Retiring Ballycastle High School principal pays tribute to pupils and staff

ONE of north Antrim's top educationalists is set to retire this summer.

Wednesday, 28th April 2010, 1:30 pm

Bill Harpur will step down as principal of Ballycastle High School.

Officially he leaves on August 31 but the last time many of the pupils will see him will be at the end of their school year in June.

Mr Harpur has been principal for twelve years and he told the Times it was a "privilege" to be school head and he wishes to pay tribute to pupils, staff and parents.

Mr Harpur succeeded Mr Desmond McKeown in 1998 and has helped guide the school through times of great change in education.

Mr Harpur began teaching in 1974 at Dunluce School in Bushmills teaching geography and biology and in 1993 left to join the Northern Eastern Education & Library Board's Advisory Staff before returning to Dunluce in 1995 as Vice-Principal and then on to Ballycastle High.

Mr Harpur said: "It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have led the High School. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, working with pupils, parents and staff. I will look back with many fond memories.

"The school has a tremendous staff and a very able staff. I have worked with some real giants of the teaching profession and the school is poised to move on in a changing educational scene."

Looking back he said one of the highlights of his career centred on the ongoing co-operation between Ballycastle High School and neighbouring Cross and Passion College.

"For a long time that link-up was unique in the Province. Everybody is doing it now but in Ballycastle the link was going on for 40 years, quietly during the Troubles," said Mr Harpur.

Other high points included meeting the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and another was Ballycastle High School being part of an art exhibition at the European Parliament where he said the work of pupils went down well with MEPs.

Mr Harpur said the biggest change in education over the years has been computers.

"ICT has been the biggest driver of change including how people learn. Teachers are now enablers and facilitators rather than dispensers of knowledge," he added.

Mr Harpur said his retirement will give him time to "catch a breath" and he is looking forward to exploring his interest in environmental issues in the countryside and taking part in walking holidays with his wife.

Although his successor has not yet been appointed Mr Harpur would like to wish whoever it is well in the post.