AT A TIME when numbers are dwindling in some rural schools due to emigration Ahane National School is bucking the trend.
Last Thursday was the first day of school for some 30 boys and girls, as well as three new class teachers.
It is very significant, says principal Liz Kiely.
“One job is transferring over and we have two developing school posts because of population,” said Ms Kiely, who proudly welcomed their new junior infants and educators - Claire Tierney, Grace Kenny and Kieran Scanlon. Everyone fitted like a glove as the photographs show. Teddy bears and a picnic and toy tractors all feature with smiling happy children.
When Liz Kiely was appointed principal in 2003 there were three teachers and 81 pupils. Now there are seven class teachers, not including two SNAs, and over 180 boys and girls. Not bad for a country school at the cross of Laught where there are laughs aplenty.
Primary education is almost unrecognisable to when the parents of today were in school.
“The curriculum has changed. It is all about the social and emotional development of the child. One of the things I would always say to new parents when they come to the school first is their children’s social and emotional development is as important as their academic development. That is the ethos of the school, we are a centre for teaching and learning,” said Ms Kiely. Being sent to the principal’s office normally means you have been caught up to no good but in Ahane it is for a reward. They call it positive behaviour awards.
“We are in a token society – for example Tesco tokens. Each child has a card and they have to get it stamped. When your card is full you come to the office on Wednesday and get a sticker.
“The kids can nominate each other. If somebody is very helpful in the yard or is being kind in class his or her friends can nominate them and so can staff,” said Ms Kiely.
When the child comes to their office the principal shakes their hand, has a chat and presents them with the sticker designed by their Ahane Leadership Club. Fifth and sixth classes hold elections for their own chairperson and secretary. They have meetings with Ms Kiely to raise ideas and suggestions and work on leaving a legacy when they go to secondary school.
While it is only the second week thoughts are already turning to Halloween as they have their own pumpkin patch!
“One of our board members, Agnes Collins, grew them in her nursery and they were watered all summer by the people who come to play tennis so it was a community effort. We get terrific support from our parents and board of management,” said Ms Kiely.