The school bell rang for the final time on Friday to bring to an end the career of one of Coleraine’s best loved and most well known school principals.
An end of term party involving the whole school - pupils, parents and staff - was the perfect way for John Platt to bow out of Millburn Primary School.
John was in his element watching everyone enjoy themselves and the sense of fun and inclusiveness he has instilled in the school since day one was there for all to see.
“If someone had told me this was how it was going to be on my final day at Millburn I would have taken it, no problem,” John told the Times as he brought his 13-year association to the school to an end.
“It’s mixed emotions though, I can’t believe this day has finally come around.
“It has been a wonderful time and it is impossible to remember anything that I have disliked throughout my career. I have had such an outstanding experience teaching.
“I think if you are born for it, you are born for it. I say to all the students who I work with ‘if you can’t see yourself doing this in 30 years time then don’t do it now’.
“That’s what it came down to with me. I have never really had a bad day or a bad experience which put me off the job.
“Almost without exception the people who I have worked with have been outstanding.”
John started off at the Leaney in Ballymoney before coming back to his home town at Harpur’s Hill. His career then took him back to County Antrim in Ballee and Broughshane before he returned home to Millburn.
“I’m very lucky that Millburn is my final job as I have probably enjoyed it here more than anywhere else,” he said.
“It’s my home town, I know most of the parents. It has been priceless and it’s built around wonderful people and wonderful memories.
“The school is built around two major factors. The first one is we have complete respect for everyone, and the second one is one I changed on the first day I came here, no-one is allowed to leave my office or indeed the school with their dignity damaged.
“If you get those two things right you get everything right. If the levels of respect are right everything in the school changes.
“That’s why I think we have such a phenomenal relationship with the community - everyone is treated equally.”
John has always fought for what he believes is right but he is disappointed with the inequality of the education system.
“If I have one regret it is that the Northern Ireland system hasn’t changed enough in my time in the job,” he said.
“We have the most inequitable system in western Europe. We don’t treat all of our children fairly and we don’t treat them equally and that is a cause for concern.
“I have left that with the Principals’ Group in Coleraine that it is a cause for concern. We would all seem to be for what is seen as Sinn Fein policy, which is built around equality.
“But we can’t work why the two main Unionist parties will not go for an equitable education system, that is very worrying.”
John also finds it hard to believe the Transfer Test debate is still rumbling.
“The issue of the Transfer Test was first raised when I was a very young teacher working in Harpur’s Hill Primary School,” he said. “Here we are 30 years later still debating the same topic.
“The grammar school system has in many ways failed the vast majority of children in Northern Ireland. And if we look at what is being proposed for Coleraine now we are going to move what many believe to be the two leading schools in the town over to the far side of the river and leave the three working class estates on this side with only one post-primary education establishment.
“That is completely unacceptable. We are saying to working class communities ‘you’re not important’. We are saying to the pupils at Millburn that if they want to go to what is seen as the best schools then you are going to have to cross the River Bann.
“I would love to see the post-primary sector change to allow all of our children a fair chance.
“I’ve said this countless times, if you tell roughly 60% of your children that they are failures at aged 10 you are making a horrendous mistake. The countries which are beating us don’t do that.”