21 May 2022

INTERVIEW: School motto a big draw for new St Patrick's principal

Leanne Scullion had previously been vice principal at a school in Stockport, England.

INTERVIEW: School motto a big draw for new St Patrick's principal

St Patrick's College in Dungiven recently appointed a new principal, Mrs Leanne Scullion. As Mrs Scullion approaches the end of her first month leading the college, Orla Mullan caught up with her to find out how she has been settling in so far.

Orla Mullan: Tell us a little bit about yourself? 

LS: I am originally from Derry, I attended Thornhill College where I completed my GCSE and A level courses before opting to study at University in Belfast.

I graduated from Queens University with a BSc in ICT and Business followed by a move to Lancaster to undertake a PGCE in ICT. I began my career in Manchester teaching there and in the Stockport area for the past 18 years. 

OM: What’s your work background? 

LS: I started my teaching career in ICT, Business, and Computing, in a school in inner-city Manchester. I was promoted to Head of the Department which gave me the opportunity to consolidate my teaching and develop essential management skills.

Seeking more management experience, I moved to a new school in Stockport as Assistant Principal and in time was promoted to a Vice-Principal position with responsibility for pupil Behaviour, Safeguarding, and Learning Support.

I am very proud of the work I have undertaken in my career to date and look forward to the new opportunities working back at home in Derry leading St. Patrick’s College, Dungiven.

OM: You’ve recently been appointed as Principal of St. Patrick’s College, Dungiven. How have you been settling in so far? 

LS: I’ve absolutely loved my time here so far and been made feel so welcome by everyone I’ve met. I have had so many positive engagements and interactions with pupils, parents, staff, and community representatives. 

It is abundantly clear from these exchanges that there  are strong relationships between all the stakeholders of St. Patrick’s College, relationships which I will treat respectfully and continue to develop. 

It has been a pleasure to speak with our pupils and staff hearing all the positive and complimentary things they say about each other, learning more about the experiences they share in the classroom and beyond. 

OM: What attracted you to St. Patrick’s College, Dungiven? 

LS: While researching the school through our website, social media accounts and press articles I was very aware of the deliberate use of the motto “Promoting Personal Excellence” which really struck a chord with me.  I am a firm believer that every child should be treated as an individual and that every child has their own race to run.  

It is our responsibility as educators to ensure every pupil achieves their  personal best and as such all achievements should be recognised and celebrated, this is a genuine strength of our school and aligns perfectly with my own outlook and aspirations on achievement.

I was very impressed with how proud the staff are of the pupils and how often they publicly share pupil success through pastoral awards and also recognition of pupil achievement outside the school when they represent their sports club or County, excel in other pursuits like Show Jumping, Gymnastics, Irish Dancing, Boxing, Amateur Dramatics, Singing - the list of gifts and talents just goes on and on.

Developing the whole child is certainly not just an aspiration on paper, it is lived out through the small daily engagements, guidance, praise and support on offer.

Another strength of the school that stood out for me was the emphasis placed on pupil mental health and wellbeing, examples such as the colour runs, counselling services, art therapies, outdoor pursuit trips, staff and community fundraising events to support wellbeing initiatives and resources are just a few of the amazing activities above and beyond the expected high levels of teaching and learning that set St. Patrick’s College, Dungiven apart.

As I learn more each day about our school and how it functions I am heartened by how the school community fosters a Catholic ethos in a supportive and caring manner.

Our Catholic Faith Development is lived through the Liturgy, the Eucharist at Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation throughout the school year, I very much look forward to sharing in these celebrations when Covid-19 restrictions ease and we can once again safely gather in larger groups for assemblies to share morning prayer and celebrate in the Mass together.

The Pope John Paul II Award is a new experience for me and I am learning how our Sixth Form students are invited to play an active part in the life of our Church, their local community and become more aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world.

Our Sixth Form students devote their personal time completing tasks for the Parish and Church which are required to achieve the award.

I have been so impressed with the maturity and confidence of our Sixth Form students and I am encouraged by the additional roles and responsibilities they undertake within the school to support junior pupils and staff.

OM: How has  Covid  impacted day-to-day school life? And how have staff and students managed to adapt to the challenges surrounding the restrictions so far? 

LS: Our community has experienced many challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. The pupils and staff adapted quickly and effortlessly to all changes and restrictions brought in.

Restrictions have included bubble classrooms, online learning, split breaks, one-way systems, and increased natural ventilation.

The staff assure me that this challenging time was made easier because of the pupil’s good humour, care for each other and focus on their work.

OM: Why should parents of prospective pupils consider sending their child to St. Patrick’s College? 

LS: We are a child- centered school, where your child will be seen as an individual and they will be supported by our staff to achieve their very best inside and outside the classroom.

Our outcomes are strong at both GCSE and A Level. We are committed to delivering a broad and balanced curriculum that includes excellent opportunities for enrichment and leadership at all levels.

Whilst academic success is very important, here at St. Patrick’s College, we also believe that there is more to a good education and actively seek to provide opportunities and experiences that help our students become more confident, well-rounded and ambitious young adults.

OM: What do you believe makes St. Patrick’s College, Dungiven special? 

LS: The relationships between the pupils and staff are genuinely something special, the pupils and staff speak openly and positively about each other, sharing with me their experiences after school in sports, clubs and community activities.

The Pastoral and Learning Support teams go over and above for the pupils and their families, I have listened to first-hand accounts from parents of their positive experiences and outcomes. We are fully committed to the safeguarding and wellbeing of our young people, it is at the heart of everything we do.

As a smaller school community we can assure pupils and parents that no child is just a number and everyone is quickly known and valued.

Our smaller exam classes at GCSE and A Level allow our staff to devote more time to each pupil and ensure they get the support and guidance they deserve.

The numerous after school revision classes preparing students for public exams at GCSE and A Level throughout the year are not common place in all schools and further confirm for me the devotion and commitment our staff have to the young people in their care.

OM: The transition from primary to secondary school can be daunting for a child. What would you say to a child considering coming to the school to reassure them? 

LS: The pupils and staff all look out for each other, they will help you settle in.  Staff check-in with you daily. Every child here tells me that they have someone they can go to if they need help or have a concern.

Our Year 8 pupils tell me main thing that helped them settle in was their induction day in August and I look forward to meeting all our new year 8 pupils on their first day of school with us at the annual outdoor pursuits event at the Carrowmena Adventure Centre.

This is an excellent opportunity for pupils from all our partner Primary schools to meet new classmates for the first time, relax in the informal setting of the Adventure Centre and become more familiar with the head of year and form teachers.

In the absence of a traditional Open Night experience, where P7 families visit for a tour of our school and the opportunity to meet with all pupils and staff, we proudly present a short promotional video bringing everyone a flavour of life here at St. Patrick's College, Dungiven.

We encourage P7 pupils and their parents to visit our website to view the video and share with others in our community.

To help with transition queries I encourage individual families and small groups to book a visit and guided tour with myself and senior prefects during school hours where we can safely visit some classrooms and meet with key staff who will be part of the induction team in the early days and weeks of the first term in September.

I have conducted a number of pupil and parent tours this term and have thoroughly enjoyed the warm and positive feedback received, I look forward to many more in the weeks ahead.

Contact the school office to make a booking - 028 77741324.

You can view the school's promotional video here

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