm will be to continue to build on the great work already taking place and to ensure that the potential of each of the 720 individual pupils is fully realised.
A native of the St. Eugene’s parish, Mrs. McCarron attended St. Eugene’s Primary School and Thornhill College, before graduating with an Honours Degree in Science at University College Dublin. On returning to Derry, she taught at the North West Regional College for a time before undertaking and obtaining a PGCE teaching qualification in Belfast and securing a permanent post as a science teacher at St Peter’s High School in 1994.
Mrs McCarron said she chose teaching following her studies as she had loved school and wanted to transfer her own learning and experience. “I suppose I’ve never really left school!” she laughed.
“I have had the pleasure of meeting some of my past pupils recently and to see where they have gone in their careers and the work they are doing now, has been a great source of pride for me. That is what we are here to do, make a difference.
“Teaching is the only profession really where other professions stem from. You are putting those pupils out into a world of work and creating the career pathways they want to follow, so it is a very, very important role; a critical role and I see my role asprincipal as ensuring that continues to happen and realising that every boy matters.”
Mrs. McCarron taught at the former St. Peter’s High School for almost 14 years and as well as teaching science, she was head of Pastoral Care and a member of the Senior Management team.
“I learned the tools of the trade in there and I was well supported and guided by my more experienced colleagues so it was a good start,” she noted. “I then applied for the vice principal’s post here in 2008 and I was delighted when I got it.”
Mrs. McCarron said she wanted to acknowledge the work of Damien Harkin and also her vice principal counterpart, Paul Kealey, who she will continue to work with as principal. “We have worked together really well over the past 10 years for the good of the school. We have been a great team and we have also a great senior management team,” she maintained.
Heaping praise on the staff at the school, she said St Joseph’s was a leading light in terms of learning and teaching. “We have had three fabulous inspection reports since 2011 from ETI, highlighting and affirming the great work that is going on in the school; the excellent outcomes for the pupils and the care, guidance and support they are given.”
Given her experience of working with boys in the Creggan area, she said she was aware of the challenges and experiences beyond the school gates.“You want to keep them safe, encourage them to be safe and to make the right choices, both academically and socially. You want to build their confidence, their self-esteem and their emotional intelligence so that they know the choices they can make for themselves and that will be a big part of the work that we will take forward in the school.”
She described relationships within St. Joseph’s, and with parents and the wider community as excellent.
“I know parents are essential to bring the best out in every pupil and I look forward to continuing to work with our parents and to having their support to achieve the best for each one of the sons they send to this school.”
Preparing students for the industries and jobs that will come in the future is vital, she said, adding that St. Joseph’s has a “staff here that will embrace change; will undergo training and staff development to ensure they can deliver a curriculum and the care the boys need to meet the challenges of the 21st century”.
However, Mrs. McCarron said that the political situation needed to be resolved for the sake of all young people.
“You have to recognise the difficulties for educators. We are being asked to do more with less money and we are being asked to be more creative with less resources. That is particularly difficult when we don’t have a government to support and provide, and to be a voice for education for this region.
“We need a government and we need a voice. We need our voices to be heard so we can provide the best education for our children.”
Mrs McCarron said it was also vital that economic conditions and opportunities are created locally which will allow the students to excel and flourish at home beyond their school years, rather than exporting our talented young people.
“What talent we have in this city and we are blessed with the schools we have,” she added.
“You want children to go and travel the world and do well and see what is out there, but you also want to see these children produce their talents in doing well and see them coming back home and getting jobs, but the economic opportunities have to be there.”
Another outstanding issue was the Transfer Test. “Without government there and decisions made in relation to the Transfer Test, you can see the impact it has on children at 11 years of age, but we here in St. Joseph’s see the talent; we see the personalities; we see the potential and their ability without the need of any Transfer Test. We work to ensure that all needs are met to fulfil that potential that we see that in the pupils coming in aged 11 and leaving at aged 18.
“My goal as principal is to put the boys first and to achieve only the best for them. We won’t accept anything less than the best,” concluded Mrs. McCarron.