Nicola Young, the new principal of Belleek Primary School, is settling into life at the small rural school well, saying that she wants to “celebrate the children because they are amazing”.

Nicola started the position in early November, 2021, as a secondment from her previous post of senior teacher in Donemana Primary School, Strabane.

“My main stretch of teaching has been in Donemana PS which would have been classed as a small rural school as well, but we’re talking 120 pupils there. I was a senior teacher there before I got the job in Belleek.

“That would be similar to a vice-principal role because we didn’t have a vice-principal as such,” Nicola told The Impartial Reporter, going on to explain that while at Donemana, she was Acting Principal for a full year when the principal there was off on maternity leave.

“I had loads of experience and that’s what gave me the feel to go for a principal post myself. I was in Donemana for nine years almost, really from when I qualified as a teacher right up to when I went to Belleek,” she said.

When asked how she has been settling into life at Belleek PS over the past five months, Nicola said: “It’s been lovely. Even at the interview stage, they were all so lovely. The first person I met was Elizabeth Ovens [school secretary], who would just make anyone feel at home.

“Everybody is so laid back and very respectful of my wishes.”

Promote the school

Talking about her plans for Belleek PS, Nicola explained that she wants to help promote the school, utilising the likes of social media: “I want to get the school out there, because a lot of people don’t know that although we don’t have an Integrated status, every child is welcome.

“And I want to celebrate the children because they are amazing and the staff are amazing. I think they are very modest people, and they need to put themselves out there and emphasise what they are doing in the classroom.

“The children are all really happy. That’s my main goal – to make sure that each child feels happy and secure at school, and that they are given all the same opportunities as at a big school,” said Nicola, noting that she believes it is important that children at a small rural school are all taught to the same standard as a bigger school, and that they get equal opportunities.

“Just because they are at a small-scale school, it shouldn’t hold them back in any way. They should chase their dreams as much as possible.”

Having gone to a small primary school herself, Nicola says that she has always seen the benefits of a small school.

She said: “When I was a wee girl, I went to Langfield Primary School in Drumquin which always had around 40-45 pupils and I’ve always seen the benefits of a small school. Every adult working with the children can give so much of their time to each child.

“There’re only 33 pupils in the whole of Belleek PS, so it’s been so easy to get to know them all and that was one of my biggest goals.

“I’ve always felt that every child matters and is unique.”

Although the position of principal in Belleek CPS is part-time, Nicola, who lives in Castlederg, explained that this works well for her as she has two small children herself.

“I always wanted that working mum-life balance. I like having my days off so I can enjoy time with my children as well and have my career to focus on on the other days.

“It keeps me balanced,” she told this newspaper.