Principal's Blog 2017 - Whitecross NS

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Principal's Blog 2017

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18th December 2017

11th December 2017

4th December 2017

27th November 2017

ATTENDANCE: Just a reminder that if pupils miss 20 days or more the school is obliged to notify the Education Welfare Officer. The job of the welfare officer is to support, investigate and encourage school attendance. Parents have a primary role in ensuring a quality education for their children and no matter how good a school is, missing significant time will impinge on a child’s education.

NEW PREFABS: Two new prefabs have been completed on the school grounds. These are placed at the north western perimeter of the grounds to maintain significant distance from the footprint of the proposed new build. As previously notified, the new build is expected to begin in mid 2018. The present Senior Infant classes in the Portakabin units are moving to the new prefabs. Portakabin have been requested to take back their unit in the coming weeks. Those units has been rented by the school for the past 12 years. The total cost to you (the taxpayer) has been €380,000!

BUILDING MEETING: Members from the Building Committee; the PA; the Board and Teachers all met to discuss the construction project due to begin mid 2018. All agreed to keep a close eye on timelines and to take action if deadlines are not being met. The next meeting is due to take place on January 22nd. In the event of a General Election I would encourage all parents to ask any canvassing politicians about the progress of the Whitecross School construction project.

NEW APP: I would appreciate if as many parents as possible download the new textaparent app. The app costs quite a bit less than texts from the school to parents and is more efficient, as it also allows access to a school calendar of events, which parents will find very useful.

SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS: This year qualified substitute teachers are very difficult to find. As a result the school may have to either source student teachers or resort to splitting classes in the event of a teacher being absent. Thankfully our teachers are a healthy bunch, so hopefully it will not be a huge problem over the school year.

MR. CAROLAN: A big congratulations to Mr. Carolan who celebrated his wedding to Gemma on November 18th.

20th November 2017

13th November 2017

6th November 2017

23rd October 2017

16th October 2017

BUILDING: The following is the latest update from the School Architect (Deirdre Lennon) in relation to the timeline for the school building:
Whitecross National School Programme Update             17th October 2017
1 Works Contractors Shortlisted 12.10.2017
Approval obtained from DoEs to proceed to notify shortlisted contractors as part of a two stage restricted tendering process
2 Design Documentation Stage 2b revised inline with updated Departmnet Techncial
Guidance Documents. 30.10.2017
3 Deisign co-ordination reviewed and updated 25.10.2017
4 Bill of Quantities updated 15.11.2017
5 Updated Stage 2b issued to Dept of Education for Stage 2b approval 22.10.2017
6 DoES Stage 2b review period (12 weeks) 28.02.2018
7 Stage 2 b Complete 28.02.2018
8 Stage 3 Tender Action Evaluation and Award
Stage 3 Tender Period 5 to 8 month period
9 Stage 4 Construction start date; Earliest July 2018; Latest Oct 2018
10 Construction duration; Estimate 19 months

9th October 2017


2nd October 2017

INTERACTIVE TVS: Whitecross has taken delivery of the very latest IT teaching resource for classrooms. This is a 64” interactive tv unit. In fact we have taken delivery of 3 of these units. Basically, these touch screen tvs can deliver almost any lesson to a class. They are internet enabled with several software additions and apps to deliver lessons to all the class or to small groups. I was amazed at one short lesson I saw in the Junior Infant class, where teacher used the Jolly Phonics app to help children learn their letter sounds. Funding for these units comes from a recent IT grant delivered to all schools across the country. In the case of Whitecross we received almost €11,000 from which we purchased these fantastic resources. They cost over €3000 per unit.
The units were installed in the classrooms of 3 teachers (Ms. Staunton in Jun Inf; Ms. Bell in 1st Class & Ms. Dowd in 3rd Class). They will also be shared with the corresponding teacher in each stream.
Personally, I think they are the most exciting resource I have seen in education since I began my educational career back in 1977. Back then I was given the sum total of £5 to spend on resources for the year and a box of chalk to last the whole month! Times, indeed, have changed!

25th September 2017

ERASMUS EUROPEAN PROJECT: 6 teachers visited Hijas de Jesus Primary School in La Coruna, in Galicia, Spain (Mr. Burke, Ms. Chambers, Ms. Dowd, Ms. Ffrench, Ms. Moore & Ms. Kearney). All of us were extremely impressed (& envious) of the fantastic facilities in the school. Spacious classrooms, plenty of education resources, brilliant PE facilities etc). Our work was to expand our local history project plans and to examine local history in this part of Spain. We also got to see teaching in several classrooms and engage with the children, many of whom had excellent English. It was a superb learning opportunity for all of us.
STUDENT of the MONTH: Across the whole school teachers embrace the concept of positive discipline. We look for the good in children and most importantly the good behaviour; kindness; friendship and cooperation. I began teaching in the era of corporal punishment. We looked and dealt with the negative. It did not work. Schools are transformed places nowadays. Children and teachers get on extremely well and the occasional misadventure by children is normally just that and sorted successfully. Our pictures show two of this months Students of the Month.
AISTEAR: Is the fun way of learning in Junior Classes. It describes the types of learning that are important for children at this stage in their lives.  Aistear is a guide for planning exciting, engaging and fun learning experiences and activities for children in Whitecross. Children love the Aistear part of the daily educational programme. 

18th September 2017

ERASMUS 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.

11th September 2017

Confirmation: Thursday, April 19th, 2018 at 11am
School Mass: Friday, October 20th at 11am

PA AGM: Monday, October 2nd in School Hall

BUILDING: We plan to move the Senior Infant classes into the newly relocated prefabs after mid-term. The site-works are ongoing and some bureaucracy has to be finalised before the actual buildings are erected. No developments in Whitecross since last week. However, it does add to our frustration in the school when we see an almost complete Scoil an Bradán Feasa new build. This was not even a school when our original construction project was binned in 2008! I do wonder if there is any systematic planning when it comes to school buildings in Ireland?

TRANSITION YEAR: Increasingly we are getting requests from past pupils regarding work experience in Whitecross as part of their overall transition year programme. Organising transition students adds to the workload of office staff, principal and the class teacher concerned. Vetting, form filling, assessments are now all part of the process. The student then has to be managed by a class teacher along with his/her class. On the advice of the Board of Management we are now only able to offer a quota of places for TY students. On a first come basis we will cater for 5 students. This quota has now been reached. We also cater for students from the Teacher Training institutions, so the school does more than enough to cater for aspiring primary school teachers.

4th September 2017

WELCOME BACK: I want to extend a warm welcome to all our pupils and parents for the new school year. A special welcome to all our new Junior Infants to Whitecross School. Numbers are low which is great news for teachers (Ms. Grufferty & Ms. Staunton).  At the moment we have 20 pupils in each class. This will greatly help the education process.

NEW PUPILS: Apart from our Junior Infants we have more than 20 new pupils across the school. They are all very welcome and thanks to all our established pupils for helping them feel at home and showing them around their new school. It is great to see all the new faces, from Ireland, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Romania, Nigeria, Lithuania, Albania, United States and UK. We are truly a multi-national and inclusive school!

BOOK SCHEME: A special thanks to Elaine Sterio and Adele Reddin for making the preparation easy for all parents and pupils from 1st to 6th who are availing of the excellent Book Rental Scheme.

BUILDING: As I write this blog I am listening to the evening news on RTE. I cannot but comment on the appalling news regarding Rush and Lusk Educate Together School. The school was built in 2008, when our project was due to start. Due to poor oversight on behalf of those responsible (no-one seems to know who that is!!) the fire safety regulations were not adhered to by the construction company and another €900,000 was spent on this upgrade. Now it is been decided that the 16 classroom school (same size as Whitecross) is to be demolished and replaced with a new building costing between €5 & €7 million (probably a guess rather than an estimate!). It kind of reflects the unacceptable inefficiencies Whitecross has had to endure over the last 14 years while we await our new build. The one positive note that I can reflect on is that our extension, if it was built in 2008, could be for demolition in 2017, just like that school 20km down the road!! 

MR. JUDGE: Mr Judge is welcome back in Whitecross having spent most of last year working with First Class. He will spent this term with 4th Class, providing substitute cover for Ms. Mulroy who is on maternity leave.

SUB COVER: In general sourcing substitute cover was quite difficult during the last academic year. This year it seems to be an even bigger headache, as there appears to be a significant shortage of substitute teachers in this area.
26th June 2017

19th June 2017


12th June 2017

5th June 2017

29th May 2017

I am pleased to confirm that your Design Team is now authorised to publish the Pre-qualification advert for contractors. Once the Contract Notice is ready the Design Team Leader should double check to ensure that there are no mistakes prior to logging on to and up-loading the notice.The responsibility to enter the correct details rests with the Design Team Leader. Draft Contract Notices will not be checked or “approved” by the Department.
Can you please advise your design team of same, and request that they revert to the BOM and Department confirming when the advert has been published and closing date of same. Your Design Team should submit a draft preliminary report to the Department when they have ranked the prospective tenderers and before they issue any feedback to the interested parties or to the proposed shortlist.
Please also advise your design team to provide an updated Programme and show indicative dates for moving temporary accommodation off the site and onto the new one.
Kind regards,
Nicola Healy | Major Projects Design & Construction Section | Dept of Education & Skills | Portlaoise Road | Tullamore | Co. Offaly.
22nd May 2017

15th May 2017

8th May 2017

Many Thanks to Maria Shiel who has guided our two 2nd classes on their musical journey this year. Last Thursday the two classes had their recorder exam. The inspector was very impressed with the standard of playing. The children have all thoroughly enjoyed their lessons with Maria and who knows a musical seed may have been planted as part of this Whitecross initiative. Thanks also to Emma Grufferty and our Whitecross BOM for their continued support with the programme. 

1st May 2017

The old hymn records the act of veneration of the Blessed Virgin:
Bring flowers of the rarest
bring blossoms the fairest,
from garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
our full hearts are swelling,
our glad voices telling
the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May…

The tradition of the May Altar has been handed down in many parts of the country, usually from mother to daughter but since the decrease in mass-going it might not be as popular as it once was. Even if it is less practiced today, it is nice to think that in this quiet, simple task each year we remember our mothers and our connection to her mother and all those who came before.
Deirbhile O’Rourke and Ninki Woods have set up the Whitecross May Altar in the school hall, for our pupils and staff to say a prayer in honour of Mary.

24th April 2017

3rd April 2017

27th March 2017

ART & LITERARY COMPETITION: The PA Art & Literary Competition has been running in Whitecross since before I became principal (15+ years!). The competition is designed to encourage pupils’ literary and/or artistic skills. This year we are creating a link between our Erasmus European Project (Past Generations; New Innovations) and this competition. The project is aimed at enhancing pupils (& teachers) knowledge of our rich historical heritage in East Meath and South Louth and the information technology platforms pupils and teachers have access to nowadays.
Consequently the theme is Historical Buildings for the majority of classes. These classes will depict, using an art medium, a specific building for each class group and research and share some information about this building. Some junior classes are opting for a local myth or legend and will depict a picture attached to this story.
We plan to display as many entries as feasible in the school hall for pupils, teachers and parents to view. The winning entries (3 per class) will be presented with prizes by the PA.
Further displays will go on the school website and the European Project Website.

20th March 2017

13th March 2017

6th March 2017

SPANISH STUDENT TEACHERS: Two Student Teachers from Spain are working and gaining teaching experience in the school. Whitecross has developed links with many teachers and institutions across Europe over the years. Due to these links we now have Esther Urbana Lopez and Belen Banos working in the school as part of their Erasmus Programme. They are both attending Universidad Autónoma de Madrid - UAM. Both the school and the girls benefit with them gaining valuable experience and our pupils and teachers getting extra help and support in school. We are also hoping to give them the opportunity to provide some Spanish lessons after school if there is a demand.
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