The principal of Upper Ballyboley Primary School has paid tribute to the support of parents during her 40-year career.
Speaking ahead of her retirement, Valerie Bryans said: “The support which a small school gets from parents is absolutely brilliant. It could not function without them.”
Noting the school’s rural location at Braepark Road, she thanked parents for their assistance with transport and praised the work of the PTA for financial support.
Originally from Coleraine, Mrs. Bryans has spent her entire career teaching at Upper Ballyboley.
Following training in Yorkshire, she took up her first job teaching primaries one, two, three and four. There were 52 children enrolled at the school.
In April 1988, she was appointed principal but continued to teach with two other colleagues. Currently, she teaches primaries five, six and seven.
“The children have not changed. They are still as good as ever,” she said.
“The main change I have seen is in the area of ICT. We are due to get new iPads. And mobile phones. Now it seems, every youngster owns one. Computers are supposed to cut down on paperwork but instead they has trebled it. It is supposed to save paper, but it does not.”
However, Mrs Bryans said she will have many fond memories of her years at Upper Ballyboley where she has not been afraid to get her hands dirty - literally, especially with the planting of a vegetable patch.
She has also delighted in the school’s sporting successes and was thrilled when a team from Upper Ballyboley had the opportunity to play rugby at Ravenhill and when the school was the sole winner in Larne of the Newtownabbey plaque for rugby.
“I get kids involved in every sport there is for fitness. I would encourage children to keep fit.”
The retiring head has enjoyed teaching in picturesque surroundings with a vantage point to the Belfast hills. A stream runs past the school and nearby is Ballyboley Forest which has been a venue for sponsored walks and cycles.
“Although this is a curriculum topic, we have always been able to enjoy the ‘World Around Us’.
“We are also one of the schools which still goes on school trips. We are just back from Edinburgh. We have also visited the Giant’s Causeway and the Titanic building.
“Thirty years ago, a government minister tried to close small schools. They will never close small schools, as it would kill a community.”
Mrs Bryans indicated that there are now 52 children enrolled at Upper Ballyboley Primary with children travelling from Ballyclare and Larne and eight newcomers will join the school in primary one in September.
“I hope the school will continue for another 40 years, longer than that,” she said.
A successor has still to be appointed.
A presentation to the outgoing head took place last Thursday night at Ballyclare Golf Club.
A keen golfer, Mrs Bryans plans to practice her game during her retirement. She will also be continuing her charity work with the Sixmile committee of Marie Curie and her travels to Australia.
“Ideally, I could go there in our winter to enjoy their summer and stay here in our summer to play golf,” she joked.