THE career path of a teacher or principal is often straight-forward enough – from success as a student at school to moving on to teaching college and then your first job. For Martin Moreland, Principal of Mercy College, it was very different indeed.
Born on the Ormeau Road in South Belfast, Martin was the youngest of six children. Having left school with no exams, Martin’s road to the classroom and education sector began as an engineer.
“I never really thought I would be a teacher because I never had the confidence to be one,” he explained.
“It was a dream in a sense but I never really thought it would be a reality.
“I left secondary school with no exams. I went out into the world of work – it gives you a lot of life experiences or the real world as I call it.
“I went into engineering and had several jobs. My wife has a job in education and she told me about a course up in Derry that gave you access into university. I went and got a GCSE in English and Maths and spent three years up in Derry doing the course.
Martin was accepted into St Mary’s University College and after his first teaching job in West Belfast, has moved to the North of the city.
“With my engineering background, my first job was a Technology and Design teacher in St Colm’s in Twinbrook and I spent 18 years there. I loved it there, it was a great community and a school that was thriving.
“I moved on to Mercy where there was just 300 kids. I started off as a teacher before becoming Principal and I’ve been in the role for ten years.”
Martin then reflected on the many changes in education over the years, not least the challenges and successes of Mercy College.
“When I came in, it was about building up confidence and profile of the school, given our location in North Belfast.
“Pupil numbers now are 650 but our challenges now is very much to do with space and classrooms.
“We have been co-educational for a few years now which is fantastic. We have a 50/50 ratio girls and boys in Year 8. Our LLS programme is still really successful and we were the first school to start that.
“The standards are amazing – 82% of girls are getting three A-Levels from A* to C which is very unique. 97% of our GCSE students got five GCSE’s at the top grades and there are not many other schools in the North that can boast such results.
“Finances remain a huge challenge for us. There is no room for any extra money in the system. It is not easy at all.”
Away from school, Martin is kept a busy man being a father of ten children.
“I am a family man. I am a father-of-ten so at home it is a very busy household, with the kids ranging from 14 to 28.
“I am very much an outdoor person. I like nature and sunshine. I am also big into running and gardening. With my technology background, I like a project such as a pond or a patio to keep me entertained.”
As for the future, Martin is content at Mercy College but would love no more than see a new building for the school in his working life.
“I am 55 now and I suppose you start to think about how many more years I can give in education.
“I probably have another ten years in me. I am happy at Mercy College – there are so many challenges every year.
“I really want to see our newbuild come for the school which is in the pipeline – just need Stormont up and running to approve it.
“The future of the school is very bright. There is a lot of work still to be done to maintain our standards and results and improve facilities for the kids.“