INFORMATION for NEW PARENTS
Whitecross is a thriving primary school which has over twelve years developed from a 6 to a 22 teacher school catering for almost 450 pupils. The rapid expansion and popularity of the school is down to the hard work of a dedicated staff, who are willing to embrace educational change, run with innovation and recognise that happy children and supportive parents are keys to educational success. Some of the factors associated with this successful school are listed below:
EARLY INTERVENTION PROGRAMME; Junior Infants work in small groups with the class teacher and learning support teachers. This helps identification of pupils strengths and weaknesses and helps teachers form teaching strategies for the class and individual pupils.
PROACTIVE PARENTS’ ASSOCIATION; The teachers, staff and Board work closely with the parent representatives. In turn the PA support the school in providing extra resources, suggestions andhelp when required.
CLEAR COMMUNICATIONS; The school strives to encourage and facilitate easy home/school, school/home communications, using the phone, texts, email and face to face meetings as appropriate.
EFFICIENT BOARD of MANAGEMENT; The Board of Managment team strive to ensure school facilities are in good condition, that funding is appropriately directed, that the New Build is effectively planned and the overall running of the school is streamlined. The Board is led by our Chairperson, Diarmuid Everard who works closely with Paddy Prendergast (treasurer) and Liam Burke. The other members are Georgina Brangan, Fr. Declan Kelly, David O’Callaghan, Andrew Lenehan and Mary Teeling.
NEW BUILDING; the design process for the new building is complete and the QS has all but completed the tender documents. It will be a state of the art school, which is truly deserved by staff and pupils.
ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS; From Junior Infants our pupils are brought out to the school garden. This garden was developed and managed by parents for the benefit of the school. It has won several awards as the best school garden in Co. Meath. Apart from parental input Ms. Ffrench and her Green Team, ensure that the garden is in good condition and maintained appropriately. Ms. Ffrench’s class have also consistently run the Green Flag Programme, with the school winning a total of four green flags, under the auspices of An Taisce. Recycling our litter and ensuring that we fill more green bins than black, is organised also by the pupils of Ms. Ffrench’s class.
STAFF; We employ 23 teachers in the school, 3 Specials Needs Assistants, 2 secretaries and 1 cleaner. All our staff give 100% effort for the good of the pupils. 16 teachers have their own classes with the remaining teachers (apart from principal) involved in our educational support programmes. While our teachers are generally younger, a very high percentage have earned or are working on postgraduate qualifications. In all there are 7 teachers with Masters degrees.
There is no problem attracting teachers to work in the school due our reputation as an achieving school.
SUPERVISION; Whitecross School understands pressures working parents have and unlike many schools children are welcome on-site at 8.30am, 30 minutes before school begins. Equally the yard supervision at break time involves plenty of teachers and SNAs. In winter, as the playing field is closed, we split the big break times to maximise yard space. The children are encouraged at break to be very active and enjoy a variety of fun activities. Children from Junior infants to First Class are provided with older mentors from 4 th, 5 th and 6 th classes to direct them and help them enjoy their break.
VERTICAL SCHOOL; The Department of Education’s term for a school such as our own is ‘vertical’. This means that the total children’s experience in primary school is in one school and not in a junior school and then a senior school. This is a huge advantage as it gives the teachers 8 years to work with and get to know the children. We also get to know the parents very well and are friends with the majority of parents and all the children, after this long educational relationship. Most importantly we are a coeducational school and in my opinion, it is the best way for children to experience primary school.
LARGE SITE; Standing on 6 acres, our site has more playing space than any of the schools in the east Meath, Drogheda area. This is further enhanced by a superb all-weather facility, which is used by all the classes.
MUSIC/SPORT; While we embrace a range of extra-curricular activities, we are particularly strong on music and sport. Our choir (under the direction of Ms Dowd and Ms. Grufferty) are regularly involved in musical events. So far, this year, the choir has performed in the National Concert Hall (the Snowman) before Christmas and at the Peace Proms event in the RDS in late January. The choir also supports the Confirmation and First Communion ceremonies and we plan a school performance in June.
As for sport, teams are entered in a host of school competitions, such as Gaelic Football, Rounders, Soccer, Rugby, Athletics. Younger pupils and pupils not involved in teams regularly play ball games on the yard, the field and the all-weather.
OUTSIDE FACILITATORS; We recognise that while our staff have a variety of talents and share them generously with our pupils, outside experts, coaches and facilitators can bring an extra dimension to a sporting, musical or academic module. We regularly engage with coaches from local clubs, musicians and academics to enhance teaching and learning of these subject areas.
POSITIVE DISCIPLINE; We are proud of the discipline methodologies engaged by our teaching staff. The focus is on the positive. In Whitecross, typically, the good children get sent to the principal. I meet quite a number of our good pupils for a quick chat, some praise and a treat on a weekly basis. Every month 16 children are picked as Students of the Month, the Class of the Month is picked, along with the Tidiest Class. Praise is the key with teachers engaging in positive and effective discipline techniques in a variety of ways in their classrooms.
PASTORAL CARE; We are mindful of the variety of challenges, influences and experiences a child may have to negatively influence his/her behaviour. Our Pastoral Care Programme involves two teachers from our Learning Support Department, who regularly engage with children, who for one reason or another, may be experiencing difficulties or challenges either, in or out of school. Brian Colreavy and Maeve Chambers have more than 50 years teaching experience, in a variety of settings, between them. They have set aside time to meet with children who present with difficulties, socially, academically or outside the school setting. Punishment is a word we try to avoid and negotiation is our key to successful outcomes.
SAFE ACCESS; Our visionary Board of Management, led by Diarmuid Everard secured an extra acre of ground last year. This is located between the School and the Church. Over the summer of 2014, a walkway was developed between the school and church grounds. This in effect eliminated the traffic issues at arriving and going home time. Children can now walk safely to the church car park for safe pick up or to a country road.
AFTER SCHOOL CLUB; We are also aware that for some parents have children in the early classes and other children further up the years. We offer an ‘After School Club’ between 1.40 and 2.40, managed by one of our Special Needs Assistants. The fee is low and if parents are interested they will need to register their child early in the academic year.
HOMEWORK CLUB; Two teachers also manage a Homework Club in the school for a reasonable fee. This is run from Monday to Thursday each week.
SMALL SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE; I began the Whitecross era of my teaching career in late 2002. The school had 171 pupils and 6 teachers. As there were only 6 teachers and 8 primary year groups, we had to teach in a multi-class situation. For example, I taught First and Second Class. Over the years Whitecross grew to a 16 classroom school (with two classes in every stream). Because the school evolved slowly we have maintained our small school culture, positive atmosphere and relaxed attitude, where children feel comfortable, secure and safe. We teach our children in a single class setting which allows teachers to focus their lessons more effectively.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS; We work closely with all the local secondary schools, preparing children for the transition, for their entrance tests and passing on relevant academic and background information so that the settling in process from primary to secondary is streamlined. Reports from all secondary schools indicate that Whitecross pupils perform above the norm both academically and socially. It is nice to hear that our pupils are so well prepared for the second stage of their educational experience.
INNOVATION; Several programmes are run by teachers in the school. For example the teachers and pupils are presently involved in a European School Project with schools in Turkey, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic. The project examines and explores traditional food and music across these countries. Our Green Flag project is working on biodiversity, our Art and Literature project is linking poetry and the woodland area beside the school. Some innovative projects remain with the school, like our Active School Flag programme, which encourages children to be active, fit and involved in sport.
CATHOLIC SCHOOL; We are a Catholic school, but are well aware that many of our pupils are from a different religious background. While expected to prepare children for First Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation, we are also cognisant of our non-Catholic pupils and involve them or not depending on the wishes of their parents. The ceremonies themselves are wonderful occasions highlighting the thorough preparation of the children for the particular sacrament, the support of the school choir and the talents of the class directly involved in the occasion.
LEARNING SUPPORT; As mentioned the early intervention programme, although unusual in Irish primary schools, is a great success, identifying strengths, weaknesses and learning patterns in our students. We also regularly assess pupils and if there are issues or needs are quick to address these within the school or refer on to relevant professionals. Whole school standardised tests are administered in May/June for First Class up and results are shared with parents in the annual June report