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Woman Of The Year 2014 - Education: Mary Roulston gives a lesson in making it happen

By Stephanie Bell

It was the humblest of beginnings for a new school — a derelict house, just 10 pupils and only one determined teacher.

But 14 years later Mary Roulston (59), the winner of our 2014 Woman of the Year in Education Award, is principal of the now thriving Millennium Integrated Primary School in Saintfield, which has 280 pupils and continues to go from strength to strength.

And that is all thanks in no small part to her drive, dedication, focus and child-centred approach to her pupils.

Mary was nominated for our award in recognition of the fine qualities she has brought to the school and the positive impact she has had on the lives of the young children in her care.

She was genuinely shocked to be singled out for our top award in honour of her work and immediately put the success of her school down to the parents and all of the staff in the school: “It was a surprise to be a finalist and I was stunned |and very grateful to be chosen for the award.

“For every person who got an award, there are hundreds of others doing just as good a job. So many people in our schools do an excellent job day and daily and it’s nice to have an award as it raises the profile for the good work of all the schools across all the sectors that make such a difference to the lives of children.”

The mother-of-three and grandmother-of-one who lives in Spa, Ballynahinch, has been in teaching for 25 years.

Mary had always been involved in cross community work and is passionate about the impact of integrated education on young children.

She said: “The school was set up by parents and when I applied for the job it wasn’t a funded post. It was just me and a classroom assistant and 10 children in a house, so we felt like a family and we were the two mummies and the pupils were our children.

“It’s been an unbelievable battle as integrated schools do not have a building or state funding.

“The impact for children who are together every day in a school environment is much stronger and I don’t think you can fully appreciate it unless you work in an integrated school.

“When I stand in the assembly hall and look out over the school I often think , ‘How did all this happen?’

“I still have vivid memories of being in that house with the 10 children and it’s hard to believe how far we have come.

“We look like a proper school now and yet we still haven’t had a proper school building but that is something to look forward to in the future.”

The school motto is ‘A Shared School for a Shared Future’ and Mary has devoted a good part of her life to giving so many children and their families a future to share.

‘I still have vivid memories of being in that house with 10 children and it’s hard to |believe how far we’ve come — we look |like a proper school now’

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