ONLY eight per cent of children here are currently formally educated in an integrated environment – and the new Principal of a North Belfast school wants that to change.
Bill Fletcher took over the reins at Cliftonville Integrated Primary School less than two weeks ago, bringing over 20 years of experience back to North Belfast, where he grew up. Bill previously spent 12 years in Nettlefield Primary School in East Belfast and most recently a nine-year spell at Hollybank Primary School in Monkstown – six years as Vice-Principal and three years as Principal.
Bill told the North Belfast News his passion for integrated education attracted him back to his roots.
“I strongly believe if we ever want true peace here then our children need to be educated in the same setting so the integrated sector has always appealed to me,” he said.
“I genuinely think that if we are to get anywhere, our pupils need to be educated in the same classroom where there is no prejudice and everyone is seen for who they are without any baggage.
“We should be celebrating our cultural diversity instead of segregating it.”
Early in his new job, Bill has been taken aback by the kindness of parents, staff and pupils at the school and says he has settled in well
“My first week or so has been really good. The kids are lovely. I spent the first few mornings in the playground with them and I also spent some time on the Cliftonville Road with the lollipop lady where I got to meet many parents.
“The staff are highly skilled and extremely friendly. I think it’s a fantastic school. I’ve been blown away by the kindness and warmth of the pupils and staff in welcoming me to the school.”
Bill already has a vision for the school which he is keen to implement.
“I want to build on our strong community ethos and make it even more of a community-based school. I know children are coming from all over Belfast and further afield, but I also want the school to be at the heart of the community in which we sit. I believe schools in the past have been seen as an institution, with the parents reluctant to walk beyond the gate. Cliftonville Integrated is a welcoming school and we want all of our parents to be involved in their children’s education.”
Bill said better outcomes for children involve cooperation between staff, parents and community
“I have a vision of where I think the school should be and I shall be sharing this with parents once I have established myself here.
“One of the priorities I have is to work in partnership with the Education Authority and guarantee that we maximise the support that we get during difficult economic times.
“The school is a listed building and I want to make sure that we build on the fantastic facilities that we already have whilst ensuring that all the space is utilised to the maximum. I am very approachable and I want this to continue here at Cliftonville Integrated. I want people to come to me if they have a problem. I want to be hands-on and be in and out of the classrooms as much as I can.
“I also think it is important to get to know other schools in the area and make those connections with the local community. We are very fortunate to have schools from all sectors within close proximity of the school.”
Right now, much of Bill’s time is taken up with the school’s open day in two weeks’ time.
“We are a growing school with a great ethos, high quality teaching and tremendous children. It is no surprise that the number of applications outweighs the number of places, and long may that continue. Our open day takes place at the end of the month and I would love to welcome everyone for a showcase of our wonderful school.”
The open day for the nursery and P1 September 2018 intake takes place on Wednesday, November 29 from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. Principal’s address is at 6pm. All welcome.