Sunday 21 April 2019

'It is important to recognise that different pathways will suit different people'

Galway Community College

Deputy Principal Shane McClearn and Principal Brian Melia with some of their students. Photo: Andrew Downes/XPOSURE
Deputy Principal Shane McClearn and Principal Brian Melia with some of their students. Photo: Andrew Downes/XPOSURE
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Recognising the different pathways taken by students through education and beyond is what Galway Community College is all about.

It reflects the fact that students and staff come from various backgrounds, face different challenges in their lives and will make unique plans for their future.

"The school is known for its inclusivity and a caring approach," explains deputy principal Shane McClearn.

"We take a whole of school approach to everything we do and learning across different subjects is linked. Students and teachers are empowered to speak up and have their voices heard on what is going on in the school and that makes for a better learning environment."

He says this has helped the school stand out in recent times. In 2009, 21pc of Galway Community College students secured a place in third level. This figure has increased over the past decade and last year 71pc of its students went on to pursue a college course.

Feeder Schools: Click here for the full breakdown of where Leaving Cert pupils have gone to college over the past 10 years

It is not just the subjects that are linked. Mr McClearn and the school's principal, Brian Melia, have worked with local businesses and educational bodies also play a key role in motivating pupils, providing them with clear pathways for their lives after school.

"We have a memorandum of understanding with GMIT and there are strong ties to PLCs (Post-Leaving Cert courses) provided on-site that students can explore if they wish. However, if students feel they are best suited to going straight in to the workforce after school, that is something we embrace and help them with as well.

"It is important to recognise that different pathways will suit different people.

"In recent years we have been very successful at helping students secure work and internships with big companies in the area after school and it is great to see them go on from there to set up their own businesses or move into different roles within those companies.

"A lunchtime club where electronics students come in from GMIT to show pupils what they are learning is also a huge benefit. It shows our students a clear pathway to third level. It equips them with skills and experience for when they get there."

Mr McClearn said this shows Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) schools can be flexible in adapting to the needs of particular students.

"It is a vocation to work in a local school helping local children and we are lucky because we have a strong, committed staff putting the students at the centre of what they do.

"League tables are not our focus. It is great to be recognised in them but it is our priority and focus to equip children for what they want to do after school."

Sunday Independent

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