Innovative methods of learning that have seen Holy Cross Boys’ School in Ardoyne ranked amongst the best primary schools in the north were put on display this week for a ministerial visit.
Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín was joined by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly for a tour of the school on Friday when they viewed a number of extra activities introduced that are helping with overall development in the young people, in addition to academic performance.
Principal Kevin McArevey said they were combining both traditional and non-traditional methods at the school.
“We have a philosophy programme, which involves all children and staff members being taught philosophy lessons throughout the school on a regular basis in order to develop the ability to critically analyse, reflect and engage with peers,” he said.
“We have also developed classroom assistant-led Nurturance and Sensory Room facilities, which are regarded as an essential means of tackling potential educational underachieve-ment by meeting the social and emotional needs of children.”
Janmarie Reel said children with ADHD and autism are brought into the room a number of times a week.
“We run two sessions a week where some of the children will come in,” she said. “We will talk about autism and ADHD openly. We use the bubble tubes and different colour lights to help pupils explore their emotions though stories.”
Another initiative has been the development of a nature garden where pupils spend time learning about nature.
Kevin said it fills an important role in the curriculum.
“Until a few years ago it was all trees here but we have converted it into a garden so the boys can come out and see things grow. We have a vegetable patch and a herb garden which plays a role in helping young people with spectrum disorders because of the sense of touch and smell.
“Every class comes out here and we have a shed where they keep their water boots and outdoor clothing. For some this is the only green space they see during the week.”
To commemorate the centenary of 1916 the school conducted a series of events, one of which has seen them shortlisted for an all-Ireland award. Vice Principal Chris Donnelly said everyone was very excited about the final.
“The school’s appearance as one of only seven finalists is a considerable feat in its own right, but when you consider that Holy Cross Boys also reached the final of the all-Ireland primary schools drama competition, then the quality of artistic talent amongst our pupils and the level of expert tuition and dedication demonstrated by our teaching staff becomes all the more apparent.”
Minister Ní Chuilín said she was particularly pleased to see that iPads provided by her department were helping with the various initiatives employed by the school.
“One thing that struck me was seeing the young people using iPads that we had provided during my time as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure demonstrating that this is making a real tangible difference at Holy Cross Boys,” she said. “The innovative creation of quiet safe space to promote well being and to support the boys learning environment is fantastic and I wish Sinn Féin would take this example on board for our MLAs. I can’t thank the pupils and staff of Holy Cross Boys enough for the honour of spending time with them, it’s been our privilege.”
Gerry Kelly echoed her comments.
“I was humbled to spend time amongst such inspiring young people and staff at Holy Cross Boys and it was wonderfully educational for me,” he said. “We were invited to the school to see a range of educational activities that were on offer, some of which were designed by the pupils themselves, drawing out their intelligence through philosophy and peer education. This is an example of how a school should be run and it was also really good fun to see the boys do impressions for us. But their work to produce a song to celebrate the history of 1916 and the relevance of that period today was frankly remarkable,” he added.