Beyond 2000 - An Educational Odyssey in Lisdoonvarna

Clare Champion, Friday, 19th February 1999

Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna is more than just a secondary school. It is a vibrant, progressive, co-educational facility, which is a focal point in the unique catchment area of the Burren serving the communities of North Clare.

Students who avail of the broad ranging curriculum; a dedicated and enthusiastic teaching staff; the active involvement of parents through the Parents Council; the vision of the Mercy Sisters, which this year sees the school celebrate its golden jubilee - all these are at the core of Mary Immaculate Secondary School.

School Principal, John O'Loughlin, believes that "the school is a community of student, teacher, parent and Board of Management in which a caring, happy and learning environment is encouraged and strived for and where each member of the school community is valued and respected". The school's broad and challenging curriculum enables the student to grow as a whole person equipped to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world as we face into the new Millennium.

In keeping with the school's spirit of innovation, a stimulating and invigorating transition year programme has been in place for some years. Virtually all students follow the programme which focuses on maintaining academic momentum, with a strong emphasis on the Leaving Cert curriculum, as well as providing new learning experiences. The highlights of the curriculum programme include the Christmas variety show of drama, music, singing and modern dance and of course there is a buzz of anticipation for the forthcoming European tour.

Another new curricular dimension is the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme which builds on the many skills gained during transition year and enhances the vocational potential of the student. A key aspect of both programmes is the emphasis placed on quality work experience placements. The school provides a supervised evening study programme. Mary Immaculate Secondary School strives to offer all its students a wide range of extra curricular activities.

The school takes special pride in its European dimension which has been an integral part of its philosophy for several years. There are strong links with partner schools in Oldenburg in Germany and Eksjo in Sweden through the Comenius and Lingua programmes. There is also a European Studies programme, which has a strong focus on North/South link, and students have their own e-mail addresses to facilitate communication among the partners.

Cuireann an scoil béim faoi ar ár dteanga dúchais. Glacann formhór na dtaltaí páirt in imeachtaí eagraithe ag Conradh na Gaeilge. Ealaín, aisteorieacht, amhranaíocht, tráth na gceist.

The school has been much in the news due to the successes in the ESAT Young Scientist competition.. The students excellent research techniques aided by the advanced computer facilities in the school have played their part in this success. Information technology has also been enthusiastically embraced by the teaching staff as most will have availed of in-science information technology provided by the University of Limerick over four weekends in the school.

The promoting of elocution throughout the school has led to many students taking part in public speaking competitions including that organised by the Soroptomists. Ennis Toastmasters have added to this by their involvement with their Youth Leadership Programme.

The school actively promotes an awareness of environmental and Third World issues and this is reflected in recycling projects and in various fundraising activities for organisations such as Trocaire and Concern.

Mary Immaculate Secondary School students have been involved in Gaisce, the President's Award for the past eight years. The award, with its emphasis on community involvement, personal skills, physical education and venture activities, links in perfectly with the school's focus on developing the whole person. Next month, fifteen students will be presented with their silver awards and twenty will receive bronze awards.

There is a keen interest in sport in the school. Lisdoonvarna students have been playing volleyball for many years, winning several All-Ireland titles in boys and girls events. Indeed many have gone on to represent Ireland at international level.

Gaelic football has always been popular and, in recent years, the commitment and hard work has borne fruit, with some notable successes at county and Munster levels. Basketball, badminton, health and fitness programme, aerobics and swimming are also part of the physical education programme and students always enjoy their outings to outdoor pursuit centres.

Students complete their education at Mary Immaculate Secondary School and head off to the next phase in their lives as confident and capable young adults, the majority proceed to their choice of third level course and everybody finds his or her particular niche in life. Their links with their alma mater continues and they are only too willing to share their experiences and knowledge with present students helping them with their career choices or providing relevant work experience, thus enhancing the comprehensive career guidance programme which the school has in place.


Conscious of the needs of the catchment area which has a strong emphasis on tourism, the school has been offering post leaving cert courses since 1997. The NCVA/Cert accredited level 2 courses in tourism continue to attract mature students. A wide variety of modules are offered. The presence of adults has added a new and exciting dimension to the atmosphere of the night classes that they go on to enrol in the post leaving cert course the following year.

As one millennium draws to a close, the staff, students, parents and communities of Lisdoonvarna Secondary School look forward with enthusiasm to the challenges faced by the new millennium and will endeavour to continue to provide a broad and balanced education for the people of North Clare.

Students in the Woodwork class :
M. Queally, D. Hogan, A. O'Neill, P. Considine,
K. Fitzgerald, L. Byrnes, S. Howard.
Ballyvaughan lassies savour their success.
(left to right): Linda Gannon (Soroptimist
Public Speaking), Naomi Moran (Scor
Munster Finalist), Naomi O'Connell
(Young Scientist).

Photographs from The Clare Champion.

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