Dr Paula Downing

What has been your experience in teaching to date?
Over the past 25 years, I have worked in a number of excellent post-primary schools across Northern Ireland. Having started in teaching as a Science teacher specialising in Chemistry, I was subsequently appointed to the role of Vice Principal in two different schools and as Principal in a third. I have had the opportunity to lead whole school decision making, pastoral and curriculum development, staff development and self-evaluation in order to ensure high quality learning and teaching for all young people.

What is your vision for Carrickfergus Academy?
My vision for Carrickfergus Academy is to use this experience and work in partnership with students, parents, staff, governors, external agencies and the local community to develop a non-selective centre of excellence, rooted in the core values of community, respect, opportunity and support.

What are your first impressions of Downshire and the College as they prepare for merger?
Since formally taking up post in March, I have had numerous opportunities to visit both schools and begin to work with both sets of staff. I am hugely impressed by their collective enthusiasm, commitment and hard work towards the formal opening of the new School in September 2018. It has also been gratifying to see the ongoing development of links involving both sets of students; I am particularly impressed by the collective hard work of the combined student councils in making key decisions regarding their new School – well done!

The task of merger is a huge one and in a short period of time! What stage are things at?
Uniform has been both consulted and decided on. Work has begun on, making appointment to key posts, determining a new curricular structure that best meets the needs of our young people, and options have been finalised for Year 11 and 13 students for September 2018. Over the next few weeks staff, both teaching and non-teaching, will work together to plan for curricular and pastoral provision for next year.

How can parents and pupils in both schools and from feeder primary schools keep up to date with what is happening?
I would encourage everyone to keep up to date with the school using both our website and Facebook where we will be uploading key events towards the merger, as well as important policy and procedure documents in the run-up to June. Formal familiarisation events will be held for students and parents in June.

Beyond the hard work and planning for merger, what are you looking forward to most of all as Principal of Carrickfergus Academy?
I am enthused by the challenge ahead and very much look forward to meeting with all students, parents and the wider local community to forge positive relationships based on the belief that we are all pursuing excellence and want the best for everyone in our community.

Have you anything you would like to say at this early stage to staff and pupils as the Principal Designate of Carrickfergus Academy?
I would like to wish you all – students, staff and parents an enjoyable Easter break. I would also like to send my best wishes and encouragement to all young people in years 11 – 14 as they approach their forthcoming external examinations.