Obituary: Mr. Denis Jagoe, former Headmaster of Ballycastle High

DENIS Jagoe was a former pupil at Campbell College and when he was appointed to Ballymena Academy he had experience of Headship in Ballycastle High School, having begun his teaching career in Coleraine Academical Institution.

Friday, 3rd September 2010, 1:28 pm

During the 21 years of his tenure, the school with which he was so closely identified saw considerable development: additional accommodation was added to what were then the 'new' buildings on the Galgorm Road, pupil and staff numbers increased and curricular extension was at an ever-increasing pace. Under his guidance new pastoral care structures were introduced and those are structures which ensure Ballymena Academy's reputation as a caring school still holds true for each successive generation of young people.

His appointment to Ballymena Academy, 36 years ago, coincided with the onset of an educational world featuring issues which remain familiar today. The concerns which he encountered included Grammar Schools under threat, strained financial resources, and curricular uncertainty.

Denis approached these issues calmly and thoughtfully. His approach was to work with people, to listen, to seek to anticipate developments and to generate effective solutions to the kind of problems which emerge in any complex organisation.

Widely esteemed by his colleagues in Ballymena Academy, and by the Heads of other schools, Denis was seconded to what was then the Centre for Educational Management and through his work in that context he was to influence many who were at the outset of their Headship or who would soon become school Heads themselves.

Denis' stewardship saw academic achievements rise and he was careful in his approach to ensure that this should be the case. Two other aspects of school, however, were of particular importance to him and were firmly rooted in the philosophy to which he adhered. A good school will provide an educational service which is based on, but goes far beyond, the work of the classroom.

In those terms, constructive working relationships between staff and pupils were essential, alongside an extensive extra-curricular programme in which most, if not all of the pupils, take an active part. Sport was always important for Denis. A set of golf clubs which he received on his retirement were put to good use, and in school he took great delight in pupils' participation, as well as in victories achieved. He thoroughly enjoyed Schools' Cup triumphs in hockey and rugby. He was particularly pleased when Ballymena Academy won the Schools' Cup in 2010, as indeed he was when his son Neale was the Guest of Honour at Prize Day in 2008.

Ballymena Academy bears Denis Jagoe's imprimatur and it is for the better. The most tangible evidence of the esteem in which Denis is held in this community came with the opening of the D.B. Jagoe 6th Form Centre in 2000. In that purpose-built accommodation, all senior pupils of the school have a daily reminder of someone whom they may not have known but from whose influence they continue to benefit.

He retained a lively and genuine interest in the school which meant so much to him and he was very knowledgeable about it. As honorary life president of the school's old pupils' association, his regular attendance at all kinds of school events was a constant feature. He kept in contact with many of his former colleagues, even after they themselves were in retirement. He was a kind and supportive person, with a ready smile and kind word for others. He retained his sense of humour despite a long and difficult illness with which he contended on a daily basis. Governors, staff and pupils and former pupils have extended their deepest sympathy to the Jagoe family.