Interview with Elma Huggard, Principal of St John the Baptist Primary School, Midleton.
Published – East Cork Journal – Thursday, 25th October 2007.
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.