It is going to be a summer of change at Mercy Primary School in the heart of the city. While the school year might be winding down elsewhere, the 176-year-old school is getting ready for one of the most momentous changes in its history.
From September, for the first time, boys will stay on after First Class at the school and principal Rena Jordan is excited by the development. She hails from the heart of the city and went to school there, taught there, and now, as its inspirational and committed principal, is leading the charge to one of the biggest developments in the school’s long varied life.
“Up to now, the Mercy has catered for boys and girls up to 1st class after which our boys have left us to join other primary schools and we have just retained our girls through to 6th class. Following on from the celebration of our 175 years at the heart of education in Galway City in 2017, we are excited by this recent announcement and the opportunity to further develop our school for both boys and girls through to 6th class,” she said last week as she showed me around the Mercy.
While the school goes back into the 19th century, there is nothing historic about this modern progressive establishment — behind the buildings lies a soft surface playground, on the roof, there is a fantastic hidden garden looking out over the city, the spacious classrooms and hallways lead through to the SALI childcare facility which provides a pre-school and after-school service, and has state of the art kitchen where healthy nutritious meals are prepared.
This summer, a lift is being installed to create access to the upper floors for pupils of all ability and strong alignments have been created with the FAI, NUI Galway, and other city sports clubs to have the best of sports coaching and facilities available to all the students.
Ms Jordan is well aware of the role that sport plays in the development of the pupils, and has been key to the development of all of the physical activities, although she is adamant that primary focus is on the core subjects.
“We have a pre-school and after-school care service called SALI Childcare located within our school grounds. We are a Catholic School, however all religious backgrounds are welcome. We strive to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral, social and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed,” she said, adding that the school also works to encourage parental participation in the education of their children with classes for parents in some topics and the provision of a liaison service encouraging partnership with parents.
The rooftop garden enables students to partake in the Green Schools projects and it is where they host their Bug Hotel and pupils can plant on their own patch.
The list of programmes to which the school is affiliated is endless — there are NUIG Youth Academy Scholarships for high achievers, workshops for parents and pupils, Green Flag projects, Discovery Primary Matchs programmes, Helping Hands programmes, play therapy, Incredible Years Programmes, Literacy Lift-Off, Maths Recovery programmes.
Pupils are all taught at their own individual level using PM Books and Collns Big Cat series. The children read several books throughout the school year.
“We have invested thousands in reading material for the children to enable them to read as many books as possible during a school year. We have very well stocked classroom libraries as recommended by the DES as the children have daily access to a variety of books rather than just a visit once a week to a library. We do this in addition to the wonderful reading material available in the school,” she added.
Next year, the school will provide a MindUp Programme – mindfulness, how the brain works, teaching children emotional resilience – Hawn Foundation; the Erasmus programme, Mathletics on Ipads to help improve math scores and challenge more capable mathematicians, coding and Playworks.
“It is not the intention of the school to become huge. We just aim to do the very best we can for every child who comes into our school, to maximise their talents and potential, to give them a solid grounding in academic work and to open their eyes and minds to the world that awaits them,” said Ms Jordan.
The programme of courses, core subjects and activities available at the Mercy Primary School will certainly do that.