COLERAINE College pupils gave a warm welcome to their new acting Principal, Madame Stella-Jo Skobel following their Easter break.
In an exclusive interview with The Coelraine Times the new headmistress about her role at the school and the future of education in the Coleraine area.
After just four days as head of the Carthall Road school, Madame Skobel crushed any rumours of closure saying: “I really couldn’t imagine Coleraine without a Coleraine College, in whatever form it takes under the new Area Based Plan. The main point is we are not closing.
“The education system is changing and that will have an effect on all schools.
“There are proposals about schools amalgamating under the future Area Plan but for the foreseeable future things will remain as they are.”
After starting her teaching career in Coleraine Boys’ Secondary School some 18 years ago as a temporary French teacher, Madame Skobel was delighted to take up the role as Acting Principal following Shane Laverty’s recent departure.
“I’ve been in the job now as principal for four days, and I have to say I am enjoying it,” she said enthusiastically.
“I have wonderful staff and that makes my job easier and more pleasurable.
“We help each other and that all makes for the good of the children here at the school.”
The principal describes herself as a ‘people person’, and has a great relationship with her pupils.
“My door is always open. I really enjoy the pastoral side of school life. I believe that every child is different, so the ethos here at Coleraine College is to find the best fit for each child - should that be academic or vocational.
“We have an ‘every day is a new day’ ethos here. What has happened the day before is forgotten about, and I think that’s the key to a healthy relationship with my pupils.”
When Coleraine Boys’ Secondary School and Coleraine Girls’ Secondary School merged to become Coleraine College in 2001, Madame Skobel took on the role of Vice Principal.
Ten years later and she is now at the helm of the school she’s watched transform and improve down through the years.
“I went from a Form Teacher at the Boys’ School to Year Head, then Head of Department and just before we merged I was Vice Principal.
“In September 2001, when the schools merged, I took on the role of Vice Principal for the Junior School and went on to be sole Vice Principal when Tom Skelton left.
“As a teacher in the Boys’ School we always had a good relationship with those in the Girls’ School through the school shows, which I was involved in - those links strengthened down the years and the schools eventually merged.
“That was a big change for everyone, but it was for the better.”
Following the departure of former principal Mr Laverty, NEELB, the Board of Governors and Senior Leadership team decided to appoint from within the school so Madame Skobel took on the Acting Principal role, ably assisted by her new Acting Vice principal Mrs Diane Keys, who also started her teaching career at Coleraine Boys’ Secondary School as a Geography teacher.
Madame Skobel says the future of the schools looks bright with another healthy intake for the new year in September
Having built up links with other local schools through the Learning Partnership, an extended schools programme and a peace and reconciliation project, Madame Skobel is keen to continue these links to improve choices for her pupils.
“We work very closely with the other secondary schools in Coleraine - North Coast Integrated College, St Joseph’s and NRC and I have no doubt that these will develop further.
“We also have very good relationship with the local primary schools, and I want this to continue.
“In the short term we at Coleraine College want the best for each pupil. In the long term we want to continue serving the many generations we have done down through the years.
“I really couldn’t imagine Coleraine without Coleraine College, in whatever form it takes under the new Area Based Plan.”