Clare Champion, Friday, 29th October 1999
Sixmilebridge has experienced the start of a major building boom, facilitated by the installation of the new £3m sewerage scheme, and teaching staff at the local national school are bracing themselves for the repercussions. Large scale private housing developments are underway and the expectation is that the influx of new residents will impact on school enrolment, reverse the trend of the 1990's and lend itself to a booming Bridge for the new millennium.
The old section of St. Finnachta's National School in Sixmilebridge dates back to 1934 while the new extension was completed in 1984. In the intervening fifty years many changes have occurred and all have been for the better. In 1964 the old section was enlarged and four years later, the boys and girls schools were amalgamated. Oatfield National School also closed its doors that year and to this day children are still bussed from that area to Sixmilebridge.
These changes took place while the late Michael O'Donnell was Principal. He retired in 1977 to be replaced by James Bradley who was a member of the teaching staff at the time. James, to the present day, still retains that portfolio.
The '70's saw a major growth in pupil numbers with many new houses being built. New students from Mount Ievers, Woodview Heights and the Beechwood Grove housing estates, along with bungalow development, saw staff numbers rise from six teachers in 1974 to double that by the mid '80's.
Today there are thirteen staff including a remedial teacher and a shared resource teacher while the school enrolment stands at 292. It was a nostalgia occasion a few weeks ago when Mrs. Eileen Frost, the Vice Principal, retired after spending thirty-five years on the staff.
At the end of their primary education these pupils disperse to secondary schools in many directions, all of which are within a fifteen mile radius - St. Patrick's Comprehensive School and St. Caimin's in Shannon; St. Joseph's in Tulla; St. Flannan's College and Ennis Community College as well as Limerick schools, Ard Scoil Ris; The Salesians and St. Nessan's.
Within the school, pupils are involved in all curricular activities including physical education, music and computers. Swimming at the Shannon Pool and Leisure Centre is available to third class students on a weekly basis. They are also involved in a wide range of extra curricular pastimes ranging from hurling and camogie, with which the village is synonymous, to girls football, rounders, speech and drama, choir, arts and crafts. There is a mjaor involvement of pupils in Community Games both in art and modelling, variety groups to athletic participation. This has been a fruitful and productive co-operation over many years with local children distinguishing themselves within the county and in the bigger arena at provincial and national level.
Sports plays an important part and many pupils are actively involved with the local Olympic Harriers Athletic Club while others play a full part in Sixmilebridge Youth Club and their annual stage productions. Outside visits to the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick for plays and dramas are also arranged.
Scouts and beavers are excellently catered for by the local 14th Clare Scouting Unit, for those nimble on their feet there are classes in ballet, Irish dancing and set dancing. For the instrumentalists there are music classes.
There is a great rapport between the school staff and the Board of Management under Chairperson, Eileen Deighan, the Parents Association, the local hurling club and other community based organisations. All work in tandem to enrich the knowledge of children in various spheres. The Parents Council also organise the Cadbury's Primary School Quiz each year as well as an annual sports fun day. Living in the Bridge provides a rich and exciting lifestyle for the young people both within and outside the environment.
Slattery (right) with friends Rebecca
Maxwell and Padraig Donnellan in Junior
Infants class at Sixmilebridge N.S.
Moloney singing her heart out
in choir practice at Sixmilebridge N.S.
Photographs by John Kelly, Clare Champion.
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