St Colman’s flying the flag for inclusion.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

St Colman’s flying the flag for inclusion. thumbnail Principal Kevin O’Neill with pupils.

Celebrations all around for the staff and pupils of St Colman's Primary and All Saints Nursery School, Annaclone, on attaining flagship school status with their award for inclusion from the Inclusion Quality Mark (IQM).

Principal Kevin O'Neill commented that this achievement has been three years in the making following their success back in 2015, under principal Mr Donaghy, whereby the school achieved an IQM Centre of Excellence Award.

"Mr Donaghy had applied and been accredited with the Centre of Excellence Award and I wanted to continue his good work and see it through that together we could achieve flagship school status."

The principle of the flagship school idea is that an individual school can further its work in inclusion through internal research activities.

The Inclusion Quality principles set out by IQM are that each school: promotes access and diversity, raises achievement for all, creates an environment for all to succeed and improves inclusive nature of all schools.

There are three levels to achieving this prestigious status from the IQM; Inclusive School Award, Centre of Excellence Award and Flagship School Award.

Described by the IQM in its report as a school "well embedded in its inclusion values and a centre of excellence where the principal, staff, parents and Board of Governors are committed to an educational experience second to none for its pupils".

Mr O'Neill explained how his school set about achieving this status: "There has been a variety of elements involved with this and firstly I would like to thank the staff, parents and most importantly our pupils.

"When the inspector from IQM was in our school they were really pleased with the idea of pupil empowerment and that the pupil voice here is very strong. Pupils' ideas at our school are turned into their learning and we have actively tailored our teaching to the interests of the children.

"The inspector was very impressed with how the House System is managed entirely by the children in the school and the role of the School Councillors, in terms of making our play-times and lunch-times more safer, fun and inclusive for all."

"In order to achieve the award we have established the Breakfast Club, a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, it involved our mentoring programme for pupils, establishment of the School Council, our shared education work with Fair Hill Primary School (Kinallen) and our Erasmus work.

"We had to take a reflective look at our curriculum to make sure it was fully inclusive, making sure that the needs of all of our learners are being met and most importantly that the children had a big say in what they learn." Some pupils from the school availed of a link up with Ivan Vazov Primary School in Armagh, a Saturday school for Bulgarian children who are living in Northern Ireland.

"We visited their school and learned about Bulgarian cultures and traditions.We visited around the time of the Bulgarian Day of Independence and the pupils took part in crafts.

It really was a worthwhile venture." And there is always room for improvement, added Mr O'Neill: "You have got to keep your thinking cap on and ask 'Is there any group in this school that could have a bigger voice?' "This is the reason you are constantly reassessed as there is always room for improvement in the school."

Under IQM the school is assessed annually in eight different areas which have to be met and improved within the three years before having to re-apply again.

One of our things now will be working with another school to help them see how they can achieve inclusivity. Now that we have the flagship status other schools will be looking to us for advice and examples of best practice," continued Mr O'Neill.

"We have to remain outward facing and be ready to embrace the increase to our school numbers which we are expecting over the coming years.

"To include these new families and for us as a school to welcome them into our community.

This was a whole school effort and the school has engaged with many partners in the community to give the pupils a real sense of community and a perspective on their role within a European and global society.

"The Erasmus and Shared Education projects have been outstanding examples of the horizons which a small primary school can achieve."

Mr O'Neill added that he is "very proud" of the achievement received for the school and is very thankful to everyone who supported.


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