Offaly school chosen for European summit

Ger Scully

Reporter:

Ger Scully

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editor@tullamoretribune.ie

TT1707GS

Mr Sean Mc Fadden, Ms Gloria Enrique, Ms Orla Healy, Ms Pauline Mc Kenna and Ms Niamh Mc Enhill.

Staff and management at the Sacred Heart School are delighted to have been asked by Microsoft Europe to exhibit their teaching and learning standards at the Microsoft Showcase Schools Programme on May 2nd.

The Microsoft Schools Showcase Schools Programme involves schools that are considered part of an exclusive community from around the world, schools that have been particularly innovative (and successful) in teaching, learning and assessment. The showcase schools programme brings together like-minded educational leaders who are committed to driving excellence in education and who seek the highest student outcomes possible.

Principal, Pauline Mc Kenna stated that the school is particularly thrilled to be invited to showcase their school and staff and student practice at this event.

"Staff and students have worked so hard over the last six years to merge their excellent practice with the digital technology available and that has delivered immensely in terms of the student experience in the classroom and their success in assessments. It is not lost on us that the Sacred Heart School has moved upwards considerable in the Top 400 Schools in Ireland and in 2020 ranked at the 70th best school in Ireland."

“It is also important to remember that it is not just about third level either but really about the student’s experience of learning. Sacred Heart students have had a very engaged Lockdown in terms of classes continuing as “normal” and providing a routine for students during a very challenging time. It also means that all students are engaged, all are monitored and students are supported to achieve their absolute best – this is really what is best about the SHS”

For Assistant Principal, Sean Mc Fadden, this invitation to appear and deliver at the European Summit has moved the Sacred Heart School to a different place educationally. “For us, the personalised learning experience of the student is essential to their development as learners. In our school, we want to create students who appreciate the process of learning and who recognise that this is a skill for life, not just for the Leaving Certificate.”

He also added “For us as a staff, we too have moved to a different place. We have been able to continue to run our school as we would if we were onsite. During Lockdown we continued our timetables as normal, we provided extra devices to our 6th years to ensure that they had access and staff meetings were held once a week on Fridays to review our weekly practice.

It also means that we could continue with our Parent Teacher meetings and feedback from parents has suggested that this is a really important feature of communication.” Sean said “As a parent myself, I understand that connections with schools and knowing how well your child is getting on, is really important to parents now, because life is just so busy for people and we all need to know how our children are progressing.”

Sean works with another staff member Ms Niamh Mc Enhill to set up Parent Teacher meetings and both feel that this has revolutionised how schools and parents communicate. They set up 5 minute appointments on Teams and parents book the teachers at the time that suits them best. This means that parents can access their daughter’s Parent Teacher meeting from anywhere, and again, this recognises how busy parents lives are now.”

The school team were asked to make a video, an overview from the Principal, and a video capturing teaching and learning excellence in the classroom. This involved teacher and student clips and interviews from students.

Deputy Principal, Ms Orla Healy, noted that while the school was delighted to be recognised for excellence at a European level, she was also aware that this is not the final point of the school.

“We recognise that we are a very advanced school for our students but we also know that there is a lot of space for future development. For us, virtual reality will play a key role in the learning experience of our students. We would also hope to continue to advance in Robotics both nationally and internationally. We also recognise that Coding is a very popular subject in 1st year and the introduction of Computer Science is something we would hope to introduce for Leaving Certificate pupils. Already we have seen the popularity of PE as a Leaving Certificate subject and again we couldn’t have adapted so quickly to this syllabus if we had not had our digital experience."

Principal, Pauline Mc Kenna concludes, “the world of education had changed immensely over the last 5 years anyways, but the changes that have occurred over the last year have mean that it’s not just practices that are changing but also the very way we think about students and learning. The right to quality teaching and learning is fundamental to how we prioritise opportunities for our children. In prioritising those high standards, we are really prioritising their futures and telling them that they are worthy of the best possible experiences.”

Assistant Principal, Sean Mc Fadden, reminded all that the video for display is available on the SHS website at www.shstullamore.ie