Principal's Blog 2016 - Whitecross NS

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Principal's Blog 2016

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19th December 2016

12th December 2016

INTEL: Two of our pupils reached the regional finals of the Intel Science Competition. The programme for the competition is organised on an annual basis by Ms. Duffy. Every year children produce high quality science projects in the school for display. They are then judged by two or three Intel scientists. This year the two winners came from Ms. Everard’s Fifth Class; Jack James and Eoghan Mullarkey. Jack kindly put together an account of the trip to the Intel Plant which I will share with you now:

Automatic Bird Detection Camera
On the 9th December 2016 we went to the regional finals of the mini scientist competition with our “Automatic bird detection camera” project. We arrived and set up the project on table 15. We had to set up the table and put our posters on the boards. After we had set up lots of other children from other tables came over to look at our project and ask questions about it and they said it “was pretty cool”. We had a look at the other tables projects also and see what other schools had done. I thought the project on “What the Flip” was really funny it was all about the science behind bottle flipping! At about 9.30am the judges starting coming around the tables. There were 8 judges in total and 2 went to each stand. At 11:30am we got lunch and we watched a science magic show where a scientist had learned juggling in his spare time and that was fun to watch. I got picked first to go up and perform a magic trick where I had to push him while he stood there. He told us why I wasn’t able to push him was because of friction and gravity. He then got on a skateboard and then I pushed him and he almost fell off the stage!!! This was really the highlight of my day. After this the awards ceremony took place and, while sadly we didn’t win, it was fun to get through to the regional finals plus we got the day off school which was also a highlight for me!

5th December 2016

CAROL SERVICE: The teachers are busy preparing their classes for the Annual Carol Service. Sinead Dowd is managing the programme and is getting plenty of help from the teachers and their pupils. Pupils from 2nd to 6th will be singing along with some musical pieces from our JYO members who are growing in numbers every year.
The Carol Service will take place on December 21st and it promises to make the longest night of the year, much shorter and much brighter!

SOCIAL MEDIA: Given the issues raised in the media and elsewhere regarding cyber bullying and so on, our advice to parents is that if your child is accessing the internet, he/she does so in a public place in their house. We feel that children should be supervised at all times on the internet and strong, secure firewalls should be in place to prevent undesirable websites. Children should also be really careful that email accounts or devices are not shared with other children as it can happen that undesirable emails can be sent from a named account thus getting the account owner in trouble. Equally so we are aware of some misuse of mobile phones by pupils, outside the school confines. Children must realise that respect and responsibility are key ingredients to using these new communication platforms. Pupils from Whitecross do not qualify for Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram accounts and in reality issues related to these accounts need to be dealt with by parents, as parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s welfare in the event of issues arising.

21st November 2016

Health and Safety Report

14th November 2016

Teachers and parents are uniting in organising a really important meeting to get our school building off the ground with no more unacceptable hold-ups. The journey the Board has taken over the last 13 years has been met with promises, hold-ups and more promises. It has been an utterly frustrating experience. This is particularly highlighted by the state of the art school buildings all around us. One wonders what are we doing wrong to deserve the below par classrooms that are all around our school?
Diarmuid Everard (Chairperson BoM); Paddy Prendergast (treasurer) and myself met with 5 Department officials and 6 members of the Design Team in Tullamore last Friday. The outcome of the meeting is; 2018 go to construction and 2019 building complete. Granted there is some preparatory work which could be completed quickly but the senior official from DES tells us we cannot begin in 2017 as there is no money allocated to the Whitecross Project!

Deirdre Gray passes on her gratitude to all the parents and children who contributed so many shoeboxes for the less well-off children in our world. Deirdre had been running this appeal for years now and she is always really well supported by our Whitecross community.


7th November 2016

24th October 2016

SAMARITANS: The annual Jersey Day was organised two weeks ago by our Students’ Council. Between the parents and students contributions we raised a massive €777 for the Drogheda Branch of the Samaritans. Whitecross Board treasurer (Paddy Prendergast) volunteers for the Samaritans in Drogheda. Paddy and Marie McCormack (local director) came into the school last week to accept a cheque on behalf of this worthy organisation, from our SC representatives. Marie also explained about some of the work the Samaritans do to help people who are feeling anxious, lonely or depressed.

18th October 2016

ROUNDERS: The Boys’ Rounders team reached the final of Meath Schools’ (Div 2) competition this week. It was an enthralling match against the 3 time champions St. Mary’s Ashbourne. The scoring was low simply because both teams fielding was extraordinary. In the end Whitecross lost by 7 runs to 6. However, well done to the squad who trained hard every Friday from the beginning of September. With all the 5 th class pupils involved we will have an even better team next year.

BUILDING: There has been plenty of action with the school building over the last two months, but I am afraid to say not a lot of progress. Basically the Department seem to have tied themselves in knots with the level of technicalities required to get the proposed temporary accommodation (while construction takes place) off the ground. The original estimate for the temporary accommodation was €500k+. However the technical guidance attached to erecting public contract units requires extraordinary insulation, health and safety, disability access etc., standards which means many companies cannot meet these requirements. Those that can are limited and basically can quote extraordinary prices. The last quote I am aware of was €2m+. This would mean that the original estimate for the building (€3m) rises above €5m. This in turn, it seems requires a different tender process. In other words while your children sit in substandard classrooms our building process is delayed with unending bureaucracy! The latest news is that the Department want to meet with the Design Team, the Board representatives and their officials in Tullamore within the next 2 weeks.

We break for midterm on Friday October 28 th at the normal finish time. We return on Monday, November 7 th at 9am.

11th October 2016

4th October 2016

LANGUAGE DAY: School closed on Monday, October 10th for a Staff Training Day in Navan Education Centre. This is the first training day for teachers to facilitate the implementation of the new Language Programme in Primary Schools across the country.

STUDENTS OF THE MONTH: Hannah Finnegan; Isabelle O’Reilly; Ava McGregor; Emma Smith; Kallie Ann McLysaght; Cormac Grogan; Faye Hardy; Suh Fon; Hayley Lyons; Harry Reilly; Keri Russell; Abee Akindele; Nicola Power; Mercy Olarinoye;  Rokeebat Akindele; Evan Breen

CLASS OF THE MONTH: The Class of the Month for September is Ms. Duffy’s 5 th Class; well done Rang a Cúig!

PA AGM: The Annual PA AGM took place last night. I would like to say it was well attended, but that was not the case. I hope it is a reflection on how smoothly the school is running! I address the parents on the log-jam that is the School Building Project. The Department of Education typically does communicate not efficiently with the teachers, pupils and school communities their staff are supposed to represent. At the moment they are not responding to requests from the architect (since July 27 th); the school (similarly) and unbelievably their own Minister’s office! That said parents of children in the school are tax-payers and the bottom line is that the civil servants in this Department are ultimately responsible to you the tax payer to provide suitable, safe, appropriate school accommodation for your children. You need to alert your public representatives to this unacceptable situation!

26th September 2016

PRIMARY LANGUAGE PROGRAMME: Here is some basic information about the new Primary Language Programme which will be rolled out in Whitecross School and all primary schools in Ireland over the coming years:

There will be more oral language in class with children learning reading, writing and speaking, relevant to their own pace and ability. There will be more emphasis on learning English and Irish through play and playful activities. Your child will be encouraged to see the links between the two languages; English and Irish. Children will be encouraged to use Irish throughout the day in English medium schools. The focus on this initiative will first of all be on classes from Junior infants up to Second. The next stage will be from Third to Sixth Class. Following on there will be a continuous review of other primary curriculum subjects. Much more information is available on

New developments for teachers and pupils need training. Some has already taken place, but Monday October 10th is a Training Day in Navan Education Centre for Whitecross Staff. Consequently the school will be closed on that day.

STUDENT COUNCIL: It is important that your children, our pupils, are given a voice. Whitecross has a Student Council elected by the pupils. This council is elected by children from Third to Sixth Class, but represents all the pupils in our school. I meet with them on a regular basis and the representatives on the council discuss issues, come up with ideas and talk about aspects of school life. Every year a new council is elected with no student allowed to participate one year after another. The members are also the ‘go to’ pupils when help is needed by the PA or myself for school events. We have had a Student Council in Whitecross since 2003, long before it was encouraged in primary schools. The representatives for 2016/17 are below:


19th September 2016

SCHOOL BUILDING: I feel it is now time to begin documenting the school building odyssey for all in the school community. The employees in the Department of Education are described as ‘public servants’. On September 2 nd I sent an email to our point of contact in DES, Tullamore, requesting an update on the project as it had been delayed for 6 weeks through the summer, waiting for an answer to the school architect. When I did not receive an answer after a week, the phone call was made. We did get in contact and the official assured made that the response would be actioned last week. I was in touch with the architect on Friday afternoon. Nothing has happened! This is the typical way our school community has been treated since the project was first mooted in 2003. Emails not responded to, phone calls not returned, well thought out proposals and suggestions from the Board ignored and not entertained. Our pupils, your children, continue to get a very raw deal from the Department of Education (& Skills) while children all around this area attend shiny bright new schools with all the bells and whistles. You parents are the tax-payers, you have elected your representatives, you need to begin asking hard questions!

EUROPEAN PROJECT: Over the years Whitecross School has linked with several European Primary Schools in a range of countries. The object of these links is to cooperate in projects for the benefit of children and teachers. In the past we have engaged in projects with a variety of themes: Food, music, environment, ancient myths and fairy-tales.
Recently the school was approved to undertake another project around the topic of Local History. The working title of the project is Past Generations; New Innovations. The main objective is for children to learn about the history of their localities and identify shared themes around local history, in all the countries involved. This reflects the past generations aspect of the work. However we plan to record all the work using new innovations, namely a variety of new technology platforms. There is an obvious benefit for all the children and teachers involved. Teachers will further benefit because we have a European Education Fund (Erasmus) to allow and fund travel to our partner schools. Our staff will be given training and further educational opportunities in the schools of the countries we are partnered with. Equally we will host our European colleagues during Year 2 of this initiative.
The following are the countries we will be working with (cities in brackets); Norway (Moss), Czech Republic (Kladno), Bulgaria (Byala), Italy (Florence) and Spain (La Coruna). This is a two year project beginning with an initial planning meeting in Kladno this term.

12th September 2016


  • Confirmation: Wednesday, March 29 th at 3pm

  • Communion: Saturday, May 13 th at 11am

  • School Mass: Friday, October 14 th at 11am

  • Do This in Memory Programme: for First Communicants, Meeting Wednesday, September 21 st at 7.30pm

  • PA AGM: Monday, October 3 rd in School Hall

A special thanks to the PA (especially Catherine, Paula and Marie) for the effort they made in organising a very successful PA Sports Day. The kids all had a ball and in many ways it is a very appropriate way to begin the School Year.

5th September 2016

  • Welcome back: I want to extend a warm welcome to all our pupils and parents for the new school year. A special thanks to Elaine Sterio and Adele Reddin for making the preparation easy for all parents and pupils from 1 st to 6 th who are availing of the excellent Book Rental Scheme.

  • Our new juniors are also very welcome. I can report every single one has settled really well and I am looking forward to meeting them all over the coming year. Thanks also to Emma Grufferty and Lyndsey Staunton who prepared their classes and resources so that the children immediately felt at ease in their new surroundings. For this week and next they will finish school at 12 noon and from September 19 th school will revert to the normal infant day with a 1.40pm finish.

  • New Teachers: We lost the services of two long term and excellent teachers this year. Meabh Rohan accepted a senior teaching position in  Dubai school after returning to Whitecross for one year. We will miss her. Kieran Byrne was promoted to Principal Teacher and takes over the running of a rural school in Co. Laois. We wish him well in his new career and indeed in his new life as he married Aoife O’Neill (another teacher!) on July 9 th. Best wishes to a great colleague.

  • Congratulations: Also congratulations to Grainne Cassidy who got married on August 16 th. We wish the happy couple well.

  • New pupils: Apart from our wonderful Junior Infants, we also enrolled 16 pupils in other classes across the school. They are all very welcome. Five of these pupils come from Syria. They came from Syria along the route we all have been reminded of by the media. Obviously these children have had a very traumatic experience and we want them to settle well in our school. Neither do they speak English, but we have supports in place to help them with fast track language learning. Please encourage your children to be more than helpful and caring towards our newcomers.

  • School Building Update: Paddy Prendergast (BoM treasurer) and myself met with Deirdre Lennon (Design Team Architect) in mid July. She outlined that while all planning and design was in place there was an issue with sourcing temporary accommodation (prefabs) for the classrooms. The reason for this is twofold: Many prefab companies do not provide the quality of prefab to meet DES technical guidelines. Prefab companies are also finding it hard to supply a market that is expanding (new companies, homeless accommodation, hospital requirements etc). Personally I do not accept the so called technical guideline excuse when our pupils are already in prefabs which would not meet these standards. For example the two first classes are in wooden shacks almost 40 years old. The architect has requested DES to increase the financial allocation to meet the temporary accommodation requirements. This request was issued on July 22 nd. No reply has yet been received because the official involved is on sick leave. Surely someone in the Department is in a position to make a decision in the absence of a colleague? However this is the type of inefficiency the Board and I have had to deal with in the years we have been involved in the school building process.

6th June 2016

30th May 2016

23rd May 2016

16th May 2016

9th May 2016

RUN TO RIO: Given that the Olympic Games take place in Rio de Janeiro this year and Olympic Games are about activity and exercise, all the pupils in the school have embarked on a run to Rio. Basically every child is asked to contribute kilometres so that the school can cover the distance to Rio before the summer holidays. The distance in question is 9332 km. I think we can do it!

Mr. O’Callaghan has marked out a kilometre track in the school. Children can walk/jog the distance before school, during breaks or even after school. Every class has a chart where children fill in their kilometres covered. These will be computed and we will all have the night off homework when (if) we cover the distance!

The reality however is that we want children to get into exercise mode and encourage all children to be more active. As I said to the children, exercise and activity is for life and if you learn that lesson as a child you are more likely to carry it through on reaching adulthood.
We are also in the process of redrafting our healthy eating policy and focussing on healthy lunches for this term.

25th April 2016

18th April 2016

11th April 2016

14th March 2016

7th March 2016


29th February 2016

QUIZ TEAM: Abigail, Inish, Ben and Jacob went to the Ardboyne Hotel on Friday last to represent the school in the regional area Credit Union Quiz. At the half way stage they were 4 points behind the leading team. They staged a remarkable come-back in the second half to defeat Scoil Aonghusa (Drogheda) by a single point. This team will now go on to represent the school in the National Credit Union Quiz finals in the RDS on April 10 th

RECORDING: I am following on from a query I recently dealt with regarding recording of information about our pupils. The school records test results, school reports, family information and relevant educational details on all our pupils. This is a necessary part of the education process. We only record relevant information and it is only shared with personnel directly involved with the education and well-being of the children.
We also have excellent systems for recording good behaviour. Teachers use a variety of strategies; working in teams; golden time; raffles; star charts; graphs and so on to record how well individuals and groups and doing socially and behaviourally in our school.
I also encourage teachers to write/record instances of misbehaviour. This helps identify patterns and issues which can dealt with appropriately by the class teacher. If there are ongoing issues Mr. Colreavy or I will become involved.
Punishment is not a word I use in this school. However, when I come across even minor instances of rule breaking or indiscipline, I deal with it. I explain to the child what the problem is and then I explain that I will record the problem in my computer, in case I forget. If the same or similar problem arises, I will have a record. In effect, the vast majority of our children will not break that same rule and the lesson has been learned. No sanction is needed.
I could not wish for a school with better behaved children. This does not just happen. It is the work (see above) by our teachers that help our children identify and stay within the boundaries of appropriate behaviour and respect!

22nd February 2016

Fergus O'Dowd takes time out from election campaign to speak to the Fifth Class pupils; voters of the future!

15th February 2016

8th February 2016

Grandparents Day

1st February 2016


Three teachers travelled to an education conference in the Czech Republic last week (David O’Callaghan, Kieran Byrne and myself). The aim of the conference was to arrange a European Project linking schools across the EU and beyond.

Six other schools were represented; from the Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Romania, France, Portugal. While the majority of schools opted for the Norwegian proposal on developing a project on ‘Motivation’, our school outlined a proposal to engage with local history and using IT to explore, develop and learn about local history in the various countries. The proposed title of the project is ‘Past Generations; New Innovations’. The Czech School will join us on this project. We will also review applications from schools in Romania, Norway, Spain, England, Turkey, Bulgaria and Italy. The project will be limited to 5 schools.
In order for our project to be approved and grant aided, we have to complete an in-depth proposal. Kieran Byrne will be the overall coordinator and we are hopeful that this proposal will be approved by the EU Education Programme. If so we will get it up and running in September!


Our teams did really well in the Regional Credit Union Quiz finals in Drogheda Institute for Further Education. One team was in 8 th place and the other team came joint 1 st, but after a sudden death play-off they ended up in second place, still advancing to the next round. Considering that there were 50 teams from schools in Meath and Louth, we were very proud of our team. Well done to Jacob, Ben, Inish and Abigail!

25th January 2016

Garda Aisling Connor came in on Tuesday to talk in general about her role as a garda (she is the Community Guard based in Ashbourne), but in particular about internet safety. She spoke to Fifth and Sixth classes together. I felt that to underline what she spoke about, it was appropriate to ask the children to review after she left. I was helped in this process by Fionn Henry, Paul Watson, Ella Markey and Jacob Dean. Basically we put together bullet points to remind us about the issues:

  • Don’t share your password

  • Handcuffs are heavy!

  • Keep your online profile private

  • Cyber bullying is a serious offence

  • There are a lot of hackers out there

  • If you are being bullied, block the sender and let someone you trust know about it

  • Putting up a picture of someone with a ‘bad hair day’ or writing something like that is still cyber bullying

  • Think before you post

  • Don’t accept the terms and conditions without reading them

  • Do not reply to a mean message

  • I learned that a guard carries pepper spray, handcuffs, a flashlight, ASP (extendable baton), gloves and a radio

  • Gardai wear a knife proof vest

  • Don’t add strangers and report anyone saying bad things

  • Disable your location if online

  • Screenshot a mean message and share it with someone you trust

  • I learned that pepper spray really hurts. 45 minutes to an hour of blindness, OUCH!

  • Your past stays forever on any social media sites

  • Nothing can be deleted, even on your phone

  • Don’t even tell your closest friends your password

  • I think that it’s amazing that you can click on someone’s photo and find out details about where they live!

  • Most people are faking their age online, including me and people in the school

  • Hackers can set up fake profiles on social media. So if you are allowed on social media and 13 or over, only friend people you know

  • Be smart online because stuff can happen

  • Always wear your seatbelt in the car

  • Think before you send a text message

  • Snapchat, Instagram etc., own all the content that you post

  • Celebrities and even normal people can be robbed by criminals clicking onto the photo and finding the location

  • I learned that you must be 13 or older to use social media

  • Don’t abuse or be mean to anybody because you will be found out and get a criminal record

  • Don’t answer personal questions

  • You can lie about anything on the internet

18th January 2016

11th January 2016

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