Sunday 25 February 2018

'We focus on each individual student's exact skill set'

PBC boys in action against St Clement’s in the Munster Schools Senior Cup 1st Round last week. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
PBC boys in action against St Clement’s in the Munster Schools Senior Cup 1st Round last week. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / Sportsfile
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Presentation Brothers College (PBC) in Cork boasts a 100pc feeder rate for its students to go on to third level.

Principal Ken Whyte said the school takes enormous pride in the rating but even greater pride in precisely how that impressive ranking is achieved.

"There is no great secret involved," he said. "It is broken down to three key things: personal responsibility, societal responsibility and, latterly, a focus on academic achievement and what suits an individual student's exact skill set," he says.

"But it is also critically helped by parents who are hugely supportive of what we are trying to do here and what the students work towards. I must say that we are very, very fortunate with the parents we have."

PBC, which was founded in 1878, is a fee-paying school. Mr Whyte stresses that mixed classes, regardless of ability, are insisted upon up to Junior Cert.

Roughly one in six students have a sibling already at the school and PBC reckons that 80pc of students have some connection to the school, either through parents or other relatives.

The school currently has around 40 teachers and 670 students and attaches enormous importance to careers guidance.

"We have two fantastic career guidance teachers here and we have to basically fund these ourselves. But I think it underlines precisely how important we believe the whole area of careers guidance is," says Mr Whyte.

The school firmly believes that academic achievement has to go hand in hand with personal fulfilment, what a student is good at and what work they enjoy.

"That is where good career guidance comes into play. There is no point in a youngster going for a course simply because they have the points for it - they have to enjoy what they are doing and match their career path to their skill set."

PBC devotes enormous energy and resources to science projects, math quizzes, drama, language schools, debating and extra-curricular activities for precisely this reason. The aim is to help students learn, at first hand, what they are good at, what they like and what courses and colleges might suit them best. PBC believes this gives students an extra impetus to work hard to secure the precise course and college they want. "From day one, we also place a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility," Mr Whyte says. "We believe that is the key - a student is responsible for themselves. They are taught to understand that. It is a very important lesson to learn and something that is taught from first year right up to Leaving Cert."

PBC also believes it is important to place increasing emphasis, as youngsters get older, on their responsibility to society.

"We like to think that our students leave here with a sense that they must give something back to society and to their community," he says. "I believe it is a hallmark of PBC that in Cork, no matter what sports club, community group or charity you deal will, you will find past pupils amongst the volunteers. They are there trying to give something back to their community and to Irish society."

PBC also operates one of the most wide-ranging sports programmes of any Irish secondary school.

Famed for its rugby programme - it has produced 22 full Irish internationals, including Michael Kiernan, Ronan O'Gara and Simon Zebo - the school also offers rowing, soccer, sailing, fencing, badminton and judo.

"We are not the only ones who believe that a healthy body is important to helping to foster a healthy mind," says Mr Whyte.

You can explore the data on each school by clicking here

Sunday Independent

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