Tuesday 25 September 2018

Case study: 'The teachers are out to greet the children every morning and that tells you everything.'

Margie Harnon, a former vice principal pictured in Barna, Co. Galway. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Margie Harnon, a former vice principal pictured in Barna, Co. Galway. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Over a game of cards in the local hall, parents would discuss their children's maths homework, puzzling over it - though many did not have a secondary education of their own.

Today, Barna is a very different place. An affluent suburb of Galway city, it is popular with well-heeled members of society seeking a different pace of life.

It has also scooped the top spot in the country when it comes to higher education. Some 45.46pc of the population have a third-level degree.

Margie Connolly grew up in the village and said it was not wealth which drove her to reach the top of her career as vice-principal at Salerno girls' school in Salthill.

"My father was a fisherman and we had a small farm. People struggled," she said. Neither of her parents had a secondary education, in common with most people in the area, but that did not mean they did not value education - in fact, they were passionate about it.

"I've clear memories of my mother talking of education so longingly and admiringly. She could quote poems and Shakespeare, even though we associate that with secondary school," she said.

Ms Connolly has recently become reacquainted with the other side of the school gate, as she picks her granddaughter, Maggie-Kate (5), up from school.

It has made her realise that there is something special about Barna when it comes to the development of children.

"It takes a village to raise a child and I believe it's still the case that family connections are still very important in Barna," she said. "The teachers are out to greet the children every morning and that tells you everything."

Since taking early retirement, Ms Connolly has focused on her new business providing support to young people and their parents.

"I encourage parents to listen to their children, which is a thing that some people find hard to do with the busyness of modern day life," she explained, adding that sport is important when it comes to the holistic development of children.

Irish Independent

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