| 17.3°C Belfast

Teacher bids farewell after half a century at Clifton Special School in Bangor

Close

Joan Anderson Vice Principal of Clifton School in Bangor waves good bye to staff after retiring from teaching following 49 years in the job. Photo by Peter Morrison

Joan Anderson Vice Principal of Clifton School in Bangor waves good bye to staff after retiring from teaching following 49 years in the job. Photo by Peter Morrison

Joan Anderson Vice Principal of Clifton School in Bangor waves good bye to staff after retiring from teaching following 49 years in the job. Photo by Peter Morrison

In 1972 Joan Anderson walked out of college and into her first teaching job at Clifton Special School in Bangor.

On Wednesday she walked out for the final time in a teaching career that has lasted 49 years in the same school.

“I can remember walking through the doors of the school on the first day,” said Joan, who leaves the school as it begins the half term break.

“There were just two teachers. One of them had been there for three years and I wondered how she’d managed to stay in the same place for so long.

“Here I am, 49 years later!

“I just felt it was time to move on,” she said.

In fifty years there can hardly be a family with a child in special educational needs in Bangor who haven’t had their lives touched by Joan.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

“It’s hard to think where the years went,” she said. “Back in 1972 we weren’t really a school in the old premises beside Bangor Grammar in Castle Street. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the pupils we have at Clifton today would have been deemed not fit for education.”

It was only in 1987 that special schools became part of the education system. Before that we were run by Health and Social Services.

“There have been a lot of much needed changes.”

Joan’s career took in a teaching role, a spell as acting head and she retires as vice-principal at Clifton School, which currently has 200 pupils attending every day.

“There’s going to be a greater need for places in the future,” she said. “What we’ve seen in recent years is a growing number of children needing this specialist education. You look at the number of young parents out there needing the help and support and hope that the funding is there to make sure all the children get the education they need and deserve.”

For almost half a century Joan has been providing that education, and while she said every day was a highlight, there was one occasion that stood out as the proudest day of her career.

“When we moved to the new school premises in 2004 we felt we had arrived,” she said.

“Martin McGuinness was Education Minister and provided the £2.4m we needed for a purpose built facility. The day we moved in was a wonderful day.

“We had feared some of the children might not settle, having been so used to the old premises we all loved and were so used to, but the new facilities were badly needed, and we need not have worried. Everyone settled in superbly like they been there forever. I can remember having the luxury of the hydro pool for the first time.”

That building was initially constructed for 120 pupils, and with 200 now attending there have been extensions in the years since.

“But to spend every day surrounded by such loving and yes at times challenging young people and children has been a privilege,” said Joan.

“I’ll miss all the smiles and laughter, the staff who have all been so supportive of everything this school has tried to achieve.

“I don’t mind saying driving in through the gate on Wednesday morning was difficult. I’m not normally emotional, but that got me tearing up a bit.

“But I’m sure I’ll be back calling in to see everyone,” she added. “I joked with the staff I’d be back sooner than they thought to help keep the office running!

“Everyone has been so kind these past few days,” she added. “The presents and the flowers are all appreciated so much. I even had to borrow a trolley to get the flowers out to the car.”

Education Minster Michelle McIlveen was among those sending flowers and a card to wish Joan well in her retirement.

“I say I’m retiring but I’m sure I’ll end up doing something,” said Joan.

“After 49 years of a structure working life it will be hard to get away from that. I’ll take a few weeks off to put my feet up, spend some time with my husband John and have a think. I’ll probably end up volunteering somewhere as I have to keep busy.”

The rest of the time Joan is hoping to see a bit more of her four grandchildren.

“The children who have been through this school have taught me do so much over the years,” she said. “They deserve the best we can give them and they give us so much in return.”


Related topics


Top Videos



Privacy