When Anne Quinn was appointed as principal of Roe Valley Integrated Primary School in 2004 in Limavady, she was naturally thrilled.
However, the Claudy woman was under no illusion of just how big a task she faced.
Anne QuinnI am not in any way feeling sad because I know the future for Roe Valley is bright
The school was on a disused site of a former playgroup, comprising of two abandoned musty mobile huts. When the first day of term arrived, the only staff present to greet 12 primary one pupils was Anne and classroom assistant Charlotte Laverty.
“When I was appointed there was no school here, it didn’t exist,” said Anne. “We recruited as we went along to where we are today - 30 staff between teaching and non teaching staff. We’ve come a long way and I will always be grateful to the parents of those children who had faith in me and shared the vision of the school. It was very challenging, but I had a great belief in integrated education and I knew once parents heard about our ethos and our vision for the school they would buy into that and, by the end of the first year, we had about 35 students. We grew every year, and we have more than 160 students now.”
More than 10 years on, and Anne is retiring. The decision didn’t come overnight and Anne admits she wrestled with the decision for some time.
As school staff and students ready themselves for the summer break, Anne is content she leaves the school in the capable hands of the new principal - Waterside woman and current Roe Valley Integrated vice principal Julie Cummings.
“Roe Valley Integrated feels like my baby. I’ve seen the growth of it and it’s been my life for the last 11 years, so it’s taken me two years to make peace with the decision. It was so hard, but what has made it easy in a sense is that our current vice principal, Julie Cummings will be the new principal. She has been here from 2005 and she has embraced our ethos and she is a first class educator, and she will make a marvellous principal,” said Anne, adding the new VP is Joanne O’Donnell, a current member of staff, “another first class educator”, and “all that makes it easier.”
Throughout the last decade, Anne said the school has established itself as “a leading light” in education, and believes integrated education is the only way forward in Northern Ireland.
“I am so proud of the ethos we have created. The pupils are so happy, we have a dedicated and happy staff and we’ve become a family all working to create excellent education and show children they can reach for the stars and that anything is possible,” said Anne.
As for life post Roe Valley Integrated, Anne is looking forward to spending time with her family, and being a grandmother and doting on her first grandchild, Gabriella Anne.
“I am not in any way feeling sad because I know the future for Roe Valley is bright. It’s like watching your child go to university because, although you might be a bit sad, you’re really proud and happy that they’re moving on and I know that the school is in very safe hands. I’ll always keep a close eye on the school and visit at special times, but I’ll be coming back as an old friend.”
Anne thanked parents, students, staff and all the schools in the area for their “amazing support” over the years. She also thanked the local clergy.
“The local clergy have always been so good. Their support has been so valuable. They were outstanding,” she said. “Im looking forward to watching the progress of this amazing school. The new school is in the pipeline, opening in 2017, and my vision has always been of me sitting in the audience, clapping as the new school opens. I can see that is a vision that will happen now, so I am leaving happy. It’s wonderful and it’s a good time for me to go. My work is done.”