Staff Spotlight - Avril Lamplugh
Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Junior School Head Avril Lamplugh about her teaching career and her experiences as a principal.
What interested you in teaching?
I have always enjoyed school life. I was inspired by some incredible teachers in both my primary and secondary schools. I liked all aspects of the school day, especially in primary school. At home, I was always “the teacher” when we played school!
You have taught in both Ireland and the US - what are some of the differences between the two educational systems that you experienced?
You know I don’t think it matters where you are, children are all the same. The children in the US had the same needs and wants as the children here in Ireland and so from a teaching perspective I found it very similar. Parents everywhere want their children to be happy in school and to become confident, bright, kind and caring young adults.
One of the differences I found between the two when I came back was that schools in the US were very test-orientated. In Irish primary schools, there is a lot of focus on the teaching and learning of the core subjects, but the creative areas like art, music, sports and drama are equally as important. I really value the time I spent working in different schools both here and in the US as you learn so much from teaching in different educational settings.
Why did you decide to become Head of the Junior School?
I had been teaching in the classroom for 28 years and during that time I was very fortunate to work alongside fantastic teachers and leaders who were great role models for me. I learnt so much from them over the years. I completed my Master’s in Education in 2008 and felt I was ready to make the next step on my educational journey. In my previous school, I was the Deputy Head for two years before the position of Head of the Junior School was advertised. I really enjoyed being part of the management team, so I was delighted to be appointed Head of the Junior School there in 2009. I have been a Head now for 12 years, seven of them here in Alexandra College Junior School.
I am a great believer in the fact that you are only as good as the team you work with. I love my job and I love the fact that every school day is different. Being the Head of the school is challenging, especially in recent times, but when you have a great team of teachers, staff and parents working beside you, everything is possible. It is a privilege for me to be a part of the Alex community.
Why did you choose to join the Alex community?
I had been the Head in my previous school for 5 years when I heard that Alex was looking for a new Head of the Junior School. I knew the school had a great reputation and so applied for the position. I was delighted to be appointed the Head of the Junior School in 2014.
Alexandra College Junior School was a very small school when I joined, and so we worked really hard to build up our student numbers by setting up the Preschool in 2015 and then doubling up the classes from J2-J6 in 2017. I love that there is a strong Froebel ethos in the Junior School. I’d heard about the importance of the Alex school crest before I came here and, when I joined the school, I really saw all of the areas of the Alex Crest in practice. I also knew about the outstanding music and drama programmes in the College and it has surpassed all of my expectations. Alex is steeped in history and traditions, encouraging young girls to do their best and to lead by example. Throughout their time in both the Preschool, Junior and Senior Schools, the girls are given so many amazing opportunities to pursue these goals.
What are some of the differences between being a teacher and the Head of a school?
Once you’re a teacher, you’re always a teacher. As I go about my day and I work with my team here in Alex, the emphasis is always on the teaching and learning in the school and what we can all do to make that better for every child in the College. Being part of the management team here in Alex is very rewarding as we all work together to ensure that every student in the College gets the best education possible. It can be challenging at times, as sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. There is a very strong collaborative ethos in the Junior School and a huge range of talent amongst the staff. I am so fortunate to have such a great team working with me every day. There is also a great connection between the Junior and Senior Schools, especially in the area of music and drama.
What are some of your future plans for the Alexandra College Junior School?
With Covid-19 and last year’s school closure, we’ve really started to look more at our online teaching and learning skills and so we’re constantly working in this area.
We really want to build our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths) programme even further. I would love to see Alexandra College be the leading all-girls school in the area of STEAM, with a full-time STEAM teacher leading the way.
We are really hoping to have a new Junior School building in the next few years too. Looking for more space is always an issue for primary schools. That being said, I’m also a firm believer that a building is just a building and I do like the teaching areas that we have currently use. It is what goes on every day in these buildings that really matters.
Overall, I’d like us to continue doing what we’re doing, keep our excellent teachers and make sure that we’re always meeting the learning needs of every student, no matter what those needs may be. We are always focused on maintaining the balance of all four areas of the school crest and ensuring that the girls are ready to move on into the Senior School after they’ve spent ten years, yes, ten years from age 3-12, in the Junior School!