St. Joseph's N.S. Ballymitty

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Read all about our Erasmus trip to Denmark - March 2024

Day 1 Denmark

We visited school today in Sonderborg in the southern part of Denmark. This is the Jutland area of Denmark and is very close to Germany. We went this morning to Nybol Borneunivers which was a primary school with 130 pupils and it had children from the ages of kindergarten up to year 6 which was 12 years of age.

We were warmly greeted by Tine, the Principal and Lene one of the teachers. They showed us around the school and it was an amazing day full of little surprises at every corner. We got to meet the children at different levels and we got to spend time with some of the staff but the most amazing things were the kinds of resources that they had.

What we really noticed in all the classrooms were the different types of seating and places for the children. In our Irish schools we do tend to keep most children seated on the classroom chairs but there were different types of chairs here. There were different cushions for the kids, there were little mats/mattresses on floors, there was a little corner in one classroom called the nest where children could go down to and sit and there was also a felt divider that the children could stand up around them so that they wouldn't be distracted by other children. There were also foot swings so the children could put their feet on a swing underneath their table. There were different stands under the tables that they could put their feet on and generally we did see that there was a lot of arrangements made for children who might find it difficult to sit down.

The school was focusing on reading for this week so today they were doing reading in pairs so first of all they went off and they read and there was a great sense of quiet and respect for reading and respect for the teacher. It was lovely to see and then they had to go back and do a little review of their books. They don’t do cursive writing! On Thursday the students are doing a Book Marathon and the senior classes stay in overnight reading! This was certainly something we hadn't heard of before! Their teachers stay with them and on Friday morning they go home for a day off!

The staff showed us their new library where they have lots of books in store and they have many spaces where children can read. We got to see all the different specialized subject rooms. Their curriculum focuses on soft materials and hard materials so the soft materials were in the sewing room. They then brought us to the woodwork room which is something that Years 4, 5 & 6 do. This was incredible to see. Also all of the children in the school learn German so they learn German from the age of five and they learn English when they are age 6 or 7. Their levels of German are apparently are very good and their English levels were very good as well.

From speaking with the Principal there is a lot of money spent on education in Denmark and you can very clearly see that from the different materials, resources, spaces and places that they have.

The next school that we went to visit then was Dybbol Skolen which was a bigger school with about 840 pupils and it has a 65 teachers. It also has pupils from grade 1 up which is 7 years of age right up to grade 9 which is like third year in secondary school.

Interestingly enough the children are allowed to use phones in both schools - in in the first school we went to see they're allowed to have their phones so that they use them for different parts of the curriculum but at all other times the phones are in their bags and they don't take them out.

In the second school we met Michael Jacobsen, the Principal, who treated us to a traditional smørrebrød, which is basically an open-faced sandwich and is a beloved part of Danish cuisine.The sandwich consisted of a base of rugbrød (rye bread), the main component shrimp, and garnished with a salad. Simply delicious and such fresh produce!

Michael told us about the general area of Sonderborg which is in the municipality of Sonderborg with about 780,000 people. The schools have to put up different statistics every year so they have to put up about their attendance, their scores on their assessments for years 8 and 9 (which are equivalent to our 2nd and 3rd year secondary school students) and they have to assess the children in how happy and contented they are. This is public knowledge and can determine how parents choose schools. We went in to a Year 9 group who were learning English and we sat in their class and listened to the teacher teaching English. The children asked us some questions so we got to talk to them and we also had a meeting with two other teachers at the end of the day just about any other questions that we had. We visited their beautiful new library which is probably a similar size to the children’s section of Wexford library. It is an amazing resource.

All round there's a lot of organization, a lot of color coding in the schools and all children have a little box for their hats, personal items etc and even lockers. All children must bring in a laptop and there are a few spare for those who can’t afford to do so. Like all other schools we have been to on the continent, the children don't wear uniforms. The parents don't pay anything for schooling.

A big focus for them here in Denmark is the outdoor life so during Covid the first school built a huge place that the children could use for outdoor classroom work and from March every year until June they do a lot of work in the forest. The houses that surround the schools use all the facilities of the school at weekends and after hours. There's a lot of trust in the Danish spirit. We spoke about insurance concerns and possible litigation but they said that there's a great trust and there is a link with the police and the community but generally there is very little trouble.

Another huge focus is on cycling so the teachers bring the children out every week on their bikes. If they can cycle they must wear a helmet and if not the little kids go into a trailer on the back of their bikes and they go out for lessons and for exercises. Also, if a parent is having a party one of the teachers can cycle the children in the little trailer down to the house so that they can all be at the house which we thought was a lovely idea. Every year the children in Year 1 do a cycling course where they get a qualification.

This was a very interesting day where we learned lots, saw lots and drew up wish lists in our heads to bring home! The only thing that we need to back all of these ideas up is one simple thing called money!

Here is a video of the photos from the first day of our Erasmus trip! CLICK HERE for video!

You can join us again tomorrow to see Day 2! Tak (Danish for Thank You!)

Audrey, Deirdre and Edyta

Day 2 - Sonderborg, Denmark

This morning we returned to Nybol Borneunivers where we spent the first class with Year 1 for Maths. This class would be similar to our first class (maybe 6-7 years of age). The teachers all introduce lessons explaining what the objectives are what they're going to do, the activities and what they're going to learn. The teacher then brought different games out for the children and they played a few games and then they did some worksheets on a math sheet so quite similar to what we would do at home.

The second lesson today was an English lesson and we spent time with the teacher who was working with the children in 1st class. The teacher outlined the objectives for the lesson and explained the activities and what the children were going to learn. She started the lesson by putting up a book that all of the children were reading - a little reader and it was about a cat who caught a mouse. She read the book to the children and then she gave them some questions. They answered the questions and she wrote the answers on the board. When we were observing she didn't give full answers - she just gave a phrase. She didn't number the questions or put bullet points on them. So when the children were writing them we found that they were writing on various different pages, they were writing in various different ways. They don't do cursive writing, they didn't put the date on top of the page, they didn't space out the writing like we would encourage our children to do. They then followed that active activity with some reading so they went to a different room and they picked different readers and they sat in all places around the classroom to do their reading. It is something that they're very particular about that they can find a space everywhere and anywhere to read. The children then went out for a movement break. They're supposed to run up and down the yard twice and some of the boys who were more active and who need to get rid of more energy run up and down four times. Interestingly enough they're not supervised for this as their teachers stay in the classroom and the children are trusted to do this. Once again lots of trust in this education system.

We had a break in the staff room where we were treated to some traditional meats and cheeses from the area.

The third lesson today then was an English lesson and this was with Mona the teacher in 6th class. She had the children doing vocabulary based on an English story that they were learning from their textbook. She put different words English words out on the windows and the children had to go out and pick a word and then they came back in to find the meaning of the words. So they were allowed to use Google Translate on their mobile phones or their iPads or their Chromebooks which was very interesting. All of the children did as they were asked and then they had to put the words into sentences. They then had to go around and go into different pairs and pair up with the other class members and explain what their word were. At the end they called out what their word was for the whole class. This lesson took 45 minutes and seemed quite a slow pace compared to teaching in our school.

We then made our way to the other school this morning and on the way we stopped at some of the monuments that are there to acknowledge the war that happened in this area where part of Denmark was taken by the Germans in 1864. This was a loss of a third of its territory and 40% of the state's population. In 1920, the northern, predominantly Danish part of Schleswig, returned under Danish rule in 1920 following Germany's defeat in World War I. A small German minority still lives in the region. We stopped to see the windmills, the monuments and the cannonballs.

We then got to Dybol Skolen where we were treated to a lovely lunch - one of the traditional breads again with different fillings.

Afterwards, we met with one of the teachers called Melena who is in the co-ordinator of the competence centre for pupils with special needs. She discussed some of the children that she has in the classroom. She discussed children with anxiety, with ADHD, that she has six children who have hearing difficulties, she has four children with diabetes, two children with muscular difficulties like scoliosis and she talked about the supports that they have in the school. They go to what they call a competence centre which was an unusual name. In the school they have a psychologist who is shared between schools and they also have occupational therapists speech and language therapists that are shared between the schools. I asked her about teachers and what professional development they have to do and she said we're never told what to do we are asked what we want and she said many teachers do different courses. She said they do a very good behavioral program and a program about friendship called We Think and it is about the giraffe language versus the wolf language. It speaks about the giraffe having a long neck who is able to see from the top and able to understand everybody's side and has a big heart versus the wolf language which is very aggressive. That's the the language that they would use around behavioral difficulties. She mentioned that they have play patrols on the yard so the older children play with the younger children but it is something that they have to put their names forward for. They have to apply for it like a job and they have to interview for it so they are there to support the younger children on the yard. Another thing that she talked about was yard monitors or yard guards where the older pupils are supervisors on the yard and if there are little arguments and disputes between children that the older children help the younger ones to work them out. It develops respect among all of the children and the children who want to do this job must apply for it and do an interview. At the end of the year they are treated to a trip to their famous Legoland which is in Billund. We thought this was a very interesting idea something we might like to bring back to our own school. They also do parent teacher meetings and meet parents at various times.

What we did notice was there was a complete openness to both schools. There were doors that had no security or pin codes and it was a completely open system. They kept telling us how trustworthy people are. Nobody seems to check in with visitors and they don't have a secretary who welcomes people either. That was very different for us. The teacher also talked about the good hour so that it's so important the children are in front of you that they have their best hour and how important it is that the teachers teach the children how to talk about home and how to talk about things that are good and bad.

We finished the day with the trip to the library where we met Tanya the teacher. All of the teachers are called by their their first names. She took us in with Year 6 who would be 6th class/1st year age. They introduced themselves and spoke about where they came from. A lot of children from Palestine, some from Kosovo, Afghanistan etc and a huge mix of children from all over the world. We got to speak to those children and Edyta got to speak some Polish to a little Polish girl. We went to the library and they showed us the library system that they use. It was a lovely afternoon. A fire alarm went off just before our visit ended so that was the end for today but we really enjoyed the day. It was very interesting to hear those little ideas and also to affirm us in in the teaching & learning that happens in our school.

You can join us tomorrow for our final day and if you'd like to see a video for Day two please CLICK HERE

Day 3 Denmark

On Thursday March 7th, we returned for our final school visit to Dybbol-Skolen. Our first lesson that morning was a Danish lesson with Year 6 – similar age to a 6th class/1st years class. They asked us a lot of questions first to find out all about us. Their Danish lesson started with an audio of a sci-fi book that they are reading. They had to answer questions about the characters and then they used menti.com which is an app you can use to get everyone to type in answers and they come up on the teacher’s whiteboard. Once again all the students had phones or laptops to use in the classroom. One boy Oscar even showed us his photo of his bearded lizard Spike from his phone! Once the teacher discovered it was in his pocket he quickly popped it back in the storage cupboards where they stay for the day unless they are being used in the classroom. We felt again that the pace of the lessons were much slower than ours. The students write in pencil but rarely write in their copies.

The next lesson we observed was a Religion class in Year 2 – same age as our 2nd class pupils. There are many nationalities in the school but state and religion are separate. So the children were learning about Creation. They learned about it from the Islam and biblical perspectives last week and today they learned about it from the Big Bang scientific perspective. They watched a video and spoke about what they had seen. In this classroom, we noticed that all the Maths equipment that a teacher uses was actually stuck by Velcro on the board. Another thing that the school uses for children who find it hard to focus or who need some sensory stimulation was a strip of Velcro stuck to the side of the pupil’s desk.

Our final class was a Danish class with Year 3 – same age as our 3rd class. They spent the lesson trying to find Danish words from a long list of letters. Once again, we felt the pace was very different to our classrooms.

Michael Jacobsen, the Headmaster, met us for a final review of the trip and once again treated us to beautiful open sandwiches - Smorrebrod – one especially nice with roast beef, crispy fried onions, grated horseradish, a remoulade made from mayonnaise, curry powder, Greek yoghurt and topped off with gherkins. Truly delicious!

Michael spoke about inspectors and how they really don’t have inspectors to inspect teachers. There is a teaching union for the teachers and another one for Principals. National and local standardised tests are done and reported on at the end of year for each class.

Overall, we enjoyed the visit to these schools, affirming us in the work we do and giving us many different ideas to support our pupils. Regarding languages, we believe Danish children are at a greater advantage as they speak Danish, English and German. We also thought that the children were at a greater advantage when it comes to technology as they are using their phones and mobiles in school. We were a little surprised by this as we didn’t see phones in use in any other school we visited across Europe. We especially feel that the students in Denmark have more varied subjects because they learn cooking, sewing and woodwork from about 7/8 years. We would love to see these subjects in our school! We do feel that the pace of our lessons and teaching lends itself to our style of education but we loved the fact that there are specialist teachers in different subjects.

Erasmus is a wonderful opportunity with the aim of opening minds and broadening horizons and we certainly feel that this happened for us.

Culturally, Sonderborg is a beautiful place, with lots of interesting history and a fabulous harbour area which would be even nicer in the summer. The food is gorgeous here too but it is very expensive also! The Danish language is very difficult. They have 29 letters in their alphabet and the words are hard to pronounce! It is not a phonetic language!

Our final visit was to Copenhagen where we got to see the famous Little Mermaid statue. It appears much larger in the tourist photos that we see when Copenhagen is featured but worth the 3km walk nonetheless! We passed by Rosenberg Castle which was built to hold Denmark’s greatest treasures. We took a walk to the beautiful harbour that is often the main picture for Copenhagen! And we passed by the famous Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen is an expensive city but it is definitely worth a visit!

Thanks for reading about our trip! CLICK HERE to see our Day 3 video!

Read about our Erasmus trip to Stockholm, Sweden - October 2023

Day 1 – Stockholm - Trångsundsskolan

Today, we were very lucky to spend the day in a school called Trangsundsskolan, which is about 20 minutes by commuter train from Stockholm City. This school has 750 students from the age of 6 to 16 years. We met their Erasmus Co-ordinator Cecilia who organises all the links with European schools and who is also the librarian in the school. Her library is a safe and welcoming place for all of the classes and some children go there at lunchtimes. She is in the process of making a reading cave which is structurally held up by old books that she knew children would never read.

We started out the class time by meeting the Grade 1 (6 year old) pupils in pre-school class. They were doing literacy stations and their teacher and classroom assistant showed us their resources and equipment. They told us that each class has a classroom assistant up to Grade 3. Their classroom was a very calm space, only about 14 pupils. Some classes have about 23 pupils. Each classroom also has a huge cloakroom space, storage space, kitchen area and a space where they do after-school club. After-school club is paid for by the parents.

We were then greeted by Ludwig and Lena, two of the 6th grade pupils whose job it was to show us around the whole campus. This school is made up of lots of modern buildings where pupils go to for either base classes or specialised subjects such as Music, Art etc.

We met the Grade 2 pupils (aged 8) who were keen on asking how old we were! We met one of the 6th grade classes who were doing their literacy lesson in Swedish! They did dictation, spelling and a chapter of their novel.

The outdoor areas were so wonderful. There was a parcours area where children climb rocks, do balance beams etc. There were several playground areas. There were outdoor table tennis boards. There was a small astro turf. There were yard markings for a game called Kings that the children play. There was another lovely space where children play a game like football but they must pass the ball with their hands.

The school has a very relaxed atmosphere and children are free to play in various areas. They all have Chromebooks purchased by the school. The Principal Kaj met with us in the afternoon and took us through the Swedish school system, in particular for their area of Huddinge. Kaj gets a budget of 7 million euros each year out of which every cost must come – everything from salaries of staff to canteen food to equipment, technology, maintenance etc. Their overall results of their standardised tests are published each year and parents can choose to send their children to any school. This is a very different system to ours where everything is centralised by the Dept of Education, allowing schools some freedom in how various grants are spent. Inspectors visit every 4 years and there are financial inspections done 4 times per year.

We met many of the staff who were very welcoming particularly during Fika time which happens twice a day in Sweden - coffee and a piece of cake!!

We met the staff member who runs a studio for children with special needs. Some of these pupils go to her studio as they cannot be in the classrooms for a variety of reasons. There are pupils who come from complex family situations with whom she works closely. The school has a part-time psychologist who works 3 days per week but there definitely seemed to be less of a focus on diagnosis. We didn’t visit the actual rooms where the children with special needs were but there didn’t seem to be resources such as sensory rooms, calm spaces etc.

Overall, we saw very little in the way of class books and resources, there were very few posters on the walls, the pupils don’t wear any shoes in the classrooms! The older pupils didn’t seem to use cursive writing and the process of working, writing, doing their lessons seemed more free and flexible across the classes. The pupils were all very confident and curious when they saw us and so polite and welcoming. We spent the final meeting discussing how we can bring a group of our pupils to their school in Sept. 2024. They are very open to our visit, we feel it is a wonderful school to visit and they want to come back to our school with a group of students too.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and we also feel it affirmed us in the work that we do in our school.

To see a video and some photos of our first day click here: https://youtu.be/osi9_CEUD1o

Day 2 – Snättringeskolan

Today, we spent the day in a school in a suburban area of Huddinge called Snättringeskolan. We were greeted by Magnus who is one of two Vice Principals. He did a presentation for us about his school, the staff, the pupils and their curriculum. There are 450 children in this school aged 6 to 12 years – Year 1 to 6. There were 3 classes in each year. Staff either teach in Year 1 – 3 group or Year 4 – 6 based on what exams and qualifications they have from college. All teachers stay with a group for 3 years.

Two students, Jacob and Leia took us around the school to see all the different parts to the school. We saw the classroom areas for each year group. Each area had the main classroom, art rooms, games rooms and a huge area for cloak rooms, toilets etc. Class sizes ranged from 18 t0 24 pupils.

We spent the morning going between the various classes. We observed a Maths lesson in Year 2, a Maths lesson in Year 5 and a Social Science lesson in Year 6. Each teacher starts each lesson by showing the objectives, key concepts and core language on the interactive whiteboard.

We met the staff for their usual Fika – coffee and cake – in their very fancy staff room which had sofas and chairs rather than one big table. They explained more to us about the school system and about how they support children with any difficulties. There are special education teachers but it seems they support the main class teacher rather than supporting the children directly.

We ate lunch at 11.40am!! It seemed early but school does start at 8am! There is a huge selection of food for the pupils and teachers. For pupils it is free, for teachers they pay €50 per month to eat at the canteen. All teachers sit with the pupils in their class groups for lunch. The first 5 minutes of eating time is called Quiet Time! We ate a local battered fish with potatoes, a huge selection of salads and there is fruit available too.

We spent the afternoon between other classes and we then met the afterschool leader who looks after the whole afterschool programme which runs from 3pm to 6pm. Most children do this and parents pay. Pupils spend time inside and outside doing a variety of activities and they all seemed so happy!

Overall, today was very interesting. The school staff and pupils were very welcoming and you could see there was lots of good teaching and learning. To see more, take a look at our video here: Erasmus Stockholm Day 2 - YouTube

Day 3 - Solfagraskolan

April 2023

Our school found out that our application for further funding for Erasmus projects for 2023/2024 has been approved. This funding allows staff to travel next year 2023/2024 to plan for pupils to travel the year after! A fund of €16, 380 has been awarded to the school. This ensures that our Erasmus project will continue into next year and beyond!

Group Erasmus Trip - 16 pupils and 4 adults

April 24th - 28th 2023

Tarragona, Spain

Day 1

Well done to our pupils from 5th/6th who set out on their Erasmus journey at 5.30am Monday morning from Redmond Square. An enthusiastic bunch of pupils boarded the bus and made their way to Dublin Airport. We were happy to say goodbye to the rain!

Well done to Georgia, Mason and Bradley who were so brave on their first ever flight!

We arrived to lovely sunshine in Reus, outside Barcelona. The Principal of the school we will visit this week welcomed us at the airport! Thanks Laura! We took a bus to La Pineda and checked in to our hotel. The kids' eyes were well rid of tiredness when they saw all the outdoor pools and slides! Needless to say the Irish were the last to leave the pool that evening!

Then it was dinner time! So we strolled along the promenade at La Pineda and made our way to a small Italian restaurant! They set us up in our own area and looked after us really well! Ms. Kehoe finished the dinner with some very positive affirmations about all of the pupils who were such wonderful ambassadors for our school!

A final stop in some small shops before we called it a night! It's very important to buy water guns, Nirvana t-shirts and burger jellies at 10pm at night!

Well done to our Ballymitty NS Erasmus pupils! They did us proud!

To see a little video of Day 1 please click here: https://youtu.be/yw7cE2QuBuw

Stay tuned for more information each morning!

Day 2

Our Erasmus pupils had a super day today visiting the primary school called Escola Sant Bernat Calvo in Vila-Seca. Vila-Seca is a small town n the province of Tarragona, Catalonia with a population of 22,000 people.

The pupils of 5th and 6th grade classes met us at the bus stop and we re-united with our new Spanish friends! Some pupils have kept in touch with their Spanish friends since their visit to our school last November. We walked then to the school where we were greeted by some of the younger classes. We were then treated to an Irish dance which the pupils learned! This was amazing and they were so proud to show it off. Following a quick snack and a shelter from the hot sun, we went to the outdoor play areas where the whole school gathered. Laura, the Principal, welcomed us all and we were then asked to learn their school dance! This was great fun!

We visited all the classes seeing the different styles of teaching, books, resources and facilities. Our pupils were given the tour by the Spanish kids and they all got on so well, right from the start!

We continued getting to know each other by taking part in the historical quiz around the town of Vila-Seca and we headed back to school for lunch at 12.30pm.

Lunch is very different in this school. It goes on for 2.5 hours! Some of the students go home for lunch and some stay in the school where they can have canteen lunch for €6.30 per day. This lunch was pasta with tomato sauce, then fish fingers with salad and water melon for dessert. Our pupils ate well and then went to the yard to play football and basketball. This yard has no green spaces, it is a sand covered area with very little shelter and our pupils were pretty tired after all the fun!

The staff were treated to some traditional Spanish dishes for lunch finished off with typical Catalonian chocolate cake!

During the sun filled afternoon, we visited the Cellar Concert hall, the Castle and we finished with a visit to the Town Hall where we saw their giant people and we met the Assistant Mayor! She spoke of the importance of Erasmus projects and how these connections are often built for life. She spoke to our pupils and told them they or their families were welcome to Vila-Seca and Tarragona any time!

Our pupils today did us proud - they chatted away to the Spanish students, they were so polite and kind to each other and all around them, they were interested in learning about the Spanish way of life and they were super ambassadors for our school. We did positive affirmations with the pupils after dinner this evening and it was lovely to see their reactions and how proud they were!

You can click here to see the video of Day 2: https://youtu.be/9ZAseRLn5Qs

Day 3

Day 3 was quite the treat! A day spent in Port Aventura Adventure Park which is a themed park with over 40 different rides based on 6 fun-filled worlds!

Our pupils met the Spanish pupils at 10am and we all spent the day exploring the theme park. We went from the Mediterranean to the Far West to China to Mexico and Polynesia world! We had brave pupils and teachers and we had those who took life more easily!

In the Far West theme park, we felt like we were in the shoes of a real cowboy in an area inspired by the North American culture. In this world we had the craziest and funniest rides called the Tomahawk, the Stampida and the Wild Buffalos bumper cars!

In the Mexico area, we connected with Mexican culture and watched Spanish and Mexican dance and music and song during our lunch! We felt the adrenaline rise as we either watched or took part in the free fall 100 metres on Hurakan Condor.

The China park had the scariest/highest rollercoasters Dragon Khan and Shambala! The impressive Shambhala, reaches a mighty 76 metres. Some kids went on this twice! It stretches across the sky and goes up and down in many ways! The other ride was The Dragon Khan ride. This begins with a descent followed by eight loops which you pass through in 69 seconds, reaching a speed of up to 110 km/h. The impressive appearance of this ride has made it a symbol of PortAventura and of every theme park in Spain, as nothing of its kind had ever been seen before the park opened in 1995. Some of you will have to come and try it for yourself!

We visited the park area called Polynesia. Situated in the Pacific Ocean, the islands of Polynesia are not as tranquil as their fine white-sand beaches would have you believe. Hidden in the heart of the PortAventura's Polynesian jungle, a place only known by island natives, one of nature's most devastating forces lies sleeping: a formidable volcano that is about to stir from its long slumber. Our pupils braved the volcano on board a barge and travelled over waters with plenty of hidden surprises in store.

Today was a day where cultures mixed, where our Irish pupils got to know their Spanish friends, where we experienced many new things and where many happy memories were made.

Tune into our Day 3 video here, created by the pupils' class teacher Ms. Kehoe once again: https://youtu.be/aYb6rJQjzMg

Well done to everyone involved! It was a super day!

Day 4

Our Day 4 was a day of culture, language and fun! We began our day as usual telling the pupils the plan for the day! This was followed by our Positive Affirmations! On the evening of Days 1 and 2 the Erasmus team staff spoke to the children about all the positive parts of each day and how pupils contributed to each day. Day 4 started with Rose giving Positive Affirmations - well done Rose! It is always so important to let the pupils know all the positive ways they have impacted on each other and how they have contributed overall to this Erasmus project.

Our Day 4 started in Tarragona city where we had a guided walking tour which led us down to the old city walls. We saw the old ruins of the city walls and the amphitheatre. This is one of only seven Roman amphitheatres in Spain which are preserved and opened to the public. You can wander freely around the majority of this 2nd-century structure on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where you can stand in the grounds and imagine how it once accommodated 12,000 eager spectators.

Our tour guide took us to Tarragona cathedral, which is located at the highest point of the city, on what was originally the site of a Roman army barracks around which the city of Tarraco gradually developed. Building work began on the cathedral in 1171 and it was consecrated in 1331. Although it was never actually finished because of the Bubonic Plague, its grandiosity and solidity have earned it the reputation of the finest cathedral in Catalonia.

Our tour of the city finished with a small train trip around the city walls.

Our Spanish teachers brought packed lunches for each of us and we sat in the sunshine for lunch, overlooking the amphitheatre and the sea!

We then walked to the Port of Tarragona. This is a fishing, commercial, passenger and sports port in the city of Tarragona and an economic engine of Catalonia, with a turnover of €57.2 million. It is one of the most important seaports on the Mediterranean coast. Much of its activity is related to industrial or merchandise transport, but it is also a fishing, nautical and passenger port. It is a key point for the chemical industry of Campo de Tarragona, since the port has a specific platform for ships loaded with crude oil. We boarded an old fishing boat and we took a tour around the port.

Our tour finished with a tour of the Port Fish Market. In the Fish Market (Llotja del Peix) in Tarragona, the Port Museum offers a multi-sensory and immersive space for discovering the Mediterranean seabed: the Observatori Blau. This multimedia space shows the species fished along the Tarragona coastline, the traditional and modern fishing gear, and the history of the Serrallo district. We also learned how customers purchase fish for their restaurants using a reverse auction whereby a fish is put up for sale and as the price goes down, people wait to press the buzzer!

Today was a wonderful day and our pupils from Ballymitty NS did us very proud! You can see the video of Day 4 here: https://youtu.be/5XUDVzF84ds

We wish all our pupils a safe flight home tomorrow evening and we thank you for being such wonderful ambassadors for our school!

Thanks for taking the time to read all our Erasmus updates.

Regards,

Audrey, Rachel, Rose and Elaine - the Erasmus Team for Spain 2023!

Group Mobility

Sept. 26th - 30th 2022

Nice, France.

Day 1

Today, our first ever group of pupils started their Erasmus journey to visit schools in France. You can read about it here:

Hi everybody,

We want to share our news about our first ever Erasmus trip.

Well done to our 10 pupils who reached France today on Day 1 of their Erasmus trip. Oh well done also to their teachers!

We had a very early start for the 5.30am bus from Wexford. Lots of chat as we reached Dublin at 8.15am.

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Then we went into a very long queue for Aer Lingus check-in. This was tiring! But we got through the Fast Check security in time to have a good old fry-up!

Some of us even got to visit the airport Sensory Room! Did you know they had one?!

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Some of us even got in to meet Gareth the pilot!

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The flight was calm and quiet - our first time flyers were so brave! We all enjoyed the flight!

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We reached Nice at 3.30pm in the lovely evening sunshine.

Dinner was (not so good!!) chips and burgers! And a stroll around Nice before we finished with some lovely ice-cream!

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We were full of energy today and we look forward to visiting two schools tomorrow to check out what they learn, how they learn and when they learn!

Join us tomorrow for more news!

Day 2

Today we visited two schools as part of our Erasmus journey in Nice, France. The first school was a city school called Ecole Auber, a primary school with 150 pupils aged 6 to 11. They go to Secondary School at 11 years. We met all the classes and we got to visit many classrooms. The classrooms seemed smaller and we noticed that most of the classes had the pupils in lines, there was very little group work. We got to see how the teachers teach English which is their second language. This was done through various integrated subjects such as Maths, Phonics, Art, Grammar lessons etc.

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As our project is based on Technology we asked what they use to support teaching and learning. So they have 20 iPads which are shared with the whole school but not used very often! Some of the classrooms had projectors either projecting onto white boards or the bare walls. Many of the PCs linked to these projectors seemed outdated. We definitely felt that we were further ahead with technology.

We noticed that the pace of the teaching was so different to our schools in Ireland.

Our project is also based on special needs and what we can observe and learn from while on our Erasmus journeys. So we asked if there were any supports for pupils. We were invited to visit the special class which is for pupils with various additional needs. There was one teacher, 12 pupils and 3 assistants. This classroom looked to us like our SET room in our school and it seemed to only offer literacy and numeracy support. We asked if there were pupils with autism but the Director (Principal) said that pupils with autism only spend about one hour in the school per day due to difficulties with behaviours and shouting out etc.

We got to visit the school yard for recess, where we saw our pupils mingling with the French pupils. Despite a language barrier and even sometimes a lack of confidence, our pupils integrated so well and by the end of the visit there were high 5s and hugs from the pupils.

We were invited in to see the school canteen where about 50% of the pupils stay at lunchtime to eat a 4 course meal with a starter (which looked like a plate of delicious tomatoes with bread!) a main course like pasta, some fruit/dessert and then some cheese. The pupils seemed very happy with this set-up! Pupils pay 4 euros per day for this.

Finally, we were treated to a musical show where a few of the classes performed various songs in French/English. We were then asked to sing so we shuffled together and gave a rousing version of Ireland's Call!

Our pupils said Au revoir to their new French friends with an agreement from the teachers to continue a project between our schools!

The second school we visited was Ecole Rothschild 2 which is also a city school with about 250 pupils. We were broken into 2 groups and we got to visit many of the classes. We saw grammar lessons, Maths lessons, an Art lesson about an Indonesian puppet and some music lessons. This visit finished with an outdoor game between our pupils and the 11 year olds. Then Séamas, Danny, Daniel and Evan gave a display about Gaelic football. It was wonderful to see the French pupils practising their solos and hand passes! Our kids were thrilled!

We didn't see a lot of technology in this school. Some of the class projectors were broken. It was very obvious that there were pupils with additional needs but they sat in the class much like everyone else without any obvious structured supports. When we spoke of our Special Ed supports and our new An Choill building they were quite amazed.

We said farewell to our friends in Ecole Rothschild 2 and we came away with ideas about the French education system and also with affirmation that our schools in Ireland are much further ahead when it comes to technology and special needs.

Here you can see a little video of our first day in schools: https://youtu.be/L8Hs1Gjf-aw

Day 3

Day 3 was a culture day where we got to take the pupils around the city of Nice to see some of the sights! The morning started with the pupils having a later breakfast much to their delight! The pupils then filled out evaluation sheets of the first school visits and there was great debate around the similarities and differences between our school and French schools.

Ms. McCarthy and Ms. Kehoe then had a meeting with two representatives from the Marseille Department of Education. They have a project called Observe, Include and Disseminate (OID) and this involves visiting European schools to share and develop good teaching methodologies. Plans were discussed and we hope to welcome their team of 5 to our school from March 20th - 24th.

We took the pupils on a walking tour of Nice, passing by the Promenade des Anglais where the pupils were amazed by the colour of the Mediterranean Sea and the rough waves! We visited a war memorial and then we went to Port Lympia where we boarded a small cruise ship for a one hour cruise around the coast. This took us along the beautiful coastal town from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer and we saw some magnificent houses! We saw where Bill Gates has a property and we saw one of the mansions owned by the Rolling Stones! It was a fantastic cruise and as one of the kids said "Not bad for a Wednesday afternoon"!

You can see Day 3 of our Erasmus journey by clicking on this video - https://youtu.be/Q75mxM6u3SI

Day 4

We did our final visit today to College Roland Garros. The pupils in this school are aged 11 to 16 or 17 years old. There are 650 students in the school. It is a city centre school on 4 levels with 8 sets of stairs! One section has all the classrooms and the other part is the admin section, library, science and music rooms and the staff room. The school building itself looks run down, there is an overall lack of colour and the technology was way behind Ireland with just projectors in the rooms. A few classes have a few iPads.

We were greeted by Nathalie Lemoine who had planned the whole day for us. She is the English teacher and we met her 2nd years. The pupils did some icebreaker games and it was lovely to see them interacting together. Language certainly wasn't a barrier to our pupils. The French students have been learning French for a few years so we mostly used English. The pupils then went out on a Scavenger Hunt, bringing the pupils all around the school in different groups finding out information about the school and the school community.

We were introduced to an older group of pupils then who wanted to interview us to learn about the Irish system of education. While that was happening our pupils were taken to the canteen for lunch. This whole concept was rather strange for our pupils and little food was consumed! We ate there too and while the food was ok it was a busy, noisy spot for the hour or so while we were there. Lunchtime usually runs for 1 hour and 40 mins.

After lunch we were broken into groups. Some of us went to the Music Room where we had an hour of singing and some musical theory. Others went to PE which consisted of two hours of table tennis! Another group went to an English lesson where the pupils were preparing for a test called Speed Talking. They have to learn the phrases to be able to talk about themselves and ask about others! They used these questions to get to know some of our pupils. Another group went to a French lesson which consisted of a spelling test using the blackboard. We finished at 4pm so it was a long day for the pupils.

We also noticed that there are very little supports for any pupils with special needs. We observed the fact that there were many pupils with additional needs but there are only 4 what they call Teaching Assistants in the school. They just support by sitting with the pupils. We saw no evidence of special needs education, no extra rooms where pupils can go to get support and there was very little talk or knowledge about special needs.

Our visits to schools have certainly made us appreciate a few different aspects of our Irish education:

Our lovely, bright, clean, colourful and welcoming school.
Our interactive whiteboards in each room and our new chrome books
Our ability to recognise when pupils need support
Our new An Choill for pupils who seem to get no regular, specialised support in France
Our enthusiastic staff who teach with vigour and energy
Our team work and ability to support each other.

School visits like the ones we have done this week are so important in allowing us to get some new ideas and methods but also it affirms us in the work we do.

Our pupils have enjoyed it thoroughly and from the cultural to the educational! As part of their requirements to take part they must fill out an evaluation sheet about the school visits. They did this really well and were very honest in some of their school appraisals!

You can see our video of today's school visits and final dinner in Nice here. Keep an eye out for the street performers who entertained us during dinner! https://youtu.be/CTeWF8FRU4k

Tomorrow we return home!

May 23rd – 27th 2022

Erasmus Job Shadowing – Piacenza, Italy

Day 1

This week we did our last Job Shadowing visit to schools in Piacenza, Italy.

Four of our staff travelled this week to Piacenza. Rachel Butler (Junior Infants), Róisin Kenny (An Choill Bheag teacher), Melanie Carthy (SNA in An Choill Bheag) travelled with Audrey McCarthy to see schools in Piacenza. Piacenza is 1 hour south of Milan and is a very small town which means Pleasant Abode, coming from the French word plaisance.

We spent our first day in the valley called Pianello Val Tidone which is a campus of schools in 4 small regions. There are 13 schools: 4 Kindergarten schools, 6 Primary schools and 3 secondary schools. Kindergarten is aged 3 – 6. Primary is 6 to 11 years and Secondary is 11 – 14 years.

There is one Director (like a Principal!) called Monica who manages all of the schools. She has a large administrative team and spends a lot of time visiting all of the schools.

School in this area starts at 9am Mon, Weds and Friday and finishes at 12.30pm for kindergarten and primary and 2pm for secondary. On Tuesdays and Thursdays school finishes for everyone at 4.30pm which is a very long day for the younger pupils.

The school term is much the same as ours but their summer holidays start on June 3rd to September 10th. They have shorted holidays during the year.

We met the first group of secondary school pupils aged 12 who had two hours of Maths this morning! They did shape for an hour and fractions for the hour and they were very tired at the end of all of that Maths!!!

We then went to the Kindergarten to meet all of the groups. They have an annual theme that they do across all the classes. Last year it was Trees and this year it was Water – Acqua! A lot of the work done in the classes is linked to this theme. Only the pupils’ work goes up on the walls.

The first group, the 3 year olds, were doing Science about water and capacity. They were so focused and spent a lot of time doing the practical work. We met their first Ukrainian pupil who is already picking up Italian after only 4 weeks of school.

We met the 5 year olds who presented us with a lovely Fáilte picture. We noticed that they spend a lot of time doing drawings and are encouraged to do a lot of detail and not to give up!

We met the 6 year olds who were outside for story time in the sunshine! They had lovely open plan learning spaces and toys outside. All of the pupils were happy and learning!

We moved into the Primary School then before lunch to meet the 2nd class pupils who were doing their Italian grammar lessons. The pupils learn English for 2 hours per week.

The pupils can choose to have canteen food on Tues and Thurs when they are in school for the longer day. We were invited to eat with them. Lunch was pasta with penne sauce, second course was grated carrot and lettuce with ham and an orange for dessert.

Our afternoon was spent in the 4th class room from 2 – 3pm. This class of only 8 pupils were presenting projects that they had done on the different regions of Italy. We learned all about Basilicata, Calabria and Apulia, in Italian!!

The final class of the day was spent doing Robotics with the 5th class pupils. The pupils were so enthusiastic and resilient in their efforts to problem solve and use critical thinking.

You can see videos of Day 1 here: https://youtu.be/oTbgP8_14lY

Video 2 here: https://youtube.com/shorts/qaolT774viA

Day 2

Today, our visit was to a small school with 75 pupils called Trevozzo Primary School. We were greeted by a group of pupils from all classes who showed us the different parts of the school, their outdoor learning and their vegetable garden. The pupils spend a lot of time in the vegetable garden in Springtime. They planted lettuce, onions, courgettes, tomatoes and pumpkins and they sell it to the local residents.

We were presented with sunflowers that the pupils made in Art. The sunflower is one of their school symbols and they showed us where they had planted their sunflower seeds.

We met the first group of pupils inside who were doing an Art lesson with origami. The folded product was a pencil holder. We helped the pupils and got to enjoy being in their classroom. They were so happy to welcome their first Irish teachers. We were all given pencil holders as a gift.

Next, we visited a science classroom where the pupils were engaged in sowing seeds in glass jars. These pupils were so engaged in their own learning and really worked as a team.

We then visited the 1st class room which is for 6/7 year olds. We were amazed that only the pupils' work is on display. There were no days of the week, months of the year, common English or Maths posters etc. The teacher explained that they only put the pupils' work up and we found it refreshing. The pupils learn how to write letters in 3 different ways - print, capitals and cursive. A lot of their copy work was done in Capital letters. The pupils also spend a lot of time doing problem solving to improve critical thinking skills.

We visited the 4th class group who were doing Music lessons. They played their collection of tunes on the recorders that they learn each year in 3rd and 4th class. They then sang lots of songs and we told (asked) Mel to sing too. She gave a wonderful rendition of I'll tell me Ma! The church bells in the village went off shortly after this and it was a lovely moment to take in - the Irish and the Italians singing together in a small Italian village with church bells in the distance.

Our final class group was 3rd class who were getting ready to sow tomato plants. We helped them out and observed the great rapport between pupils and teachers.

To finish the pupils sang a wonderful Italian version of Heal the World. CLICK HERE for video of the song. We were given a fond farewell with the promise that next year we would be back to see these teachers and pupils again with some of our own pupils.

To see the videos of our day today CLICK HERE for video 1 and CLICK HERE for video 2.

Day 3

Today we did our final visit to 2 schools in Gazzola. Gazzola is a wealthy area on the banks of the Trebbia river a few kilometres from Piacenza where we had stayed. We were greeted very warmly by the 50 pupils of this school who are in 5 classes. In one class there are only 6 pupils but even when numbers drop in the schools the same amount of teachers remain. There was a very welcoming and warm atmosphere in the school and they had done all sorts of art and pictures to welcome us. We visited all of the classrooms which once again were simply decorated with just the pupils' work. The pupil Mayor of the school welcomed us in 5th class. A Mayor is elected each year by the whole school. He and his classmates showed us around the school which had three levels with classrooms on the top floors and the canteen is in the basement. The 3rd and 4th classes have a vegetable garden which they were very proud to show us.

We then met with the Director of the school where we had a review and planning for the visits by some of our pupils next year. Monica, Director, asked us what we thought were positive things about the 3 different school areas that we visited and things that we felt they could improve on. We were able to give lots of ideas to her about pupils with special needs who do not seem to be supported in the ways we do in Ireland. There are no programmes, resources, assistive technology devices and one girl who was a qaudriplegic spent all of the day lying in one particular room and we were astounded that very little is done to help this girl.

We made plans to bring some of our pupils back to this school next May at the start of the month. Monica also wants to bring 10 of her pupils to Ireland and it may be around St. Patrick's Day.

We then paid a visit to Gazzola Kindergarten which is an amazing space with so many rooms and in this Kindergarten they use the Reggio Emilia method.

The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy and pedagogy focused on preschool and primary education. This approach is a pupil-centred, self-guided curriculum that uses self-directed and experiential learning. The programme is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration, discovery and play.

At the core of this philosophy is an assumption that children form their own personality during the early years of development and that they are endowed with "a hundred languages", through which they can express their ideas. The aim of the Reggio approach is to teach children how to use these symbolic languages (e.g. painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life. This approach was developed after World War II by pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy; the approach derives its name from the city.

This Kindergarten had many natural materials for the pupils. We saw some of them playing with rocks, sticks and stones. We saw a lot of recycled materials used in their work which was all based on the Sun this year. We also saw their three chicks who bring great excitement to the pupils. This big building only has 25 pupils but 4 teachers as they got an extra teacher during Covid.

It was interesting to talk to the teachers over lunch in the canteen about the social, economic and educational divide that still exists between northern and southern Italy. We could see that this was quite a wealthy area and with all of the resources and space that the pupils have we considered them to be quite fortunate.

Both Gazzola and Trevozzo schools will be wonderful places to return to next year with some of our pupils.

To see our Day 3 video CLICK HERE

To hear the pupils singing the Italian National Anthem called Il Canto degli Italian CLICK HERE and to hear them play the EU National Anthem CLICK HERE

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Italian schools. We picked up many ideas and saw some wonderful teaching points but we also feel affirmed in the work that we do everyday in Ballymitty NS.

Erasmus mobilities to different countries are wonderful ways to open the mind and broaden the horizons for all participants and indeed for all the pupils and staff of our school. Arriverderci a tutti!

Spanish teachers visit our school

May 16th - 20th

We had a super week this week when Laura, Montse and Cristina visited our school from Tarragona, Spain. We met with Laura the Principal and her staff when some of us visited in April. We had many events this week as part of Erasmus Week and our pupils and staff gave them a wonderful Irish welcome. Here are some of the events that were held:

On Monday 16th May our European Development Team welcomed the 3 teachers to the school. They took them on a quick walking tour of the school.

The Spanish teachers met with the Principal to talk about their objectives for the week ahead.

The teachers then visited all of the classes to see various subjects being taught.

On Tuesday morning we visited Our Lady of Fatima special school. It was a great opportunity to see the work that is done in each classroom there. We met their new Principal who is also very involved in Erasmus projects.

Tuesday mid morning the teachers visited other classes in our school and after lunch they presented a video about their school to 4th - 6th classes. This was particularly interesting for the 10 pupils who will visit their school next April. After their presentation they met with these 10 pupils who had prepared some questions for them. We had a great chat and planned some activities for when we visit Tarragona next year.

On Wednesday morning, the teachers visited Art in all of the senior classrooms. Then we visited Murrintown NS to see their Literacy Lift Off Programme. The final activity for Wednesday for a céilí organised by the staff for the Spanish teachers. Check out the Irish teachers dancing first to explain the Walls of Limerick to the Spanish teachers. CLICK HERE for video.

Check out the Spanish teachers dancing then who showed our pupils their school dance. CLICK HERE for video.

On Thursday morning the Spanish teachers visited Helen, Julie, Karen and Lizie and all the pupils in Ballymitty Playschool. Then, our very talented pupils entertained us all in Ballymitty's Got Talent. CLICK HERE for a short video of all our performers.

On Friday our Spanish teachers went to Forest School with the pupils in An Choill Asd classes, despite the rain. They returned for our celebration called Europe Day which was an end to a 4th/5th class programmed called Blue Star. To see the Europe Day celebrations click on this link: http://ballymittyns.ie/News/Europe-Day-Celebrations-last-Friday/380380/Index.html

We thank our visitors for coming to see our school and we know that they were very happy with all of the activities and said that our school was a welcoming place full of happy pupils.

April 4th - 8th 2022

Erasmus Job Shadowing - Tarragona, Spain

Day 1

On April 4th, four of our staff went on the Erasmus mobility (trip) to Tarragona, Spain - Áine Foley, Áine O'Brien, Síona Nolan (one of our SNAs in our asd class) and Audrey McCarthy, Principal. Some of the aims of this project were to see how European schools use technology, to observe best practice for pupils with special needs and to take home any ideas on inclusion.

Our first day was spent visiting Escola Sant Bernat Calvo. Escola Sant Bernat Calvo is a big school in the town of Vila-Seca. Vila-Seca has a population of about 22,000 people and it is very close to Salou and Cambrils - popular holiday destinations.

There are 450 pupils in this school and 40 teachers. They only have 1 Classroom Assistant (similar to our SNAs). We were given a wonderful warm welcome and we got to visit all the classrooms. The pupils in this school learn Spanish and Catalan as well as English. This week in the school they are celebrating Erasmus Week and they had lots of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) activities specially prepared for us. We met a team of science students from the University of Tarragona. There are a lot of chemical companies in Vila-Seca. As these companies have a huge environmental impact on the area, there is a government arrangement that they must give back to the schools in the area. So they provide regular science and technology equipment and resources to the local schools. We got to see lots of interesting experiments in each classroom.

It was interesting to see how the timetable runs for Catalan schools. In most other regions of Spain, school times are like Ireland. In this school and area school runs from 9 - 12.30pm when the children go home to their families until 3pm. They return at 3pm until 4.30pm. This is the way of life here but more and more it causes many disruptions for the parents/childminders of the pupils. We could also clearly see how tired the pupils were by 4pm! Even the pre-school children stay until 4.30pm.

We also learned that there are not many pupils with autism in the school. Special schools are set up for pupils with autism. The staff were impressed by the Irish system of special classes because they believe also that pupils with autism need to be integrated into mainstream schools. We met one wonderful pupil called Hector who has Williams Sydrome and he loved hearing all about Ireland.

Many of the senior classrooms have their own chromebooks/iPads and tablets. Some of these were given by the Department of Education and the rest were purchased by the Parents' Association. The school has a computer room and is building a Future Lab.

A concert was arranged especially for us - this was held outside in the glorious sunshine. The concert was put on by parents in the school. There were parents who are dancers, singers, musicians and a trio of Mariachi musicians who played Mexican/Catalan music. They were incredible!

The final part of the concert was one of the 3 male teachers in the school leading the whole school community in a number of dances which all of the school know because they are part of the Carnival festival which is held in Spain every February/March.

We presented a slide show of our school and our system of education and they are looking forward to visiting our school from the 16th - 20th of May. Day 1 in this school was a wonderful experience.

Click here for video of Day 1.

Day 2 of Erasmus visit to Tarragona

Today, we returned to Escola Sant Bernat Calvo. The Principal, Laura Chamorro, brought us to a special school called Escola Solc. This school has 80 pupils with complex special needs. It has 16 teachers and 8 assistants. We met many of the pupils in their classrooms and the teachers and assistants who work with them. Most of the pupils go to this school for 3 days but return to their local mainstream school for the other 2 days per week. According to the staff, this system does not work effectively for the pupils and many of them do not have SNAs with them in the mainstream classes.

In the school we met the physios, the speech and language therapists and we also met the teacher of the behavioural class.

We got to see their outdoor garden and multi-sensory room.

Seeing this special school affirmed us in the work that we do in Ballymitty NS and while we would always wish for more staff we felt that the system of having asd classes attached to mainstream schools is much more beneficial.

We returned to Escola Sant Bernat Calvo where the whole staff had gathered for a celebration lunch in our honour. We ate Catalan food and we were treated to lots of Catalan dance and music.

We finished the day by visiting all the classes again where we saw many lessons on Science, Art and Music.

Click here for Video of Day 2!

Day 3 of Erasmus visit to Tarragona

This morning we returned to Escola Sant Bernat Calvo. We met the 5th class groups and teachers and the Principal Laura who took us off on a walking tour with a quiz in Spanish/Catalan and very little English! The pupils in the Catalan region learn Spanish and Catalan as well as English. We were brought to Vila Seca Castle where we had to find clues to questions - great fun in another language! We also visited the theatre in Vila Seca which is a beautiful building that has been renovated to fit 1000 people into the auditorium.

Our final trip was to the castle in Vila Seca where there was a tour of the castle and a sculpture exhibition by the artist Josep Clara who is one of the most internationally renowned Catalan artists of the first half of the 20th century.

We ate a lovely Catalan lunch of tapas - which are smaller plates. We had patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a paprika sauce), Gambas plancha (prawns) and their local bread which has tomatoes and oil.

The management team of Laura, Monesa and Jordie presented a PowerPoint to us in the afternoon explaining all of the programmes and projects in the school. Some interesting things that we learned were that the pupils in 6th class each year get assessed by the Department of Education in Catalan, Spanish, English, Maths and Science. The school receives a report on these assessments each year. Also, the Principal outlined to us that she has to have a 4 year plan and this is assessed and reviewed each year. A Principal can re apply for the job after the 4 years are up and can only do 16 years in total as a Principal.

We also learned about their big project called Chess which has gone on for almost 9 years. The Assistant Principal Jordie believes that chess is one of the best ways to teach Maths, English, Spanish, Catalan, Science, Art, Engineering etc. He set up a whole programme and each group from the 3 years old up learn pre chess, chess and many strategies which can be applied in other subject areas. One thing we noticed about how the teachers teach and how the pupils learn is that there is slower pace to the lessons and the children are always encouraged to think before they act or before they make a move or make a decision. It was lovely to observe all of this.

The final part of our day was to support the staff in bringing the 3 - 6 year olds around to various Science experiments that were all set up outside on the yard. We watched again how focused the pupils were.

We were given a big farewell and we shared plans for how three of the teachers will visit our school from May 16th to 20th this year. We look forward to their visit.

Our final video of Day 3: CLICK HERE

December 2021

We welcomed our first Italian teachers to our school on Dec. 8th - 10th 2021.

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Our European Development Team welcomed them to the school and we held a meeting with them! Well done to all the team who presented to them.

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Our Italian visitors spent time in each classroom and they loved seeing how we teach and how we learn. They enjoyed some nice treats brought in by the staff for lunch and they gave all the pupils a small bookmark as a gift from the pupils in their school in Val Tidone, which is a small town near Piacenza, Italy.

We gave them a good send off and lined the path to say Arrivederci!

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4 members of our staff will visit their school in May 2022.

Erasmus Mobility Sept. 27th - Oct. 1st 2021

Day 1

We landed in France on Monday and are in the Cote D'Azur area.

Yesterday we spent a day in St. Marten de Foret school in the Mougins area of Nice. It was a wonderful day as we got to meet the staff who work with pupils with Autism in their UEMA class.

We also visited the elementary (primary school) where we got to briefly step into the classrooms to meet the pupils.

It was so lovely to see how France, in some areas, is developing a long term policy for pupils and adults with special needs.

We also got to see how they use technology - APPs - for teaching particularly around Speech and Language and Communication.

It was also great to know that the work we do in our school is far advanced in many ways.

You can track our schedule today here:

Also, check out these two videos to see and hear about what we have been doing.

Video from Principal:

Some photos of our first day

Day 2

Today, we visited the Rectorat de Nice which is the region's Departmental Service for National Education. They support the national educational policy and support schools to implement this policy.

We had a meeting firstly with Anne Bayart Villeneuve who trains teachers and gives them supports, resources and training around foreign language teaching in French primary schools. She spoke about how English is taught and many of the methodologies she mentioned overlapped with how we teach Irish. One difference however is, that in France, they do not introduce the written form of English until the spoken language has been achieved.

This meeting also spoke about the Assistant Exchange programme - this is where they love anyone with a basic level of French to come and help out in French schools for 12 hours per week and you are paid a basic rate. This would probably appeal to someone who would be on a career break or going to France to learn the language. This is organised through FEI - French Education Internationale.

We also had a meeting with Laetitia Spreiregen who along with an Inspector set up a wonderful programme between pupils from a city school in Nice and pupils from a school in the mountains who were visually impaired. This project was called Pierres, Feuilles, Stylos - a version of Rock, Paper, Scissors and it was a project with one aim - to bring pupils together to learn about the mountains no matter your ability or disability. This project impacted all the children in ways they could never have imagined. The organisers of it knew they had accomplished so much when the pupils said that it is not the pupils we must change but the environment around them. We got many ideas on how we can be more inclusive in our school too.

It is clear from our visit here that awareness and acceptance of special needs is a long way off what we have in Ireland but they have a clearly defined strategy/mission. They have a 5 step mission for what they want to see in society going from 3 year olds right through to adult education.

We share a short video here from outside the Rectorat de Nice.

Check out some photos of Day 2 here.

Day 3

Yesterday, we completed our Erasmus mobility in France. We spent the whole day yesterday in the Rossetti Institute which is a facility for children and young adults with physical and intellectual difficulties. We met an inspiring Director who showed us around every room to see the facilities and the resources that they have. We met pupils with complex needs and we met a very inspiring team who work with them. On site, there are teachers and assistants but also Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Psychologists. The school has a therapy swimming pool and a brand new gymnasium. Pupils can also stay in one of the 20 bedrooms that they have. Facilities like these are not common in France but it was incredible to see and to hear all about the differences they can make for these pupils.

We received a wonderful welcome over all to France and it was so nice to see other pre schools, primary schools, the Rossetti institute and the Rectorat de Nice who drive the policies and mission for education in the Alpes Maritimes area.

We have built many contacts this week with people who want to welcome us back with some of our pupils and we know that some of our new French friends will visit our school into the future also.

To finish our journey you can see our photos of the Rossetti Institute here: https://youtu.be/pugvOD7L6wE

Click here to see our Erasmus team final video: https://youtu.be/tFPisCQ08nY

Click here to see our farewell video to some of the organisers of our trip: https://youtu.be/dDIeDYDIxQE

On a project like this there are very specific aims and objectives which we must reflect on our return home and report back to the EU.

Projects like this are new to us and are so important for staff and pupils to build links with Europe. This project will continue next April when other staff visit Tarragona in Spain and Italy in May/June.

Thank you for following our journey with us and ultimately we hope it benefits the most important part of our school - our pupils.

Au revoir de France,

Audrey, Bríd, Tríona and Rose

September 2021

Plans are being made for 4 of the staff to travel to France in late September. This travel is called a Mobility and on this mobility staff members will Job Shadow - in other words they will visit the schools and centres for autism to see how digital technology works to improve learner outcomes and experiences. They will also get to see the equipment, methodologies and facilities that are in place to improve learner outcomes and experiences for pupils with Autism. Stay tuned to this website to see how our first mobility to France goes!

Also, in September, we got to share the good news that our other project KA122 has been approved. The Principal loved sharing this with 4th/5th class who will be involved in this project.

Finally, in September, we found out that the application we filled out to develop European languages in the school was approved. This means that in Term 3 of this academic year our 4th/5th class group will have 8 weeks of French/Spanish or Italian lessons paid for by the Dept. of Education during school time. This will nicely integrate with the pupils' first mobility to a European school - hopefully in September 2022.

August 2021

Yayyyyy! We got great news to say that our application to the EU for funding was approved. This application allows for staff and pupils to travel to 3 different countries to visit schools and to see how those schools are using digital technology to improve learning, to see how inclusion works in various countries and to also look at teaching methodologies for pupils with autism. We are thrilled! The evaluators who marked our project gave us 79 points out of 100. They gave strengths and recommendations:

Strengths:

  • The project promotes the active participation of pupils in the entire lifecycle of the project, from their input into the European Development Team (EDT) to their engagement in evaluating the project.
  • The project is focused on inclusion and diversity. It focuses strongly on meeting the needs of all students, with a particular focus on those who have a ASD diagnosis.

Recommendations:

  • Participants must be selected through a transparent, fair and inclusive selection procedure. This could include an open application, a motivation letter or an informal interview.
  • The use of the eTwinning platform is mentioned within the application. Greater use of eTwinning throughout the lifecycle of the project could serve to augment the project and assist the school in meeting its internationalization needs.

We were delighted to see that the input from our European Development Team was highlighted and that the project is focused on inclusion and diversity.

We will also take on board their recommendations for how we select participants and how we use the eTwinning platform to continue to build links with schools across Europe!

The project was awarded a grant of €34,650.00.

April 2021

This year the EU has allocated more funding that schools can apply for. The national agency that we apply to is Léargas. In April our school put in an application for funding to allow both staff and pupils to travel to different schools in the EU. This project was called a KA122. The title was Digital Learning - Including All.

November 2020

Despite Covid 19 regulations we are still planning our European Projects for the year ahead. We started our Blue Star Programme in November. This involves 4 elements of project work with the pupils in the following areas: History, Geography, Culture and Creativity and Institutions of the EU. Each pupil will get a country to work on in these 4 areas and these projects will be presented to the school on Europe Day when they will also bring in a dish from their chosen country.

Ms. McCarthy has also been busy linking in with schools in Spain, Italy and Sweden to establish for when teachers can visit schools in those countries.

An Choill Mhór Autism Class and Ms. Kenny are developing links with a teacher and 6 of his pupils in a very remote and rural school in Barnehage, Norway! The pupils have done zoom calls with their new Norwegian friends and have started a dance project with them.

October 2020

Our school has applied to take part in the Blue Star Programme. This is an incredible educational initiative for primary school pupils which includes a range of classroom projects and activities. It also aims to inspire an understanding of the EU and how it affects the lives of Irish citizens. Ms. McCarthy will do this project every Tuesday with Ms. Foley's 5th/6th class.

September 2020

Our European Development Team has been formed in our school. This team cannot meet as a whole group due to Covid 19 restrictions but Ms. McCarthy will be working with the 5th/6th class members to discuss how we can bring Europe into our classroom.

April 2020

Yayyyyy! Our school applied for funding through the EU in February. This was called a Key Action 101 Project - KA101! And our project funding has been approved! This will allow 3 or 4 of our staff to spend a week in a European school in France, Sweden or Italy to observe their special education practices and how they use technology to enhance teaching and learning! We are so excited about this project. Due to Covid 19 this 2 year project will commence on Dec. 31st 2020 which gives us lots of time to plan. A grant of €17,840 has been approved.

2020/2021 will be an exciting year for our school European Development Team who will work on these special education and technology projects together!

March 2020

We had our first Erasmus Week where we welcomed two French teachers to our school. We prepared an Erasmus corner, we all learned some French phrases in our classrooms and our European Development Team welcomed the teachers into the school. We even had croissants! The French teachers visited our classrooms and enjoyed getting to know about the Irish educational system. They visited Playschool across the road. Some of our teachers brought them on a cultural trip to Hook Lighthouse. On the second last day of their visit a meeting was held with them and our European Development Team. One of our pupils chaired the meeting and we got to learn about French schools too. We said Au Revoir to our French friends and then Covid 19 hit our schools!

Sept. 2019 - February 2020

Our school is beginning the process of featuring at a European or international level. The staff have enjoyed the development of the school in the past few years where we have: opened 2 Special Classes for pupils with Autism, been sanctioned extra teaching posts and Special Needs Assistants, Administrative status sanctioned for the Principal and the granting of €1 million to build an Autistic Unit. This has improved the profile of the school in many ways and now allows the staff to consider developing it on an international context even more.

To help us step up onto the European ladder there are supports available in Ireland. The main one is Léargas. Léargas is the national agency that manages international and national exchange programmes in education, youth and community work, and vocational education and training. These exchanges connect people in different communities and countries and bring an international dimension to the work of organisations across Ireland. Léargas is a not-for-profit organisation wholly owned by the Department of Education and Skills. Their Board is appointed by the Minister for Education and Skills. Léargas was established in 1986 to support international exchange and collaboration in the youth sector, mainly through European Commission-funded education and training programmes.

The supports that we will avail of through Léargas are in the area of School Education – Erasmus+ and eTwinning.

Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. It provides funding and support for organisations to operate projects that encourage European exchange, co-operation and learning. Erasmus+ is funded by the European Union through the contributions of member states, including Ireland. Funding of almost €170 million has been allocated to Ireland for the duration of the programme.

e-Twinning is the online platform where schools and educators connect with each other, develop links, build projects and make plans to visit schools.

It was always part of the Principal’s plan in Ballymitty NS to bring a European and International focus to the school. How are we doing this?

  • The Principal has attended two seminars on e-Twinning – one in Dublin, one in Italy. These are totally funded by Léargas and part of professional development and training. On her return from both of these seminars she encouraged other staff members to get involved.
  • Our 6th class teacher is currently involved in an e-Twinning project which was started by the Principal on a seminar in September 2019 on rural and remote schools. This highlighted the importance for our rural school to reach beyond the limits of our own school community into the European dimension.
  • All our teachers now have profiles on the e-Twinning platform where they will develop links with school and projects. One other staff member has attended an e-Twinning seminar called TIE (Tackling Inclusion through e-Twinning).
  • Each year the European Commission invite applications from schools to apply for funding to allow teachers to travel to do courses in Europe or to visit European schools so as to build skills and competences and ultimately to enhance teaching and learning for our pupils. One of these projects is a KA101 (Key Action 101) and we have filled out the rather lengthy form and we hope to hear if we are successful by April. This will allow us to send teachers to schools in Italy, France and Sweden. The theme for this application is Digital Learning for All – and our aim is to allow teachers to observe best practice in European schools where they use Digital Technology to enhance teaching and learning with a particular focus on pupils with special educational needs.
  • We are also applying in March for funding to allow pupils to travel in small groups with staff members to other European schools. The application for this is called a KA229 (Key Action 229) and this Key Action supports exchanges of pupils and staff to help the participating schools develop as organisations and increase their ability to work in international projects.
  • This year in March 2020 we are setting up our first Erasmus School Week where we will tell all our school community about the importance of developing links with Europe.
  • We welcome our first Job Shadowing group of teachers as part of Erasmus School Week from March 2nd – 6th this year. These teachers are coming from France to see how we currently run our educational system. We are excited by this and are looking forward to setting up our Erasmus Corner for their visit.
  • We also welcome a Norwegian group of musicians who the Principal was introduced to through an e-Twinning contact. Some of these musicians were teachers and are coming to our school to teach our pupils some Norwegian songs and music and they are also putting on a musical concert for the local community.

There is a growing awareness in our school of the importance of building links with our European counterparts and we look forward to exciting projects ahead!

Jun 03
2024
June Bank Holiday Closure
Jun 17
2024
Active School Week
Jun 28
2024
School closes for Summer Holidays
Jun 28
2024
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