by JENNY MONROE
Fort Hill Integrated Primary School Principal John Walsh pictured with pupils on his retirement. US2611.11OAO
Retiring principal of Fort Hill Integrated Primary School John Walsh (front middle) at a civic reception hosted by former Lisburn Mayor Paul Porter US1910-401PM Pic by Paul Murphy
AN end of an era is approaching for a Lisburn Principal who is bowing out from teaching after 36 years
Mr John Walsh, who has taught at Fort Hill Integrated Primary for 25 years including 20 as Principal, is retiring - a decision he said was difficult to make.
Mr Walsh graduated from Stranmillis College in 1975 and took up a position at Larkfield School teaching PE and English. He moved to Harmony Hill Primary in 1977 where he taught primary six and was responsible for sport. In 1986 Mr Walsh was appointed Vice Principal of Fort Hill Primary and five years later became Principal.
"I have felt it an honour and privilege to have been Vice-Principal and then Principal of such a fine school for now 25 years," said Mr Walsh.
"I have enjoyed teaching and guiding the children, hopefully helping to provide them with the skills they will need in their future lives. It has been a pleasure to have seen so many former pupils in recent weeks who have taken the time to come into school to say their farewells," he added.
Mr Walsh has seen many changes over the years including the academic demands now placed on children. "Education is a priority but there is a lot of testing and emphasis on assessments today. This is not a bad thing but there is a lot of pressure on children. Even the amount of administration work I have to do has increased and has taken up a lot of my time which I would have preferred to have spent with the children and staff."
Leading the school into integration status and creating an integrated campus with Fort Hill College was an amazing achievement for Mr Walsh.
He said: "We are unique in that we are probably the only integrated campus in Northern Ireland with pupils aged 3-19 on one site. This was quite a challenging time but the parents supported us and it was a milestone for the school and I look forward to seeing that developed.
"I would now like to see a new school built here alongside a new high school and make it the first purpose built integrated site in Northern Ireland. I believe the local community deserve it."
Mr Walsh said he leaves with many happy memories. "Over the years I can recall so many happy activities and events, most of which have involved witnessing the children having fun and enjoying themselves, the last being our 'Fun Day' just Friday week ago. These memories will stay with me and be a constant reminder of why I entered the teaching profession."
As well as thanking the parents both past and present for their support over the years, Mr Walsh paid tribute to his staff and Board of Governors.
"We have an excellent staff both teaching and non-teaching who, over the years, have been a strength to me as I attempted to guide the school forward, always I hope, with the children at the centre of my actions. My staff have not only been work colleagues but friends. This I hope will continue in the years to come.
"My Governors, who have constantly shown faith in my management and leadership, I thank, as my job has been made so much easier knowing that you have had full trust in me. This meant a lot, especially in those times when difficult issues had to be addressed." The Principal continued: "Fort Hill has been part of my life for most of my teaching career and it was a difficult decision for me when I decided to retire but there comes a time for everyone to 'Move On'.
"The school motto, which I read many years ago in the devotional 'Our Daily Bread', states: 'We shape tomorrow's world by what we teach our children today'. It is my sincere wish that in some small way I have had the distinction of having helped to 'shape' the hearts and minds of all my pupils both, past and present."