Rathowen teachers and pupils proud to achieve Amber Flag

St Mary’s National School, Rathowen awarded Amber Flag for promoting positive mental health

Longford Leader Reporter

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St Mary's National School is a three teacher school, with two special education teachers, located in Rathowen, along the N4 on the Longford/Westmeath border.

The overall objectives of the school are to provide all pupils with the best possible education and to instil in them a spirit of respect for each other and for their teachers and a willing attitude to their work, as they progress through the school.

The teachers in St Mary's NS aim to provide all educational experiences for each child. They aim to meet the educational needs of all children and offer a variety of teaching methodologies to meet the needs of children with different learning styles.

A few highlights over the past number of years have been receiving funding to build on an additional classroom which is used as the special education classroom.

Principal Sheila Lambden explained, “We are hoping to apply for funding under the Clár programme should it become available next year. Our hopes are to apply for funding for a playground and astroturf pitch at the school. A carpark is quite high up on the list also.”

St Mary’s was awarded their first green flag for energy and waste in 2017 and they are currently working on their second flag for Energy. Staff, pupils and members of the extended community are busy working to achieve this flag for May 2019.

They achieved their Health promotion flag in 2016 and work in the school promoting healthy lifestyles, including their participation in the Food Dudes healthy eating, initiative is ongoing.

Ms Lambden said that one of their biggest achievements was being awarded the Amber flag for promoting positive mental health. “We are the first school in county Westmeath to achieve this award and we are very proud of our achievements. The Amber Flag initiative aims to promote positive mental health within schools, clubs and societies.”

All teachers took part in mindfulness courses and deliver mindfulness classes to all children in the school.

A weaving wellbeing programme was adopted and implemented within the school. “It creates a sense of self acceptance and to be grateful for who we are and what we have in life. It also provides coping strategies for children helping them to deal with little problems and disappointments in life,” pointed out Ms Lambden.

She said she could not emphasise the importance of addressing mental health issues in children enough. “Since we began the weaving wellbeing programme, combined with mindfulness classes, our buddy bench and outdoor village, we have watched our pupils grow emotionally, spiritually and academically.”

A buddy bench was purchased for the school as part of the Amber flag initiative by Geraldine and Cyrian Connaughton.

Ms Lambden paid tribute to the wonderful Parents Association in the school, who purchased the resources needed to deliver the wellbeing programme. “The Parents Association are very active and very supportive, as are the Board of Management.”
There is a beautiful garden in the school, designed by Kathleen Greene and the staff who worked closely with the pupils. Ms Lambden thanked Lake County Landscapes and Deirdre and Paul McKeon who donated items for the garden.

The school, which competes in Cumann na mBunscol annually, was presented with a new set of football jerseys by local GAA club, Bunbrosna. The aim is to enter hurling and camogie competitions in the future. Parent Charlene Maguire has been very generous with her time training the children hurling and camogie.

Other sporting events St Mary’s participate in are swimming, soccer, basketball, tennis, rounders, cross country, the Iggy Fulham football tournament, and basketball and soccer blitzes in Streete.

St Mary’s pupil Emma Lyne won a Road Safety art competition with Westmeath County Council and the prize included a cycle safe programme for the school with Westmeath Sports Partnership. Another pupil, Mark Fulham, won a Seachtain na Gaeilge competition with Conradh na Gaeilge. Mark won a cash prize for himself and €500 for the school.

Children represent the school in Scór na bPáistí and recently, pupils travelled to the An Post sorting office in Portlaoise which was a very exciting trip. Lorraine Thomsen from Rathowen, a present parent and past pupil, organised this trip. They also travelled to Mergon International in Castlepollard in connection with Engineers Week and thanks to Orla Concannon for organising this trip.

The children performed the musical Oliver with Mullingar Arts Centre earlier this year and a very enjoyable evening was had by all in St Mary's Hall Rathowen.

St Mary's National School, Rathowen are currently accepting enrolment for September 2018. Please feel free to contact the school on landline: 043 66 76161 mobile: 087 986 1815 email: stmarysrathowen@yahoo.ie should you require any further information.

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