Special needs teacher honoured

Patsy McDermott, former Principal of Sandelford School with cards  of Congratulations and flowers after she was awarded the MBE from The Queen on The New Years Honours list.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

Patsy McDermott, former Principal of Sandelford School with cards of Congratulations and flowers after she was awarded the MBE from The Queen on The New Years Honours list.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

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A COLERAINE woman who was awarded the MBE for her work in special needs education and respite care has called her work a “privilege”.

Former principal of Sandelford School in Coleraine, Mrs Patricia McDermott taught in the Rugby Avenue school since 1974 before becoming principal in 1982 until her early retirement in 1982.

Known as Patsy, she is still heavily involved in offering respite care to children and adults and has done so for the last 30 years.

“It has been a great privilege for me working with adults and children with special needs,” Patsy told the Times.

“It’s wonderful to know that the parents have such trust in you. In fact some of the children who came to me for respite are still now coming as adults.

“My husband Michael and my children are all involved in the respite care. It’s just one big happy family.”

Patsy received notification in November that she was to receive the MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List but was sworn to secrecy.

“Then at the New Year, a letter arrived from Peter Robinson and Edwin Poots and another one from London giving me details of the award.

“We just know that the ceremony will be held in Buckingham Palace and I will be taking my husband Michael and my daughter Claire and son Colm. They have been the backbone of the all my respite work so I’m really thrilled that they will be able to come with me.

“In fact both Colm and Claire were nominated for their respite work when they were young.

“They were nominated for the Children of Achievement awards and both got to travel to London for the awards. Colm’s was presented by Princess Diana so we have all been more than paid back.

“As children they were a brilliant help, doing things like changing nappies and preparing equipment. Now Colm and his wife Amy, who is a teacher in Sandelford, also do respite care so that it a nice spin off,” said Patsy who is a proud grandmother to six-month-old Daniel.

Patsy said she has been told that it was a group of parents who nominated for the award.

“I’m really thrilled because it has been such a privilege for me to look after these children and to have their parents put such trust in you.”