TRYING to condense and sift through 19 years of teaching materials can prove quite the task but outgoing Malone Integrated College Principal Máire Thompson is doing just that as she tells this reporter that come August her journey with the College will have reached its end.
Máire, who has taught at the Finaghy based College and has also been its Head these past five years, told the Andersonstown News that she will be taking up the Principal post at North Belfast’s Hazelwood Integrated College come September. When asked why after 19 years Máire replied: “Do you know what, when I came into the post I said I would do three things: get the sports hall and 3G pitch built and going – the children didn’t have one at the time. I had said I would work to increase numbers and this year we’ve met all our targets; and for the last two years our results have been in the higher percentile. When you say you are going to do something and you do it then it’s time to move on. I think the school is doing well, there are great leaders in the school and I wouldn’t want to outstay my welcome or it would come to a stage were I have no impact.”
Máire continued: “I think it’s just time for a change for everybody. 19 years is a long time in one place, and I was ready for a new challenge.
“It’s like anything, you apply and you think okay I’ve done that. It’s only when you get the call saying you’ve got the job, well, that’s when reality hits.
“I’m still learning as a principal, you don’t know it all. For me, to take up the post at Hazelwood, it will be exciting to go to a new school and I hope some of the experience I’ve had here will help me when I go over to Hazelwood.”
Máire explained how Malone’s Vice Principal will take up the Principal post for a year in the interim.
“The Vice Principal here is fabulous, we have such confident practitioners in the school. We are an integrated school, people think that when you talk about an integrated school that means Catholic and Protestant but this is Catholic, Protestant, multi-cultural, social classes, different sexual orientation – we are very progressive in how we deal with things. People are very much accepted for who they are.”
Máire, who was one of just 11 teachers from across the UK to win a ‘Gold Plato’ Head Teacher of the Year award for her inspirational work in the classroom in 2017, spoke poignantly of how her beloved dad, West Belfast republican stalwart Harry Thompson, never got to see her take up the Principal’s reins at Malone.
“There is a lot of emotion connected to my time here. I have been pregnant with both my children; my father passed away, all that emotion is connected with the school.
“One of the saddest things was that my dad died the year before all of it, before I became Principal in 2012. I suppose a lot of my drive and ambition is based on his values and his integrity and the things he taught us all growing up.”
Máire spoke of how much she will miss her “phenomenal staff”.
“The staff here are very child-centered, they are very passionate and I’ll be sorry to leave the staff, the students. I’ve had particular support from the community, politicians, community leaders over the years, I will miss that. There is a real sense of family here.”