Before Christmas 2006, some of the P7s interviewed Judy Heaney. Judy began work in Forge when it opened. She was and remains the longest serving member of staff at the school. She has turned her hand to almost every job you could imagine needing done in a primary school and has a unique perspective on the last thirty plus years.
What year did Forge open?
What was the most difficult thing at the start?
In many ways the most difficult things about starting off a new school had already been taken care of by the time I started in September. It was a small school with very few staff so everybody did everything that needed doing. Funding was always an issue in the early days too, for a while we waited from month to month to see if there was enough money for us to be paid.
Integrated education is part of the mainstream now, but when Forge started it wasn’t. Were you very aware of how different the new school was?
It was slightly different for me because I had worked in Dublin for a couple of years which was a lot more multi-cultural, so working with a mix of people wasn’t something new. My family, however, thought that integrated education was very strange and would never work. My dad didn’t understand how religion could be involved at all. People generally don’t like change, so many people were dubious of an integrated primary school because it had never been done before, and we were all aware that we were the first, there weren’t any other examples to follow.
How has your job changed over the years?
I started out as a nursery assistant in the nursery that we had at the start. Then I moved on to be a classroom assistant in the younger classes. Now I am a learning support/admin assistant (Judy has since reverted to work as a P1 assistant and supervisor).
Did the change of site have a big impact on the school?
Not really at the time, no. Although in the long run it did because we moved to a much nicer site. The old school was right on Balmoral Avenue, the road was always busy, in fact it was even difficult to park your car.
Has the school improved over the years?
No it hasn’t improved, it’s grown. The increase in numbers is obviously a change for the better, but it has always had the same friendly atmosphere.
The current teachers get on extremely well, was this always the case?
There has been the odd clash of personalities, but otherwise the staff have always got on okay.
Over the years there have been a few members of staff who have been real characters, who has been the most eccentric person you have ever worked with?
Without naming names, in the old building there were two eccentric members of staff who one day found an old trolley for carrying boxes. They decided to push each other round the quad, the inside of the school, laughing and screaming as they did so. There was also one other member of staff, again in the old building, who was teaching a ‘water’ topic with her P3 class. Since it was June and quite warm, the whole class brought in their swimming suits, her included, and she attached a hose to the classroom tap, ran the hose out the window and they all went outside and soaked each other!
Have there ever been times when you wish you hadn’t started this job?
No, I just get on with it. I do what needs to be done and do as much as I can. I always enjoy being around the children.
Do you have any memories that stick out in your mind?
At the very start, when I worked in the nursery, the staff had to make the food for the kids. It was a miracle no one was poisoned, because I was cooking!