A Happy Learning Environment in the Mills

Clare Champion, Friday, 2nd April 1999

St. Patrick's National School in O'Callaghan's Mills is a bright, spacious school and one cannot but be impressed by the happy learning environment which prevails there. Opened twenty-six years ago, the school pesently has fifty-six girls and boys on the rolls. The principal is Joyce O'Reilly and the other teachers are Phil Ryan and Ann Shalloo and Nuala Hehir, a visiting support teacher, who attends a number of other schools. The staff at St. Patrick's are committed to encouraging each child to develop his or her potential to the full.

Principal, Joyce O'Reilly, believes that while the academic development of pupils is very important, so also is the emotional, spiritual and psychological growth of the pupils. Children need to be educated for life and living. Various activities such as group projects, art, drama and the participation in a variety of sports, fosters social development and self esteem.

The whole community is very supportive of the school as evidenced by the Mass and party organised in honour of Mrs. Mary O'Brien who retired as Principal last year. There was great support this year for the annual sale of work. Thanks to the parents who lend a hand when it comes to extra curricular activities, the school participates in many enjoyable events. The school recently attended and did very well in a schools quiz held in Scariff.

One of the schools focus is to instill a love of reading and the pupils are delighted with the variety of new books purchased for the school library.

Computer literacy is a priority in the school and computers play an increasing role in the pupils' learning. The school has four computers, two colour printers and a scanner.With the aid of the computer, fifth and sixth class produced a school magazine. This was an invaluable learning experience as all pupils were involved in activities such as planning, documenting events, researching local history, creative writing, editing and graphics.

Last year, five pupils represented the county in the schools handball finals held in Croke Park. The school is participating in the schools handball competition again this year and two pupils will represent the county in the Munster schools handball finals.

The pupils of O'Callaghan's Mills have always been keen competitors in hurling and camogie. Last year the boys succeeded in reaching the semi-final in the schools hurling championship in Clarecastle. Camogie coaching is held in the school and this year the girls will be participating in the mini sevens. The school children are introduced to a wide variety of sporting activities in the school. New equipment was purchased last year and the younger classes are taught gymnastics. Every Tuesday, the pupils attend swimming lessons in Shannon pool. Some pupils are taking part in the Community Games swimming galas. At lunchtime the older pupils organise and referee soccer and basketball matches. The pupils are looking forward to the 'Skipathon' which will be held after Easter.

Both teachers and pupils have a special interest in art and crafts. Two pupils from the school did very well in the Community Games Art Competition, while other pupils were winners in Credit Union events. This year, second to fourth classes are taking part in the Shannon Airport Project.

Many pupils attend speech and drama locally. The school held a nativity play in the church at Christmas Eve. The children's performance reminded all present of the meaning of Christmas.

Music is very popular in O'Callaghan's Mills and the school has very talented musicians, singers and dancers. Pupils from O'Callaghan's Mills have participated in the Munster dancing championships, Scór na nÓg and other feiseanna. One pupil recently danced in an RTÉ film production.

The parents' association is active in the school. It not only helps to raise funds for the school but meets regularly, organises events such as the recent trip to a pantomime held in University of Limerick and the planting of a tree to commemorate the Omagh bombing. Many families in the locality host children from Belarus and one girl on a long term stay is attending the school.

Pupils at O'Callaghan's Mills N.S. busy in class. Darren Cooney, Junior Infants,
with teacher, Anne Shalloo.

Photographs by Eamon Ward, Clare Champion.

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