St. Attracta’s Senior National School was built in 1980 when we shared accommodation with the Junior School. As the school grew, eight new classrooms were added, but for 25 years we had to make do with 12 classrooms instead of the original 16 which had been planned.
From 1998 to date significant improvements were made to the physical environment of the school, including modern marmoleum flooring, new tables and chairs for pupils, modernisation of the computer room, new ceilings, doors and windows, external fascias and soffits, new tarmacadam in the yard and upgrading and networking of the computer room and school. Lighting and security cameras were then installed and security film fitted to all classrooms. The old prefab was demolished and a new storage area created, roof lights were installed throughout the school, the security & fire alarms were upgraded, garden areas were landscaped and new hall carpet laid.
In 1998 an application to extend the school was forwarded to the Department of Education & Science and finally, ten years after the initial application was submitted, the extension to the school was eventually completed. It included three new classrooms, new learning support/resource rooms, an open bright reception area and storage areas, a new library and a 100m2 curriculum room for cookery, music, science, circle time and drama. A dream come true!
The bond between St. Attracta’s school and parish was always very strong and Fr. Murtagh, both as parish priest and as Chairman of the Board of Management walked the school grounds each and every morning after 7.25 a.m. Mass – just to be sure that everything was ready for the day. In the early years, Mass was celebrated in the Junior School hall, while in the 80’s the Senior School library was used as a crèche on Sunday mornings. To this day the staff room and class rooms are regularly used for parish meetings and activities and the co-operation between school and parish is epitomised by the school’s motto Ar Aghaidh le Chéile. Parishioners are invited to meet the pupils during Book Week and during Catholic Schools Week each year and the 6th class pupils join with the parish community at the ten o’clock Mass each Monday. Despite societal changes and a decline in religious practice generally, the two great highlights of the school year for pupils, parents and parish are still our Christmas Carol Service and Confirmation day.
The Brigidine Sisters were once a focal part of school life, when Sr. Mary and then Sr. Carmel were teachers in the school. St. Brigid’s Day is still celebrated with gusto and although the Brigidines are no longer directly involved with the school, they are still a supportive presence in our midst. We remember them each year when we celebrate the feast of St. Brigid.
Two of the most significant changes that have taken place over the past 25 years are reflected in the progress made in the areas of special needs and technology. Initially there was no teacher available to cater for the special educational needs of over 400 pupils. Today, we have seven teachers and eleven Special Needs Assistants offering additional support to the pupils in our school.
In 1984, the senior school shared its first ever computer – a Commodore 64 – with the junior school and computers were so expensive that we considered selling our half of the computer and taking out a bank loan to buy our own! This never materialised but later in the year, a very generous parent donated a BBC Master Compact to us. We were the first school in Ireland to have one of these computers and we never looked back. In 1993, the official opening of the computer room by the Minister for Education took place and today – thanks to the support of our wonderful parents – the senior school alone has 45 computers and a fully equipped computer room, with 16 brand new computers, all of which are networked. Today all classrooms have interactive whiteboards, used for teaching and learning and we have been recognised by the Department of Education & Skills as a Digital School of Distinction.
In the 1980’s the emphasis was very much on the core subjects of Irish, English and Maths. Today, computers, French, dance and relationships education are comfortably placed alongside the traditional subjects. Discovery learning, partnership, diversity, integration, European and global dimensions, environment-based learning as well as life-long learning are all buzz words of today’s curriculum. Yet reading is valued as much as ever, due in no small measure to the emphasis placed in the school on books and on reading for pleasure. Our first ever Book Week took place in 1991 and over the years the children have met many famous authors. We boast a state of the art library which the children visit once a week in normal times.
Schools are in many ways a microcosm of society and so changes in societal values and norms are reflected both in and by the life of the school. Yet strangely children themselves don’t change. They still have an aversion to homework which will most likely still prevail 25 years from now and they still see lunch time (or going home time) as the highlight of the school day. Children, then, now and over the years need to be nurtured and cared for. But it is their thirst for knowledge, their unquenchable enthusiasm for what is new, their childlike optimism and sense of fun, and especially their openness and innocence which makes teaching itself as rewarding in St. Attracta’s Senior School today as it was when our school was founded over 40 years ago. We hope your child will be very happy here and we look forward to working with you and your children in the years to come.