Dr Bruce was speaking at the school following a visit which formed part of his tour of PCI’s Presbytery of North Belfast, which takes in parts of the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area as well. Each Moderator makes four such tours during their year of office, which are primarily to encourage the local Church and its members in each area, to see the work that they are doing and to encourage others who play a large part in the life of the local community.
“Earlier on in the week I had the opportunity to visit Mossgrove Primary School and I found there the same commitment to learning, the personal development and welfare of the children in their care as I did at Glengormley High School. Both schools, and indeed all schools during the last two academic years, have experienced extremely difficult times, not least when we were in the depths of the lockdown and home learning last year, then having to make special arrangements to return to school afterwards,” Dr Bruce said.
“The impact and the upheaval on everyone involved in education; governors, principals, teachers and support staff, has been considerable and I would like to add my tribute to everyone who has stepped up, rose to the challenge and went the extra mile in these exceptionally difficult circumstances. And I also include in that the parents who juggled working from home and home schooling, and the children, who had to try and learn through these abnormal times.”
During his visit that lasted all morning, the Moderator met with a range of staff and heard of the changes that had taken place and the process the school was undertaking to move to integrated status. As he toured the school Dr Bruce took part in a Year 9 RE lesson and a Q&A session on his life and faith journey with 6th Formers. He also sat in with 5th year GCSE students to talk about church leadership. At lunchtime he met with members of Glengormley High’s Scripture Union Club.
During his visit Dr Bruce learnt of the turnaround that the school had made since the Education and Training Inspectorate had raised considerable concerns on a visit in 2017 concerning a range of issues that had led to a severe deterioration of the school’s performance. “I was quite shocked to hear that in 2018, out of a potential school community of 1200 pupils there were only 650, and how in that year’s September intake, when you might have expected over 200 pupils transferring from primary schools, only around 80 did so.
“During my visit I heard of the root and branch changes that had taken place since the appointment of Mr Massey as principal and how the leadership team had pushed forwards those changes, from the review of the Positive Behaviour Policy and pastoral care, to changes to the curriculum and even the time of lunch. It seems like every aspect of school life has been turned around for the better, the fruit of which is that this September 206 pupils chose Glengormley High as their school and how overall numbers were up to over 800, which is a considerable achievement,” Dr Bruce said.
The Moderator was joined on his visit by Rev Niall Lockhart, minister of Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church. Dr Bruce also said that he had been impressed by the school’s strong Christian ethos.
Speaking about the visit, the principal of Glengormley High School, Ricky Massey said, “The school has enjoyed a close relationship with Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church and has received support through the North Belfast Presbytery. The Moderator's visit was a natural culmination of these relationships and was such an encouraging experience for the pupils and staff of Glengormley High School.
“Dr Bruce participated in a range of lessons and met our 6th Form for a question and answer session with a wide range of questions relating to faith and everyday life. The pupils were taken aback by his personal journey from being a young atheist to becoming a minister and Christian leader in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Massey concluded by saying, “Our members of the school Scripture Union club were delighted that the Moderator was fully involved in their games, which he followed up with an insightful interview. This visit has been one of the highlights of our school calendar.”
Photos: (1) Dr Bruce with the principal of Mossgrove Primary School, Elaine Sinton, and the minister of Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church, Rev Niall Lockhart (2) Dr Bruce at Glengormley High with Trevor Long, Clerk of the North Belfast Presbytery, Lynda Greer, Head of Business Studies, Rev Niall Lockhart, Ricky Massey, Glengormley High’s principal and Margareta Cummings, teacher in the special educational needs department (3) Dr Bruce with Glengormley High School 6th Formers (4) Dr Bruce with Stephen Dodds, Associate Pastor at Glengormley Baptist Church, at Glengormley High’s Scripture Union Club.