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'Ms Armstrong took defeat gracefully, unlike Mr Morton. She's a consummate leader and will continue to be so'

Sarah Arnold, who attended Enniskillen Collegiate from 2001-2008 and now works as a statistician, on why she believes her former headmistress is the best person to lead the new school

Published 09/04/2016

Sarah Arnold
Sarah Arnold
Elizabeth Armstrong
Dr Neil Morton

The amalgamation of Enniskillen Collegiate Grammar School and Portora Royal School has long been a hot topic in Co Fermanagh and beyond.

This week Portora principal Neil Morton wrote to the parents of all the pupils in what is a very personal attack on the new headmistress of the joint school, Elizabeth Armstrong.

Mr Morton says that had she been offered this job a decade ago, it would have avoided "the name-calling, the bullying of education officials".

He went on to state that Ms Armstrong's protestations caused the demise of Lisnaskea High School and the pause on the new Devenish College building. Education Minister, John O'Dowd, has said that each decision was made on its own, not collectively.

Mr Morton has since said that this letter was not a case of "sour grapes". I disagree with him.

He fought for the amalgamation of the two schools from the offset. He put himself forward as the Head of the new school twice, and the position went to the person he battled with for 10 years.

As a past pupil of Enniskillen Collegiate, I can say that Ms Armstrong is the polar opposite of this man.

Ms Armstrong attended and was visible at each school event, leading from the front when she could. She stepped in for teachers at the last minute to take classes.

She was someone I respected. At the time, all I wanted to do was rebel and keep my top button undone and colour my hair pink (I swiftly found myself in her office for that one), but she encouraged me throughout.

She even knew the university course I would study before I did. I was adamant I was going to do Accounting, but when I arrived at the school a year after leaving, looking for a Ucas reference for Mathematics, she didn't tell me 'I told you so'. She wrote a wonderful recommendation.

She has since seen my parents and has asked how I am keeping and what I am doing with myself.

Ms Armstrong knows each pupil by name, but not only that, she learns their strengths and weaknesses. She finds out their extra-curricular activities.

When a child is struggling and has problems at home, Ms Armstrong would communicate with that child and their parents to formulate a plan. This would often be late at night, working out a method for the next day's lessons.

If a new pupil joined the school, she was there to greet the child and their parents. She goes above and beyond her duties as principal.

She genuinely wants each child in her care to achieve to their ability.

For anyone who ended up in her office, they were not shouted at, but smiled to and spoken to like an adult.

As a teenager, I respected her for that.

I respect her more now. She may not have wanted the amalgamation to happen, but has taken that defeat gracefully. She will learn the names of the 500 new boys before they step foot in the building.

Ms Armstrong is embracing the change so the children of Fermanagh will have the best education they possibly can.

Enjoy your sour grapes, Mr Morton.

Belfast Telegraph

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