THE beginning of February will mark the start of spring and change for one West Belfast primary school principal as he prepares to retire.
Holy Child Primary School principal Martin Short, himself a past pupil of the Andersonstown school, will hear the bell ring for the last time this week as he calls an end to the role that he has held for the past 14 years.
“I started at Holy Child in September 1968, I’m a local guy, came from Slemish Way, my three brothers came here, my sister went here, my three grandchildren are at the school now,” he said.
“For me to think back then that I’d be the Principal of the school, it never crossed my mind but I’m so proud.”
Martin told the Andersonstown News that he always wanted to teach.
“I got that from the teaching and education I received at Holy Child, at St Mary’s Grammar School. The expectations in Holy Child are as high as anywhere else in Belfast and that has continued on.”
Martin said that there were many moments throughout his career at Holy Child that stand out.
“Our standards in literacy and numeracy, I’m very, very proud of those. We received an exceptionally good inspection report in 2009 where there were no areas for improvement.
“I took great pride in the whole business of ‘opening up the school’, so that the children could come in earlier for breakfast club, afterschools clubs. I’ve enjoyed working with our parents and the links our school has with the local post primaries in the area.
“I think I’ve improved the fabric of the building. I fought to get the new windows installed and the final jigsaw of that project will be completed next month with the new windows in the foyer. We had a new roof, new heating system.
“We won the big Gaelic Raffo Cup last year which was a great achievement, our shows, our choir, I’ve always been very proud of the strong links with St Agnes’ parish.”
Martin spoke of the challenges he faced as school head.
“The big challenge was finance. Budgetary constraints. Also the complexities of the special educational needs that children now encounter and the school having to meet those needs, was a massive challenge – all the while not getting enough funding. The big challenge of mental health within children and the influence of social media. We were three years without an Executive, with no direction from the department and that was a challenge for the school.”
While not sailing around the world or taking up golf as part of his retirement plans, Martin explained that he will still be assisting and helping other schools through advisory work with CCMS.
“I’ll be onhand to tell people to basically not make the same mistakes I’ve made, we all make mistakes; what about trying this, try that and don’t be worrying about that too much.
“I have a photo in my office from when I was here as a child, it has always reminded me to keep my feet on the ground and that the children are the most important thing.”
When it comes to not pulling into the Holy Child car park next week, Martin said it will be a time of “mixed emotions”.
“I will be very sad to leave the children, to leave the staff, the staff have been brilliant, the parents have been brilliant and I will miss that. I’ve done two ‘cycles of seven’, 14 years but I will be in and out of the school. I’m emotionally attached to this building, I’ve been here since I was four and I’m 56 now. I’ve loved every minute of it.”