Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

Equality

The DEIS initiative for selected primary schools is one of the success stories of recent Irish Educational history. For schools like ours the extra financial, human-resource and professional support offered by our DEIS status has been central to whatever successes we have had over the three years of our membership. DEIS stands for Delivering Equality In Schools and it has delivered equality of experience, equality of attainment, equality of provision and equality of opportunity for the children and families who attend our school. We have measured this, we have engaged in reseach that has corroborated this, it has been evdenced in formal whole-school evaluations that have been undertaken by the DES Inspectorate and it is visible and tangible to anybody who visits us.
It is with great concern that I read that the DEIS scheme may be one of the casualties of fiscal-rectitude borne out of outrageous political and banking fiscal-recklessness. It is of even greater concern that I read that this move may have the support of the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, a new and unwelcome interpretation of their ‘advisory’ role.
If anybody wants to see a cameo of past and continuing fiscal-recklessness within the Department of Education and Skills there are endless opportunities to do so.Quango after quango proliferate that play no valuable function but pay top dollar to layers and layers of management, administration and buildings to house themselves. Caseloads of cash paid to companies to erect temporary buildings and then rent the temporary buildings when a modicum of foresight, planning and basic organisational competence could have ensured that employment was created through the building of permanent infrastructure. Millions and millions of euros being spent on the purchase of school sites to fatcat developers and speculators when simple legislative change could acquire these sites as compulsory purchase orders. That’s just a few examples of wanton waste that we see have seen first-hand in the short history of our school.
Equality goes hand-in-hand with Justice. Save the DEIS scheme or forget about any committment to education as a vehicle of equality or justice.

Why do we have an After-School Programme?

Why do we have an After-School Programme? On the main school website you will find the school’s current After-School Programme for the Autumn/Winter 2010, or as it’s commonly called ‘The Clubs’. This is our sixth year to be offering this service to the community of our school. The service is offered by the school’s teachers and some invited coaches and it is administered and financially supported by the school’s Parent Association. As with all services that become customary, it is important to occasionally reflect on why it is that we as a school community put such a huge amount of effort and energy into offering this service. Here is a short ‘top ten’ of the many and varied reasons:
1 The clubs are a great source of happiness for the children.
2 The clubs are in identified curricular and educative fields which the school identifies in its ‘2nd Five Year Plan’ as the flagship and priority areas of school endeavour ( Arts, Sport and Health, Digital Learning, Citizenship Education)
3 The clubs will enhance the children’s learning and standards of attainment across the Irish National Curriculum complementing the work undertaken in normal school hours.
4 The clubs are maximally accesible to all members of the school community and are finacially supported by contributions from the Parent Association, parent contributions and other sources.
5 Some clubs will specifically cater for ‘gifted’ children.
6 Some clubs will specifically support children who are currently experiencing low levels of curricular attainment.
7 The clubs take place in the safe environment of the school with professional standards of care and management.
8 The clubs offer the teacher/facilitator the opportunity to ‘indulge’ and develop his/her own teaching strengths in a conducive ‘club’ environment with small groups (10children) of self-selecting (and, thus, motivated) children.
9 After-school activity and the levels of parental-involvement accruing to administering and logistically-supporting them are part of the Educate Together ethos.
10 Through dabbling in a variety of clubs over the duration of their school life the children can come to identify in themselves their own likes and talents.
Please feel free to leave a comment ( please note that no ‘anonymous’ comments will be posted or even heeded!). The Principal is available at all times to discuss any issues arising from this project and posting.

Why do we have a Get Active week?

Each June one full week is dedicated to ‘Get Active Week’. This week is choc-a-bloc with ‘outdoor’ activities aimed at educating the children in the value, skills and attitudes of healthy, vigorous and participative outdoor activities. A broad range of sports, fieldwork, off-campus trips and on-campus workshops and competitions are timetabled for all the children from Junior Infants to 5th class from June 8th to 11th (and before and beyond). A full timetable for the week can be found on the Parent Newsletter page of the website. The Get Active Week is an integral part of the school’s year-round programme of events which are part of our self-identification as a school that prioritises the achievement of flagship excellence in Sports/Health Education. This year our work in this regard will be externally reviewed by the national panel of experts who judge the Active School Award. The motto of the week is ‘Sport for All’ where every child can find fun and entertainment in Sport at his/her own level and in the broadest range of outdoor activities that we can provide. Huge thanks to the generosity of the school’s Board of Management and Parent Association who financially underwrite the week bringing it in at an affordable price for all.

Children and Social Networking Websites

In many homes, including my own, children can be a step ahead of their parents in their use of the home computer. While this is, generally, nothing to worry about a few recent events that I have witnessed in our school and that I have heard about in other local schools should cause all parents to sit up and take note.
Of particular concern is the increasing amount of reportage of patterns of behaviours and communications that are taking place through the children’s favourite social networking sites such as Bebo, Facebook, MSN messenger, Twitter and a few others. The vast majority of the correspondence that children engage in on these sites is harmless and genuine conversation with their friends and would be of little concern to any parent. But, children are increasingly reporting to their parents and teachers in schools across the country, including ours, of being bullied/insulted/slandered/libeled/frightened/shocked by material posted to them and about them by ‘friends’. And these are the children who have the good sense to actually report this. How many children are experiencing the same feelings but for a variety of reasons are silent and are keeping their troubles to themselves? Here are two examples of interaction which will raise alarm:
Example 1: On most social network sites the child is invited to invent a profile of him/herself. In one case a very young girl made a profile more grounded in teenage fantasy than in the reality of her life. A simple error made in innocence. However, as a result of this she received a huge deluge of unwelcome communications and very malignant and hurtful name-calling.
Example 2: A gang of ten year old girls, all friends in school, now appear to have fallen out with one another on the basis of written correspondences with one another. In my opinion, the fall out has as much to do with misunderstanding each others’ comments and the inarticulate clumsy responses that seem much harsher and more cruel when put in print and read out of context than if they were made in face-to-face casual conversation.
What are parents to do about this? I am no expert in this field but I would strongly suggest that parents need to wake up to the possibilites, both positive and negative, of social networking sites. Following the advice of a friend I have now opened an account myself in each of the social networking sites that my three children use. As a result,I have been able to send them an invitation to become a ‘friend’ of mine, and I insisted that if I was not accepted the computer would remain permanently shut-down! Now that I have been accepted as a ‘friend’ ( eventually in the case of my 16year old) I am able to visit their home pages and moitor their interaction on their own homepages at my leisure.
I’m sure there’s better things that could be done, please leave a comment if you would like ot share your good idea. Also, if any parent would like a quick guide on how to open a social-networking page in order to monitor your child’s activity, or perhaps just for your own use, I will arrange a quick demonstration for you on the school computers, just let me know.

Murder of Toyosi Shittabey

The whole school community of Balbriggan Educate Together NS extend their sympathy to the family and community of Toyosi Shittabey. We are horrified and angered at this outrage and fully expect our justice system to convict and penalise the perpetrators of this heinous crime. We acknowledge the fear, disappointment and outrage that this heinous crime is causing in the African community, in particular, and express the solidarity of all our ethnic backgrounds with you at this time.
Our school will respond to this racially motivated crime in a number of ways, and we are open to any further suggestions which any members of our school community may suggest. In the first instance we will, with due regard to the age and maturity of the children, refer to our school’s Anti-Racist Statement and Multiculturalist Policy and continue to educate the children on the harm of racism and its inevitable consequences. Furthermore, through the Stay Safe programme we will teach the children the basic steps in learning how to protect themselves against, and to report to responsible adults, any forms of bullying or intimidation aimed at them by peers or adults in school or outside school. In addition, we will inivite the excellent Community Garda service to the school to revisit lessons delivered earlier this year on how to report bullying, intimidation or harassment directly to them if experienced on the streets of Balbriggan.
Please feel free to leave a comment.

After-School Clubs: Why?

Each school year we offer the children two ten week cycles of After-School Clubs ( an Autumn Cycle from the end of September to early December and a Spring Cycle from March to the end of May). If you click on the School Clubs button on the website you will find the programme that is currently on offer. A huge amount of effort and time is given to this programme and it is important that the reasons why such priority is given to this programme is made clear to all.
The first and foremost aim of the programme is to enhance the education of the children in the school. To that end the design of the programme and the kinds of clubs that are promoted are in keeping with the aims of the National Curriculum and of the curriculum areas contained within it. Therefore a broad set of clubs ranging across Sport, the Arts, Information Technology and , including, core curricular areas of English, Irish, Maths and SESE are provided. It is envisaged that participation in these clubs by the majority of the children in the school will raise standards of attainment in the school.
The second aim of the After-School Programme relates to our identification of areas in which we wish to become identified as having standards of excellence. As a school we have set out flaghsip areas for which we come to be identified as a centre of excellence. Sport, the Arts, Creativity, Citizenship and Environmental Awareness are these flagship priorities. The teachers in the school have , often, been recruited in accordance with their ability to bring the school in this direction. Again the range of clubs offered provides the opportunity for the children to experience and progress on these fields while, simultaneously, giving the talented teachers in these fields a different outlet in which to express their talents and to gain in professional development and to share their expertise through exemplary practice. The third reason for our prioritising the After-School Club Programme relates to addressing issues of educational and socio-economic disadvantage which applies to many of the children who attend our school. There can be little doubt that the easy access and availalbility of these clubs, in the school premises with trusted teachers, to these children facilitated by the Clubs Programme can but address issues of exclusion and marginalsation that might otherwise be the case. Please feel free to leave a comment.

What is the difference between a ‘Community National School’ and an ‘Educate Together National School’?

The next new primary school to be estblished in the Balbriggan area will be a Community National School run by the County Dublin VEC, This Patron body already run two very respected schools in the town: Balbriggan Community College and Ardgillan Community College, both second-level schools. This will be only the thrid Community National School in the country.
What is the difference between a ‘Community National School’ and an ‘Educate Together Natonal School’? Both kinds of school share many common principles. Neither school are discrimintaory in the enrolment policies for pupils and , thus, can be said to be welcoming to children from multidenominational and multicultural backgrounds. The essential difference, however, between both schools is the manner in which they go about meeting the obligation on all primary schools to ‘religious’ education, both in terms of the half-hour per day that all schools are obliged to teach and the ethos of the school that will be experienced by the children and their families. In ‘Educate Together’ school the religious-education programme is an ethical curriclum called ‘Learn Together’. Ths programme covers four strands; Moral Development, Equality and Justice. Ethics and the Environment and World Belief Systems. This ethical education programme is internationally renowned and has brought great acclaim to the Educate Together movement. In Educate Together schools Faith Formation ( that part of a religous education programme that teaches children from one specific religion the faith of their own religion and prepares them for the sacraments or milestones of their own religion) takes place after school hours and is organised by the parents from that religion in a voluntary capacity. In contrast, the proposed model for religous education for Community National Schools intends to offer the children from each religion attending the school religous education in their own religion within school hours. Many logisitical issues present themselves with this model, and it would appear that some have yet to be worked out. At the moment, it would appear that there has to be a threshold of at least seven children from one religion before the school will intend to religously educate them in their own religion. It remains unclear what religious education a child from a religion that does not have this threshold will receive, or what will be done with them while the remainder of the children get their religious instruction. Questions arise, too, as to who will teach this proposed simultaneous set of religous-education programmes, and especially whether teachers who are not of that specific faith may be required to teach that faith’s religous-education programme. In summary, ‘Educate Together’ schools teach a common ethical education to all and facilitate Faith Formation Outside of School Hours ( FFOSH ), but Community National Schools teach religous eudcation and Faith Formation Inside of School Hours ( FFISH ). So it’s FFOSH versus FFISH and the differences are substantial reflecting different understandings of multidenominational education and with different implications for children, their families and their teachers, and their teaching and learning.

4th Annual Arts Week

On the Home Page of the website today prominence is given to the announcement of the programme for our 4th Annual Arts Week and the comprehensive set of events that will be taking place in the school over the coming days. I would like to take a moment to present the reasons why we as a school undertake this important project as a priority aspect of our school calendar. Like all schools we teach Visual Arts, Music, Drama and Literature each week every week in accordance with the demands of the National Curriculum, and our daily/weekly lessons are second to none in this regard. But Arts Week is an opportunity to do something extra…. and something different. In our Arts Week, and this is our 4th, our goal is that of ‘stimulation’. This is the opportunity for the disposed child to become immersed in the world of the Arts, and perhaps to come to identify himself/herself as an artist. It is an opprtunity, on one hand, to get off the school campus and to see professional Arts, performed by professionals in purpose built venues. Simultaneously, it is an opportuinty for the Arts-oriented teachers, and we are lucky to have so many, to work with commissioned professional ‘outsiders’ on programmes of work in the classrooms with the children. There is no doubt that the educational and emotional responses of the children to Arts Week is engendering in the children faculties of artistic skill and criticism. Any child who attends our school will experience eight Arts Weeks over the duration of their career with us. We’d welcome your comments.


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