Monday 10 December 2018

Schools build relationships to inspire better performance

Focus on students' personal growth achieves major improvement in numbers winning third level places

Gaelcholaiste Reachrann’s Donal O’Cinnoide, Ciaran Brabazon, Ailbhe Ni Bhroin, David O’Riain, Ciaran Mac Giolla Ruaidh and Laura Ni Diomasaigh. Photo: Mark Condren
Gaelcholaiste Reachrann’s Donal O’Cinnoide, Ciaran Brabazon, Ailbhe Ni Bhroin, David O’Riain, Ciaran Mac Giolla Ruaidh and Laura Ni Diomasaigh. Photo: Mark Condren
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

All the evidence shows that better exam results can be achieved and more students can secure third level places by building on relationships in schools and focusing on helping students to become good people outside of the classroom.

Schools across the country have increased their throughput to college since 2009, helped in some cases by forging links with local third level colleges or by encouraging students to continue in education after the Leaving Cert.

Colaiste na Sionna, Banagher College, in Co Offaly, has made the biggest strides nationally during the past nine years.

Just half of the pupils who sat their Leaving Certificate there in 2009 went on to third level. However, last year it had a perfect record and sent 100pc of students on to third level.

Schools in counties Galway, Laois and Carlow have also demonstrated dramatic improvements.

Colaiste Mhuire, Ballygar, Co Galway, sent 100pc of students on to third level last year, a 42pc increase on its performance in 2009.

Mountmellick Community School in Co Laois made a 40pc improvement during the same period and Colaiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co Carlow, recorded a 38pc improvement.

Other schools have made steady strides in increasing their throughput to college.

Gaelcholaiste Reachrann, in Donaghmede, Dublin 13, was established in 2001 with 36 students. The school has grown rapidly since then and now has more than 350 pupils. Last year, all Leaving Cert students there went on to third level for the first time since the Sunday Independent started compiling school league table figures.

Principal Maire Ni Ghealbhain said the school is focused on helping students become good people.

"We have brilliant teachers who are young and committed - that is important for what we are doing here," she says.

"When you are in a gaelcholaiste in Dublin, where everyone's first language is English, there is a unified purpose and you have to make an extra effort.

"So, the teachers are committed, improving their Irish as they go along, and the staff are always working to better themselves. That rubs off on the students.

"There is also an open door policy here. The culture of the school means everybody knows everybody. It is very supportive and there is a great honesty to what we are doing."

Since 2009 the school has increased its throughput to college by 27pc.

The school is linked to five feeder Irish language primary schools and has grown significantly in recent years. This growth brings its own challenges, including accommodating all the students.

Ms Ni Ghealbhain is excited by the fact that Gaelcholaiste Reachrann has recently been granted planning permission for a new school building.

She hopes it will be able to move away from a series of prefabs on site towards a purpose-built school in the next 18 months.

"The planning permission was announced on December 18 and that is great news.

"It is going to be a state-of-the-art setting for us. It is not going to mean anything different in terms of the way the school is run and the way the school is developing but this is what we have wanted since 2001 and it is exciting that this is eventually coming to fruition."

She insists the school's main focus will continue to be on producing students capable of achieving success inside and outside the classroom. Lessons are taught in Irish and the students also benefit from taking part in a mandatory transition year after going through the junior cycle.

Five of the 51 students who sat the Leaving Cert there last year went on to secure scholarships at different colleges and Ms Ni Ghealbhain says they stay in touch with pupils after they leave to facilitate a transition to third level.

"We are delighted they are doing so well and it is important that they do well - but the overarching thing is that they develop as human beings, they become good people and they develop their personalities and the whole of themselves. That is really important.

"If students are happy and comfortable, that is the main thing. We hope that students don't slip under the radar."

Sunday Independent

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