Farewell after 42 years

Sometimes a struggling student can make a talented teacher, it seems.

Balclutha Primary School principal Paddy Ford retires at the end of this term after a career spanning 42 years in education.

But his earliest years in the classroom were not the smoothest, he revealed.

"I wasn’t the best student at teachers’ college — some modules took a few more goes than perhaps they should. And I pity the children subjected to my first assignment in Temuka.

"But things have improved a bit since then."

This may be something of an understatement, as Mr Ford has enjoyed a career at the forefront of his profession, including spells at 10 Otago and Canterbury schools, 32 years as a principal, and eight years working to improve the lot of teachers with the New Zealand Principals’ Federation.

In that last role, the 62-year-old South Otago native rose to become full-time president, representing the interests of 2600 schools nationwide.

Balclutha Primary School principal Paddy Ford rings the bell on his 42-year career in education...
Balclutha Primary School principal Paddy Ford rings the bell on his 42-year career in education next week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH


It also led to one of the more amusing incidents in his career.

"I had been interviewed by Mark Sainsbury for TV One on some subject or other. Of course, they’d made me up for TV, and I was so puffed up after the appearance I rushed straight home to tell my family without thinking to remove it.

"I can tell you I got some pretty strange looks walking through town with my orange Donald Trump make-up still on," Mr Ford said.

Highlights of his classroom days included a year spent working closely with son Zac — one of four children brought up with wife Linda, now a Cromwell florist.

"I was delighted he followed me into education, but quite surprised when he applied for a deputy principal maternity cover role at Balclutha.

"I had to stand aside and let the board decide, but they hired him, and we got to work together as principal and deputy, which I think was a first for New Zealand.

"I learnt a lot from him. It’s the young people who have all the ideas."

At 62, he said he was "still young", and was looking forward to extending his work interests.

"One former principal for hire. Quick study," he joked.

He said he would miss his colleagues and pupils, but not the "hours and changes".

"There have been 30 major changes to the education system during my 40 years. If I could fix anything, it would be government leaving schools to self-manage once more, and stop experimenting with educational principles."

He also encouraged more young men to step up into education.

"There’s a shortage of men in primary education at present, and our boys need good male role models.

"It’s been a wonderful career for me, and that still holds true today."

He praised the many "amazing, committed" teachers he had worked with during his career.

"On any given day, 99% of children are having a fantastic day in our wonderful schools, and that should be a matter of pride for New Zealand."



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