St. Joseph's N.S. Ballymitty

European Projects

European Projects

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!

Hilltown, Ballymitty, Co. Wexford, Y35 YW81.
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