New principal gets to grips with role at Leaney

LEANEY Primary School's new principal Vivien Moorhouse should have no problems getting to grips with her new role and grappling with the challenges ahead - she's a black belt in judo!

Miss Moorhouse - who has replaced Joe McConaghie who retired at the end of last year - represented Northern Ireland in the discipline at the Commonwealth Games in 1986.

Indeed it was her love of sport in general which paved the way into teaching for the Lancashire-born woman.

"I didn't go straight into teaching from University, my background is sports coaching," she told the Times.

"I studied in Northern Ireland, arriving here in 1982, and have remained ever since."

Miss Moorhouse's sports coaching gave her a taste for educating others and she embarked on a career in teaching shortly after attaining her PGCE.

She taught at Millburn Primary School in Coleraine before moving to DH Christie Memorial Primary in the town where she held the position of vice-principal until her recent appointment at Leaney.

With such a strong background in sport, Miss Moorhouse said she hopes to introduce more physical activities to the school to supplement other areas of learning.

She told the Times sport is an excellent tool for teaching children all manner of skills which can help them in their studies and outside of school life.

"I love to see kids getting involved in sport," she said.

"All the values we are trying to push forward at Leaney can be taught through sport.

"Sport requires a different kind of intelligence and I am very keen to use that. I want to take Leaney from strength to strength when it comes to both academic and sporting excellence.

"Anything to get children away from games consoles, which are okay in moderation, but they can affect kids' concentration levels when over-used."

Miss Moorhouse is no stranger to Ballymoney having worked as a lifeguard at the Riada Centre in the late 1980s.

While the town has changed a lot in the past 30 years, she said one endearing quality has remained - the warmth of the town's people.

"I am getting an ear for the local accent," she joked.

"When you look at the centre of the town there are parts which could be regenerated now.

"But the people of Ballymoney are brilliant and always have been. They have a loyalty to the town and that has remained since I was here in the past."

Miss Moorhouse paid tribute to her predecessor Mr McConaghie and said the key to maintaining the success of the school was to keep up with the ever-changing world of education.

"It's a lovely school and is very popular locally with an excellent reputation," she said.

"Education changes so quickly that you always have to be looking forward.

"You always have to ensure you are ahead of the game.

"There is a fine tradition here and it is up to me to ensure that carries on."

Leaney Primary School is widely regarded as one of the most innovative in the province.

A programme entitled Peer Mediation was introduced in the school as an alternative means of resolving conflict, in order to improve the quality of school life during play times, for all concerned.

The process of Peer Mediation allows the children to solve problems fairly, without taking sides, in a safe and caring environment where everyone looks out for everyone else.

Leaney also has Class and School Councils.

As part of the ongoing promotion of good citizenship, pupil empowerment is now very much to the fore in the school through the work of the School and Class Councils.

The School Council is made up of two democratically elected representatives from each of the Key Stage 2 classes and is led by a duly elected Chairperson and Secretary within this committee of pupils.

Class Councils meet regularly to discuss issues which pupils would like addressed at School Council.

This initiative encourages children to articulate their opinions, to be involved in constructive dialogue accommodating the opinions of others and to engage in the democratic process to facilitate the needs and concerns of their peers, thus improving the school environment for everyone.