Rural Limerick school gets its hands dirty with new art project

Gerard Fitzgibbon


Gerard Fitzgibbon

IT MAY be one of the smallest schools in the country, but Ashford NS is proving that when it comes to creativity, size doesn’t matter.

IT MAY be one of the smallest schools in the country, but Ashford NS is proving that when it comes to creativity, size doesn’t matter.

With just 16 pupils and two teachers, the rural West Limerick school is facing a battle to keep its doors open and preserve a legacy which dates back to the mid-19th century.

However despite the challenges, local parents and teachers are pumping time and effort into projects that have made the school a thriving, creative place.

Last week the school started a ten-week pottery course for its pupils with Templeglantine artist John Sherlock, a scheme which is being funded entirely by the school’s parents’ association.

Eileen Stritch, the school’s principal, said that the children are already enjoying getting their hands dirty with clay.

“They absolutely love it. It’s the kind of activity that they just find really relaxing. They just like the creative aspect”.

Several months ago, when falling student numbers raised the risk of Ashford NS having one of its two teachers taken away, parents began an information campaign to try and market the school as an ideal place for local children.

Marguerite Kelly of the parents’ association said that they started a newsletter, erected information signs and told people about the depth and variety of learning available at Ashford NS.

She said that as things stand, the school is one pupil below a Department of Education quota to keep two teachers, a situation they want to avoid at all costs.

“We needed an extra pupil starting this September. The department look at it retrospectively, so even if we’ve another ten pupils this time next year they’re going to look at this year’s numbers, so we’ll have to go to an appeal panel if we want to keep the second teacher.”

As part of this push, parents began organising extra-curricular events and activities including drama, dance and cycling. Most recently, they approached Mr Sherlock about starting a pottery course akin to one which he recently ran with great success at Templeglantine NS.

Mr Sherlock said that the plan is to teach the children everything about pottery and clay in various stages, before getting them to craft and paint their own Christmas angels.

“It ties in with their whole education ethos. Living in the county, I really appreciate the work of communities. The effort parents make for the benefit their children is huge. The local school is a huge part of their heritage”.