Head of the Class – Park NS.

Published – East Cork Journal – Thursday, April 10 2008.

Interview with Principal Niamh O’Connor.

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This week I visited Park National School and talked to Principal Niamh O’Connor. I had no idea what to expect from the school as I had never heard of it before. After taking the many winding roads and hills and stopping to ask for directions I finally found the place.

The building is really small and resembles an old school house. When I went inside I noticed that there were only two classrooms. That is when I knew that this was unlike the other schools I had visited. The Principal Niamh O’Connor greeted me and explained that there were just two teachers in the small two room school. She sent her class into the other teacher when I arrived and when they were leaving I noticed that it was a very small class. Later I learned that there are just 17 kids in this school.

So the school is small and a lot different to the busy town schools I have already been to but that doesn’t mean that it is forgotten about. Talking to Niamh I learnt of all the different activities that the kids were involved in. Like the kids in bigger schools they learn French and science and do sports and play music.

The school was first opened in 1951 as a one teacher school. It has now grown and has two teachers including Principal Niamh O’Connor and Edel Ahern. Emer Power also works in the school as a part time learning support teacher. Niamh started teaching at the school six years ago when Jane Flannery Principal of Castlemartyr National School was Principal. Niamh was offered the position as Principal when Jane Flannery left and considers herself “fortunate to have been given the opportunity because it is a lovely school.” She said that when she started teaching she liked the fact that the school is in a tight knit community and that the parents are so involved.

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Like I have already said there are just 17 pupils. They come mainly from the Park area but some also travel from Youghal town and from as far away as Cappoquin.

A fully revised curriculum is taught in the school. PE, Science, French and computers are also taught. There are 9 computers in the school so the student computer ratio is very high. Niamh O’Connor says that

“the kids are very computer literate and power point presentations are the norm.”

The older children present projects that they have done to the younger children. This year the teaching focus was on France and the school held a French Day. The older children showed presentations that they had made and all the kids dressed up for Mardi Gras. This all tied in with the fact that the children from 3rd to 6th class study French so it was an extra benefit to them.

Last year the school won the Health Promotion School Award which was presented to them by Minister Michael Ahern. This award means that the children are conscious of their eating habits. The school has a policy on healthy eating guidelines and is also involved in the Food Dudes Campaign. The kids are also involved in recycling. Everything in the school is recycled. There is no domestic waste, the school composts as much as possible. Everything is either recycled or sent home with the kids. There is also a school garden which Niamh is very proud of. Yesterday the kids spent the evening planting flowers for the summer.

The school also received the Discovery Science of Excellence Award last year. This consisted of a series of experiments being taught to the children from 1st class to 6th class. Every week for the entire year the kids did different experiments and the teachers set up a portfolio to record this. The program was set to develop creativity and to show the children that science is part of every day life.

Niamh talked about the student teacher ratio. She said that because there is such a low ratio that it benefits the kids. She said that

“if you have a child that needs that little bit extra help because they are in a multi-grade system that you are constantly repeating so it benefits them.”

Niamh also talked about how it would benefit kids who liked to be challenged. They are also at an advantage as they can listen to the higher class. She said that “the children here are living proof that multi-grade teaching works.”

Aisling Butler comes into the school every Tuesday to teach the tin whistle. Edel Ahern also teaches music to the kids. Music is played every morning with the keyboard or a flute or tin whistle. At the moment the school is working on purchasing a new keyboard and some recorders.

Because the school is so small all the parents have a really positive impact on the school. This year the school are focusing on building a new store room and the fundraising relies on the parents and children in the area. There was a fundraiser in the Halfway Bar and it was a great success. There was music and food and the parents really got involved.

The school also holds a Christmas concert each year and the school neighbours and parents always attend. It is usually a musical and because the school is so small every child has the chance to play a lead role. This gives them great experience for public speaking later in life.

Last year the kids were involved in painting the shed outside with Philipa Healy. Each child in the school took part in painting the mural. This was an opportunity for all the kids to work together in a project that benefited the school.

While there are no sports teams in the school because of the limited numbers PE is still a huge part of the school. The kids celebrate Active School Week every year. During this week the children are taken for 15 minutes to do sports as a whole school. This reminds them how important physical activity is.

Children are also involved in shared reading throughout the year where the older children listen to the younger children and vice versa. The kids recently celebrated this through World Book Day where the day was spent focusing on books, doing drama and talking about favourite authors.

Future plans for the school include working on becoming a green school. Because the school already promotes health and the environment and recycling it is a link on to this. The kids and teachers are working on this and hopefully it shouldn’t be too long before they receive their green flag.

Last year the school underwent a whole school evaluation in the report the Cigire reported

“The parents, the board and the pupils can be assured that the quality of teaching in this school is of a high standard.”

After visiting the school I think that it is a good description of the school, the children and the teachers.

Leaving the school I felt like I was leaving a big family home. Although I was shocked that a school so small could actually exist I learnt that just because it is small it does not mean the kids are at any disadvantage. They learn the same subjects and get involved in the same programs as kids in bigger schools and I felt that they were actually at an advantage because there was so many activities that the kids could work on together.

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Head of the Class – Gael Scoil.

Published – East Cork Journal, Thursday March 13th, 2008.

Interview with  Príomhoide Mairéad Uí Fhloinn.

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Gaelscolaíocht d’ardchaighdeán a chur ar fáil do gach pháiste i dteannta le hachmhainn iomlán an pháiste agus an cultúr Gaelach a chothú  ’s a neartú iontu agus iad i gcaidreamh beo le Dia agus le daoine eile.

To provide each child with a high standard of education through Irish while cultivating and strengthening a love of Irish culture as we develop the whole child in a living relationship with God and with others.

Nuair a thugann daoine nach cainteorí Gaeilge iad  cuairt ar an scoil bíonn ionadh agus alltacht orthu toisc go labhraíonn gach éinne Gaeilge fuí taobh amuigh de shaol an ranga. Is mór an t’éacht é sin. Tá caighdeán níos airde i labhairt na Gaeilge ag na leanaí seo ná mar a bhíonn ag furmhór againn tar éis dúinn an scoil a fhágáil.

Gael Scoil Mhainistir na Corann was founded in 1999. A few years previous to this a group of people came together to set up the school. The biggest challenge they had was to find a suitable premises.

Eventually the committee was offered the use of the community centre. The first year that the school opened there were just 17 pupils and there was limited recognition of the school.

There are now 268 children which is a great achievement since the school isn’t even 9 years old yet. This reflects the growing need for Gael Scoileanna in the East Cork area and shows that there is a demand in area to have children educated through Irish. The school has gone from a one teacher school to a 13 teacher school. There are 2 part time special needs assistants and also a classroom assistant who helps out with everyday classroom duties.

The children come from the Midleton and out-lying area. In most cases the parents have shown an interest in having their children taught though the medium of Irish. “We have children coming from Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Killeagh, Ladysbridge and Castlymartyr” says Príomhoide Mairéad Uí Fhloinn.

The ethos of the school is to promote the Irish language. All subjects are taught through the Irish language with the exception of English. The policy of the school is total immersion in the Irish language and no English is taught until the third term. Príomhoide Mairéad Uí Fhloinn explains that the reason for this is that

“research shows that children learn quicker if they are immersed in the new language before going onto the second language”.

This aside she does also stress that “the standard of English is equal to if not better than that of children who are taught through the medium of English”. Through teaching like this the teachers have found that none of the children have any difficulties when it comes to learning English and they pick it up fast as the basic skills have already been taught through Irish.

For the first time French is being taught in the school this year. It has been introduced to children in 5th and 6th class and has so far been very successful. French is thought in accordance with the modern languages scheme initiative for primary schools. Mairéad Uí Fhloinn acknowledges its success and says “It is going very well and we hope to have a few songs in our Christmas show this year”.

Being a Gael Scoil the focus is Irish and all things Irish. The school has a múinteoir ceoil who teaches the children every Monday and prepares them for the Scór na bPáistí competition. This year the children are taking part in five sections of this competition. They are also preparing for a drama which will be in the church at Christmas. The school also has a drama teacher. She is a great asset to the school as she helps with the promotion of oral English.

The main focus is now on singing, music and the Scór na bPáistí competition. However, after Christmas the children will be involved in dance lessons. This will run up until Seachtain na Gaeilge, which as many will recognise is a very important week in the school and the Irish community.

A number of events are organised .The major event is a Céilí within the school which the children prepare for beforehand. Cairde, the Parents Association are very helpful when it comes to this as they sponsor the Céilí band for the occasion. An Oíche Bingo as Gaeilge is also organised during this week. While this is an optional event many children have taken part in the past. The children will also take part in the St Patricks Day Parade which is held in the town.

Having been a great success last year the students are again taking part in The Health Service Executive program of promoting healthy eating . The school has drawn up a healthy eating policy. A few weeks ago the students took part in a healthy eating week. This year there was a smoothie demonstration where a committee made up of parents, teachers and children went to every class room showing how smoothie are made and gave each child a sample of a smoothie. There was a competition of filling a lunch box with healthy food for the younger classes. Rang 2 had to draw up a food pyramid and the older classes had to draw up healthy menus for a restaurant. Prizes were sponsored by Cairde and presented at the end of the week. A skipping work shop also took place during this week and all children were given the chance to take part. After Christmas the school will be taking part in the Food Dudes program.

Throughout my interview with Mairéad Uí Fhloinn I was made aware of how important the parents association are to the school. Many schools have parents associations but this school clearly exists because of them. Any fundraising or school activities that need organised Cairde are there to help. A fundraising race night was recently held in Wallis’ Bar in Midleton. This was also organised by Cairde and Principal Mairéad Uí Fhloinn would like to express thanks to “Wayne Fitzpatrick and the committee for all the work that they put into this event”.

The other major fundraiser which has taken place every year for that last number of years is the golf classic which is held on Holy Thursday and again Cairde are a big help in organising this. Willie O’Connell organises this and the school would also like to thank him.

While a lot has been done to set up the school and organise a building, funding, teachers etc. there is one thing that the school still needs. Anyone who has seen the school will know that the community centre is not an ideal building for a school, in fact it is far from it. Having been involved in activities there as a child I know how small the school is and it’s hard to imagine that 268 kids can fit in that one building. Nothing about the premises is perfect and although it was the place where the school set up, it is far from appropriate now.

What is badly needed is a permanent building so that the children can be educated in a school that they deserve. There is a huge co-operation within the staff. As Principal   Mairéad Uí Fhloinn  says

“We need a school and we need it quickly” 

Castlelands Construction has offered to build a school but this has been delayed. The school is pursuing this and want the new building as fast as possible.

The numbers of children in the school are growing fast and every school in the town will have increased numbers next year. There is only so much longer that the school can last in this building. The children have chosen to study through Irish and they should be rewarded for all their work instead of being forced to spend each day in a small inappropriate building. Unlike many of their friends in English speaking schools they do not have the same recreational facilities. Their choice to learn through Irish should not affect the services and facilities that are available to them.

Leaving the room I realised that I had learnt so much. Many schools that I have visited were fighting for prefabs, new computers, new books but this school is definitely the most in need of help. A school building is essential and everything else can easily fit in around this. Despite the constant struggle for a new school Principal Mairéad Uí Fhloinn does not let it stop the children from getting the education they want and it is clear that she has a lot of help. As she says

“We are blessed that there are always people to lend a hand no matter what the cause is”.

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Head of the Class- Castlemartyr NS

Published – East Cork Journal – Thursday, February 21st 2008. 

Interview with Principal Jane Flannery.

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My visit to this school was certainly unlike that of any of the other schools I have gone to. When I walked through the doors I could hear singing coming from the hall and after being introduced to Principal Jane Flannery I was brought down to the hall where all the children in the school were singing in preparation for their Christmas carol service. The children were very enthusiastic and beamed up at me with huge smiles as they praticed their songs. I walked around and was introduced to many students including members of the Sciath Na Scoil team and the Science Class. Before leaving the hall the children sang the school motto. They sang it with great pride and enthusiasm.

The school currently has 136 pupils and caters for children from Castlemartyr and Mogeely. Originally opened in 1980 the school was run by Principal Patrick Wade up until last year when Jane Flannery stepped in and took over. Formerly a teacher in Carrigtwohill boy’s school and principal of a small school Jane Flannery “enjoys the challenge of working in Castlemartyr School”. 7 full time teachers and one part time teacher make up the all female staff.

There are many extra curricular activities in this school. In sport Bernadette O’Brien takes a basketball club every Wednesday afternoon. The school is equipped with two full size basket ball courts which is certainly an asset to the children. The school is also involved in Sciath Na Scoil. Having not taken part in this for many years the school has this year decided to return to competing in the Sciath na Scoil this year and for the first time ever the girls are also involved. The children are also involved in swimming  lessons which take place in the Aura Leisure Centre in Youghal and they also took part in a recent skipping work shop.The main focus of course is the GAA with the children being big hurling and football enthusiasts. The girls are also for the first time involved in ladies football.

Dancing lessons also take place once a week in the school. The modern dance classes are thought every by Sinead Shepherd who many may remember for her being part of the Irish

students-of-the-week-mikaela-shane-owen-dylan-and-laura1Pop star group Six. The classes take place on Mondays and there are separate classes for the junior and senior children. Speech and Drama is also taught in the school by Joy Alabaster who has been teaching at the school for many years now. 5th and 6th class children also take part in a discover science program. Co-ordinated by their teacher Fiona O Callaghan the children learn about different aspects of science including magnetism. They conduct practical experiments which helps them have a better understanding of the subject.

When asked whether or not the school was involved in any healthy eating program Principal Jane Flannery comments “Oh yes very much we have the most rigorous healthy eating program in East cork”. The children have just completed the “Food Dudes Program” which was promoted by Bord Bia. . The children were delivered fruit and vegetables every day for 3 weeks and then encouraged with bribes and awards to keep bringing them. This was a great way for the children to learn about healthy eating and as Principal Flannery says. “It does take a lot of time on the part of the staff but it is paying off”.

While the school is not a green school the staff are very green orientated.  The school has a full recycling management program in operation and the children are encouraged to recycle as much as possible.

As a new principal Jane Flannery’s main focus is making the school her own. The school motto is “Let the rooms be filled with happiness”. And her philosophy is that “the process of doing everything is what counts rather than the product”. There are schools where everything on the walls has to be perfect and the singing must be in tune but she’s says that “here the children are exposed to everything and we are very open to the new curriculum”.

Every week a child from each class is awarded the title of “Student of the Week”. The award is given based on the child’s actions in class and commitment to school work. This is a good way to fulfil the schools motto and award the children.

In her short time at the school there has been a total refit of the school which was partially funded by the government and the rest was fundraised by the Parents Association. The school has had a complete make over. It has been painted and has new floor coverings. The school also had a complete electrical refit. Jane Flannery gives full praise to Parents association and Chairperson Emer Murphy for all that they have done for the school.

Last year the big agenda was reading. The students took part in a paired reading program. This meant that every senior student was paired off with a younger child so that they could help them with their reading. “Paired reading was the most successful thing that we did” claims Principal Jane Flannery. This year it is the “Year of Maths” in Castlemartyr. And the school is fundraising for maths equipment and practical classroom equipment as the government grants do not give enough for this.

Many may remember Treasure Island an RTE reality TV show which took place a few years ago. The winner Sean O’Brien is a past pupil at the school and is now married to his Treasure Island competitor Bernadette O’Brien who teaches at the school. Another claim to fame is 6th class pupil Catherine Fitzgerald. Catherine has a lot to be proud of as she has not missed at single day of school since starting in Junior Infants. There are certainly not many who can say that.

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Head of the Class- CBS

Published – East Cork Journal – Thursday, February 14th 2008.

Interview with Pat Fitzgerald, Midleton CBS.

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This week I met with Principal Pat Fitzgerald to talk about CBS Primary School in Midleton. The current school building was built back in 1967 and before this the school was situated across the road where it was first established over 100 years ago.Originally the school was a Christian Brothers school but over ten years ago it was taken over by a lay Principal and has been managed like this ever since.

The all boys’ school has a current enrolement number of 329 students. The children travel from all parts of the world. While of course many of the students come from the Midleton area there are also children from 18 different nationalities attending the school. Children come from Thailand, Poland, Nigeria, Algeria, Czech Republic, India and so on. The list is endless but there is no doubt that there is a good global representation in the school. Just last week 2 children joined the school after moving from the Ukraine.

There are 17 teachers in the school. The school is lucky to have three special needs assistants and 2 language support teachers. The language support teachers help children who may need some extra help with understanding the English Language. These teachers are especially helpful to the children who have moved from other countries. A third language support teacher is expected to start teaching at the school in the coming weeks.

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Many extra-curricular activities take place in the school. A drama club is held one afternoon a week and both indoor hurling and football are also taught after school.

Within the school a lot of different activities take place. Irish dancing lessons are held every week and the children are encouraged to take part. The tin whistle is also taught in many of the classes. While at the moment the school doesn’t offer any foreign languages, Principal Pat Fitzgerald says that in the past he has taught Italian and he hopes that in the near future it will be possible  to organise classes again.

Swimming lessons are also organised for children in 4th, 5th and 6th class. The lessons take place over 6 weeks in Youghal and this gives the children an opportunity to learn how to swim in these few years. Principal Pat Fitzgerald places an emphasis on these lessons

“Every child gets involved in swimming and it’s a life skill”.

The school also has a basketball court which is used a lot during the summer months. Children are given the opportunity to take part in a soccer league each year and can also take part in the Sciath na Scol and Cork City Sports.

Many of the children are involved in sporting clubs and the GAA. Within the school however there is an emphasis on involving the kids in fun orientated activities so that they can interact with each other and get exercise. As Principal Fitzgerald comments

“Competitive sports are fine but I am now  trying to focus more on getting kids involved”.

Of course like many schools in the area the CBS places an emphasis on healthy eating. Just last week the kids began the Food Dudes program which encourages them to eat more fruit and vegetables. This program has been a great success in the past and the children are lucky to be able to learn the right foods to eat when they are young. After the Food Dudes program finishes the teachers will encourage the children to continue eating healthy food.

Students have also recently completed the MS Readathon. This has taken place in the school every year for over ten years and this year the kids raised a grand total of  €5283. This is obviously a great achievement for the students.

CBS Principal Pat Fitzgerald is grateful that the school has a very good Parents Council that organise all the fundraising for the school. They have funded a lot of the remedial needs for the school. Since September every classroom has received a new whiteboard from this fundraising. Principal Fitzgerald comments that having the Parents Council means that they can focus on teaching as all the fundraising is all taken care of.

“They are doing tremendous work for the school; we are spoiled because we do not have to think about fundraising thanks to their efforts”.

The school has embarked on a new expansion program with the hope to build an extra four classrooms in the near future. These rooms will cater for the anticipated increase in enrolment numbers. Staff are also working consistently to upgrade IT facilities. There is currently a purpose built computer room and they are always upgrading the computers. Principal Fitzgerald is aware that in time he will have to look at the possibility of Interactive Whiteboards. He admits that in the coming years he can see the school heading in that direction.

Before leaving the school I was introduced to students involved in drama, hurling, computer classes, Irish dancing and swimming. All the kids seemed to be involved in one thing or another which really showed that the children are encouraged to take part in school activities.

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Head of the Class – Saleen

Published Thursday November 22nd, 2007.

Interview with Peter Gunning Principal of Scoil Na Scairte Leithe, Saleen.

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I arrived at the school at lunch time when all the children were outside playing in the yard. It was hard to imagine how so many children could fit inside such a small building. Of course later on a short tour of the school I was shown the new buildings and classrooms that cannot be seen from the road and it all began to make sense.

The school was first established over one hundred years ago in the village of Saleen. It moved to a new building in 1947 and this is where it can be found today. The school building was extended in 1972 and again last year and there are plans to extend the school yet again in the next two years. The original two teacher building has now transformed into an 8 classroom building with 6 additional prefabs.

There are 239 children attending the school 8 of which are in unit for children with autism. The children are mainly from the local area although there are also children from other nationalities. The children come from Ghana, Europe, Australia and America. There are 16 teachers and 10 special needs assistants.

A big emphasis is place on special needs in the school. In the past 7 years the school has catered for the needs of children with special needs. There are children with Downs Syndrome, mild learning disabilities and Dyspraxia. While the special needs assistants and facilities are available Principal Peter Gunning comments

“We only take the children in if their needs can be met by us”.

This is of course very important and shows the dedication of the staff and principal.

The school is the only one in the area that has a separate unit that caters for children with autism. Last year the unit was established and it catered for just two children. There are now three classes catering for 8 children.  

“Children with a diagnosis of autism whose education can’t take place in the mainstream classroom come to us, they go to the special classes and then we integrate them during the school day for as much time as possible” comments Principal Peter Gunning.

The school is lucky to have a very active parents association. They along with the Board of Management take responsibility for all extra curricular and after school activities. These activities include speech and drama, singing, music and art. The skills that the children learn through these lessons are showcased each year at a carol service in the local church. The school is primarily a Catholic school and all the children go the mass regularly in the town. Children from other denominations are also catered for.

Sporting activities are organised by the teachers and the school is very involved in the local GAA club. Children are encouraged to be part of the GAA club and the children that are very good at athletics are helped to get involved in athletics clubs around the Midleton area.

At the moment the school has a strict healthy eating campaign which has been running for a few years now. The school is a junk free zone, no fizzies, no sweets, no biscuits and jokes that “its goes for the staff as well”. This has been for past few years. In conjunction with this we have a program where the children run each day. We take them out to the yard and they run around for a couple of minutes every morning. All sport is weather dependant but at least if it’s raining you can still run.

There are many plans for the future as far as Principal Peter Gunning is concerned. The primary focus over the next two years is to build a purpose build unit for children with autism. “At the moment the unit is housed in prefabs and that is not good enough”. The school has applied for funding through the Department of Education. Rather than being reliant on prefabs the Principal and staff want permanent buildings. At the moment there is no school hall so the children cannot take part in activities such as PE. A new building would also have the potential to give the school a room where group activities could take place.

When asked about fundraising Principal Peter Gunning comments that “What school doesn’t need fundraising!” Of course this is a problem with every school in the country. He adds that the capitation grant falls way too short for operation costs for the school. When the huge water and heating bills are paid there is very little money left over for essentials such as books. At the moment the school is focusing on trying to restock the library. Principal Gunning adds that “Fundraising takes an enormous amount of energy which could be used elsewhere”.

When asked about famous past pupils Peter Gunning says that Ciaran O’Connor who played for Cork last year went to the school and a lot of other famous sporting figures also attended the school. He also adds that

“I like to think all our pupils are famous in their own right”.

After the interview with Peter Gunning I was shown around the school. I visited a couple of classrooms and was then brought outside to the unit for children with autism. I was greeted by the three of the children and their special needs assistants. While the school has many facilities this made me realise that this unit is one of a kind. A lot of schools are involved in the GAA and hold carol services at Christmas but not many schools have the facilities to offer such a service to the children. This is the one thing that sets the school apart from many others in the area and I am sure the parents and children are grateful to be offered this facility. 

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Head of the Class – Carrigtwohill NS.

Interview with Dan Leo, Principal of Scoil Mhuire Naofa.

Published East Cork Journal, Thursday November 1st 2007. 

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This week I went to Interview Dan Leo, the Principal of Scoil Mhuire Naofa Carrigtwohill. Arriving at the school I was greeted by the teachers and pupils. I was surprised at how many students there were. Having attended the girl’s primary school in Carrigtwohill I remember that at times like First Communion and Confirmation the girls always out-numbered the boys.

Since first opening back in 1956 the school has gone from strength to strength. Some may recall the years when the school was struggling to keep up the numbers but now the school is thriving with a current enrolment of 231 children.

The pupils come from all areas of East Cork and also there are children from eleven different nationalities in the school. “The majority are Nigerian but there are also children from Poland, Lithuania, Spain, The Philippines and China”, explains Principal Dan Leo.

To cater for the increase in numbers of students there are now 15 teachers including special needs assistants, resource teachers and also language support teachers who help the 45 children in the school who have travelled from other countries.

The school also plays a big part in organising an after school homework club for the students. In co-ordination with the girl’s primary school and Saint Vincent De Paul an after school homework club is organised in the resource centre. Principal Dan Leo is grateful that this opportunity is available to the students

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“The children are very well looked after and breakfast is organised inmornings and homework help in the afternoons which is a great help to the parents”.

The schools greatest asset is their sports teacher Mr Foley who is described as being always hopeful and “an eternal optimist”.The school is big into sports, hurling and football and particularly with the Sciath na Scoil. Mr Foley is in charge of preparing students for the Sciath na Scoil and the team hope to be in the final this year.

The children are also involved in the mini sevens which will take place in the middle of November. The team are considered to be high up in the football leagues, which is a great achievement for the school.

Every year there is a primary school team which is made up of children from different schools across the county. Children are judged and selected based on their talent by a strict panel. Last year young talent was spotted in the school and Christopher Keegan was selected to become part of the team.

Scoil Mhuire Naofa is also involved in Primary school sports. Last year James Walsh brought home a medal to the school.

“The school is very conscious of the necessity to have all the boys become competent swimmers in the interest of their own safety”.

For this reason the school offers swimming lessons to the children each year. The children take part in these lessons at Mayfield swimming pool and the lessons are spread over 8 weeks.

Sporting activities aside, the school also offers music lessons. Walking down the halls of the school all that can be heard is the echo of tin whistles coming from the classrooms. Each classroom is equipped with tin whistles and last year the school offered guitar lessons. Due to the success of last years guitar lessons Principal Dan Leo is

“hopeful that the guitar lessons will take place again this year”.

The school also takes part in an annual carol service. The children will soon begin preparing for this when they return after their mid-term.

The school has been involved in computers since 1990. They were one of the first seven schools to be involved in interneting and even sent their weather forecast and details to NASA. Today the school has a computer lab equipped with 15 computers. There is also a computer in each room. All computers are connected to a central printing system and have Broadband access to the internet. This is an advantage to the children as they can have access to the internet for homework and school projects.

Dan Leo admits that the school is lucky to have a “vibrant parents association” in the school. All the school fundraising is organised by them. In the past they have helped in organising the funds to purchase computers, photocopiers and books and they also use the money raised to subsidise the cost of P.E, Music, Speech and Drama and transport to sporting events.

Apart from fundraising for school needs the school also plays a big part in collecting money for charities. This year the 6th class pupils will organise a collection for the “Miracle Tree” organisation. The collect will help to plant a Moringa trees in parts of Eritrea and Ethiopia. These trees are fast growing and help to end hunger and malnutrition in the area. Fundraising helps students to learn about the problems in developing countries like Ethiopia and also helps them do something to help.

So as far as the future goes Principal Dan Leo expects equally high ennoblement numbers next year. The school has recently installed two more prefabs to cater for the increasing numbers and he does not believe that the recent Amgen closure will affect numbers in any way.

Leaving the school I felt as If id learnt so much. Who would have thought that so much could be going on behind the doors of this small school building? The sport facilities surpass those in many schools and children are also being kept up to date with all the modern classroom essentials such as guitar lessons and broadband.

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Head of the Class – St John the Baptist.

Interview with Elma Huggard, Principal of St John the Baptist Primary School, Midleton.

Published – East Cork Journal – Thursday, 25th October 2007. 

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This week I visited St John the Baptists School in Midleton. Often forgotten as is it hidden away in the town this school is certainly one that should not be over looked.Earliest records of the school date back almost 140 years to 1868 when a small school opened in Church Lance, opposite St John the Baptist’s Church. 

Back when the school first opened there were about 50 pupils. It was a one teacher school up until 1962. By the 1980’s the increasing enrollment numbers meant that the building was no longer big enough to accommodate the numbers In 1983 the school moved to its present location in Connolly street which had previously been occupied by the old Vocational School. In 2002 three new temporary buildings were added to facilitate the increased number of pupils.

In the past 20 years the school population has increased and this has lead to the demand for increases in teaching staff also. Now the school has seven teachers, a resource teacher, a learning support teacher and three special needs assistants. Part-time staff include a French teacher, a Music teacher, a P.E. teacher and a Drama teacher. There are now 195 pupils in the school which shows how far the school has come since 1868.

Pupils travel from many areas of East Cork, from Glanmire to Connagh and even further away Youghal. Of course the children also come from several different countries. These include South Africa and the Philippines. These children are given help by the learning support teacher who gives them any extra lessons needed so as to help them with any language difficulties and also help them to settle into the school.

The school offers a range of subjects to its pupils. While the main core subjects are still taught, the school also offers French to Sixth class pupils once a week. This is of course a great advantage for them when they start secondary school as they will already have a good understanding of the language.

There are also many extra curricular activities offered at the school. The school is located within walking distance to Midleton College. This is an advantage for the school as the students can use the college grounds for sports. Sports offered in the school include hockey, rugby and soccer. Principal Elma Huggart comments

“All the children can find some area of sport that they are interested in.”

A lot of the coaching is done by parents and staff and matches are arranged for weekends.The school also offers cookery classes to the older children. In the past Darina Allen’s children and Jim Dorley’s children have attended the school and Rachael Allen’s children are currently studying at the school so there is of course a big emphasis on cooking as part of the curriculum. Many children do not have the opportunity to practice cooking until they go on to secondary school so the pupils at St John the Baptist’s are lucky to have an early start at becoming the celebrity chef’s of the future.

The school may be one of the smaller primary schools in the Midleton area but this does not stop the children from being involved in the community.“We involve ourselves in the church of Ireland community, we regularly hold school services down in the church, and we hold a harvest service and a carol service at Christmas”, says Elma Huggard. Also during the Christmas season the children visit Midleton Hospital and sing carols.The school is also very lucky to be involved in the Green Schools Initiative which means that the students are given the chance to get involved in projects in the community such as cleaning up a certain area of the town. This is a great learning opportunity for the children as they get the chance to learn more about the environment.

The school has all the facilities to deal with any special needs that a child may have. The teaching staff are able to work with the special needs assistants in order to help any child who may need any extra help. The school is also wheel chair accessible and has ramps for any child who needs to avail of the use of them.

Future plans for the school include trying to get a new school building. Rising enrolment numbers mean that unfortunately, like many schools in the area several of the classrooms are in prefabs, which of course is not an ideal situation. Plans involve putting on an extension to the existing school building.

The school also has plans to get more IT facilities in the school.

“We want to get interactive white boards into every classroom and that is our aim down the line”.

Interactive white boards are a step up from the traditional black boards/ white boards of the past and help improve the speed at which subjects can be thought and also make leaning more interactive and the different programmes used guarantee fun for all the children.

While St John the Baptist’s primary may still be small school in comparison to other schools in the area, the rising enrolment numbers reflect the fact that the school has so much to offer.

Next Interview with Dan Leo, Principal of Scoil Naofa Muire, Carrigtwohill. 

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