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The future is bright for Our Lady's

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The future is bright for Our Lady's thumbnailFIONA McAlinden, the new principal at Our Lady's Grammar School talks to the Democrat about the new standalone extension consisting of a three-room Technology and Design suite announced for the school.

OUR Lady's Grammar School has been in a form of transition with new Principal Fiona McAlinden taking the reins from Geraldine Pettigrew, who stepped down from the role after 20 years.

Ms McAlinden, who has been in the position since Halloween, has spent almost her whole life at the Newry school, first off as a pupil, before teaching maths for 19 years - six of those as Vice Principal.

The Warrenpoint woman admitted that she was very nervous when she took the position as Principal, especially during her first school open night, but the support, she says, has been phenomenal.

Speaking of the transition since Ms Pettigrew's retirement, Ms McAlinden has aimed to keep things as smooth as possible but was excited at having the opportunity to oversee the 3.275 million extension, which was granted by the School Enhancement Programme.

“In terms of the transition, I was working with the previous Principal very closely anyway so I suppose that's what we've been trying to do, we've been trying to keep things as smooth as possible for the pupils, staff and parents," explained Ms McAlinden.

“The biggest change was last week's announcement that we're getting a brand new technology building with the 3.275 million funding so that's my big project over the next few years.

“It's something that we've been waiting on for a very long time because the school has grown a lot. The school was originally built for 700 pupils and we now have almost 860 so we really need the space but we also need the facilities because the areas of science, technology and IT are all real growth areas for us."

Our Lady's now offers Systems Development at A Level and Ms McAlinden explained that this was down to taking on board the views of past pupils, many of whom now work for First Derivatives.

Through those links the Newry company offers work placements for Our Lady's pupils and the school's future state-of-the-art facilities will be "massive" for the pupils.

Commenting on the support she has received, Ms McAlinden was quick to thank fellow Principals in the area and the Newry and Mourne Area Learning Community.

“The support has been great," she said. "At the first parent teacher meeting I was making my speech and had a lot of girls smiling up at me and long may that continue because you are nervous during open nights but everyone has been so supportive so far.

“I've got a few calls from some of the other Principals in the area just wishing me all the best because they remember their first open nights."

Keep an eye out for the new Our Lady's app the school will be launching within the next few months, which is planned to become the main form of communication with parents, pupils and past pupils.

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