St Aidan's hoists its healthy flag
St Aidan's Primary school in Enniscorthy has become the latest school in the country to be presented with a 'health promoting schools' (HPS) flag from Health Ireland.
The flags are presented to schools by the HSE in recognition of their work in improving the health of their school communities.
The HPS programme supports schools as they focus attention on health and wellbeing and it involves all of the school community.
At the flag raising ceremony on Tuesday those in attendance were told how students, staff, parents and guardians were consulted to identify priority health areas.
The ceremony was the culmination of a two-year programme during which the school developed an action plan to address the health areas identified.
The school was then guided to address its priority area using evidence based categories including: environment (social and physical); curriculum; policies; and partnerships.
In St Aidan's the HPS coordinator, Mary Pender, and her team led the progression of health and wellbeing work with the support of the principal, Frank Murphy, the Board of Management and the wider school community.
At the flag raising event those present were told that in St Aidan's there were two main priority actions identified: supporting the associated areas of mental health, wellbeing and connectedness in the school, and increasing physical activity.
Commenting on the programme to this newspaper a spokesperson for the school said the HPS committee was 'very conscious of the challenge involved in taking an abstract concept such as improving wellbeing and making it real and practical for children and parents'.
'To this end the the school population developed their own wellbeing diary which connected the school and home, along with connecting the two priority areas of physical activity, and mental health and wellbeing,' she said.
Through the diary initiative the children were also encouraged and supported to learn about reflective practice.
'St Aidan's school also highlighted that being a part of the local community and being connected to other people plays a major part in good mental and emotional health,' said the spokesperson.
A large part of the work carried out by the school involved partnering with local clubs and organisations in Enniscorthy and the school population also got invovled in a wide range of activities and programmes specifically aimed at enhancing people's overall health.
In June, last year, the school ran a very successful 'Active Wellbeing week' during which the activities included coaching by Sacre Coeur Boxing Club; lessons at Enniscorthy Tennis Club; activities hosted by Rapparees GAA club, Enniscorthy Astro Club and Enniscorthy Basketball Club, in addition to safety talks by Water Safety Ireland and the Waterfront Swimming Pool.
The children of 5th and 6th class enjoyed a full day of athletics in Enniscorthy Athletics Hub, hosted by Enniscorthy Athletics Club, while wellbeing storytime for junior classes was hosted by Enniscorthy Library.
An aspect of the overall project highlighted at the ceremony was how it was all encompassing in terms of how it helped connect the school population with the wider community which is a very significant aspect of the HPS programme.
The children also participated in yoga sessions with St Aidan's staff member Ann Jordan.
Healthy eating formed a large part of that initiative, when the focus of attention was placed on food including platters of fruit and yogurt and cheese.
The food was prepared by a team of volunteer parents and presented in a fun and attractive way for the children.
'This encouraged all the children to taste a wider range of fruits and yoghurts,' said the spokesperson.
The children were also taught how to make fruit pizzas using healthy high fibre wraps.
Those present at the ceremony were told that some of the work undertaken by the school to secure its flag included introducing active homework each night which saw the pupils and their parents encouraged to participate in exercise at home.
The school also began an 'active daily ten' initiative which encouraged the children and their class teachers to undertake 10 minutes of daily exercise.
The school expressed gratitude to everyone who contributed to the success of the campaign including local companies and businesses including: Pettits Supermarket Enniscorthy; Greenhill Fruit Farm; Dunnes Stores, Enniscorthy; Aldi, Wexford; Killowen Yogurt; Wexford Creamery; Fresh Today; Kearns Fruit Farm, Ballindaggin; Wheelock's Fruit, Finchogue; Evolve Health Store, Enniscorthy; Byrne's Bookshop, Enniscorthy; Mr Price, Enniscorthy and Conroy Architects, Enniscorthy.