Belfast Telegraph

New sheriff in town at venerable inner east Belfast primary

By Bob Malcolm

One of east Belfast's newest principals is keen to build on his school's links with the wider community.

Jim Todd, principal at Avoniel Primary School says he has always had an interest in teaching and has returned to east Belfast after a long stretch in the north of the city.

Jim was born in the Braniel estate, attended Braniel Primary and then went to Grosvenor High School. He worked for a number of years outside of teaching but decided to return to full-time education with the view of becoming a teacher.

He attended Queen's Univerisity and a teacher training school in Scotland and returned home after being offered a job at Carr's Glen Primary School in north Belfast, where he worked for 15 years.

He said that at Carr's Glen he learnt many valuable lessons and hopes he played a part in influencing the lives of the children he taught.

He's a keen sportsman and family man, and says that walking into Avoniel Primary every day is "living the dream" to him.

He said: "My vision is that each child will believe that he or she can achieve their potential in life and that they can be winners.

"It is an awesome responsibility to be the principal of a school and I hope that the children at Avoniel Primary have the same positive experience of school that I had."

"I've found the staff at Avoniel very welcoming and found the children very welcoming.

"I've made it my business to be at the gate of the school every morning and afternoon to engage with parents.

"It's given me an opportunity to meet with parents in an informal basis.

"I feel very much at home, and know the people and the territory well."

Avoniel Primary's 78th birthday occured recently, and the building is an A-rated listed building so the school's facade cannot be changed.

Jim said that an historic society had visited the site during the summer, because within the school grounds is the site of one fo Ulster's 17th century plantations, and that the grounds had been used for Glentoran to train in during World War II when the Oval had been bombed.

"It has a lot of history behind it in the context of east Belfast, and the orignial features have been preserved very well. We have a fantastic caretaker who goes beyond the call of duty to maintain the building."

He said: "As principal it's about keeping those traditional values but also about moving on into the future and keeping up with the times. That's a big thing for me."

"There's so much grass around that it's like a little oasis in the middle of Avoniel."

He said his vision for the school was to make ever child a winner, he wants the children going to the school – and their parents – to believe they can be whatever they want to be – be it doctors, engineers, teachers, or whatever they choose to be.

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