Friday 24 January 2020

Flags, glorious flags

Anna Hayes reports on a feast of flag raising at Wexford primary schools as the summer break approaches

Fr. James Murphy PP, J.J. Doyle (guest), Damien Pitt (teacher), Mark Fanning (guest), Cllr. Ger Carty, Cliona Connolly (Wexford Co. Council), Fiona Whelan (principal) and the Green School committee at St. Mary’s National School, Tagoat
Fr. James Murphy PP, J.J. Doyle (guest), Damien Pitt (teacher), Mark Fanning (guest), Cllr. Ger Carty, Cliona Connolly (Wexford Co. Council), Fiona Whelan (principal) and the Green School committee at St. Mary’s National School, Tagoat
The Active Flag committee, past and present, with Jake O’Connor at the raising of the Active Flag in Piercestown, with special guest, Mayor of Wexford Jim Moore

Flag poles are at a premium in the schools around Wexford district at the moment as Green, Blue, Amber, Active and Hurling 365 flags are being presented at many primary schools before they break up for the summer holidays.

Seven schools, in recent weeks, received flags for various achievements.

Green Schools is Ireland's leading environmental management and education programme for schools promoting long-term, whole-school action for the environment. It is a student-led programme with involvement from the wider community.

The Blue Star Programme is an education initiative for primary school students aimed at fostering better understanding and knowledge of Europe and how it affects the lives of Irish citizens through classroom projects and activities.

The Active School Flag (ASF) is awarded to schools that strive to achieve a physically educated and physically active school community. The process aims to get more schools, more active, more often.

The Hurling 365 initiative has been running for the last five years and, this year, the organisers decided to award flags to those who showed commitment to the programme, which offers hurling sessions prior to classes, run by club and school volunteers.

The Amber Flag initiative aims to encourage schools and clubs to promote and actively bring about a culture change in the promotion of positive mental health within the educational system and other organisations.

Pupils and teachers in Barntown NS were delighted to welcome local club man Mark Fanning and Wexford hurling captain Matt O'Hanlon, along with hurling officer Willie Cleary to the school for the presentation of their first Hurling 365 flag.

The school has participated in the programme, which offers hurling sessions prior to the start of school to pupils. Coordinated by Willie Carley, who is the school caretaker, it is run on a volunteer basis.

School principal Louisa O'Brien said the scheme had been very successful and the kids loved it.

Piercestown NS finished off their fourth Active Week with the raising of their first ever Active flag and their fourth Blue Star flag.

Hurler and past pupil, Jack O'Connor raised the school's Active flag, watched by school principal and Active School coordinator Laura Walsh and active committee members past and present.

The Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Jim Moore, also attended the ceremony and raised the school's fourth Blue Star flag, recently awarded in acknowledgement of the sixth class pupils' study of Europe. Speeches were made by the children and there were music, dance and gymnastic performances.

Mayor of Wexford Cllr Jim Moore was also on hand at Rathangan NS to raise the school's fourth Green Flag which they achieved for Travel and Transport.

The school has been working hard in this area for the past two years, organising the Cycle Right programme, Climate Action Week, a Carpooling Tree, road safety events, and a scooter workshop.

The pupils held a cake sale on the day of the flag-raising with all funds going towards the new Green Flag for biodiversity.

The Mercy School on St John's Road unveiled not one, but two flags, celebrating the raising of their first Amber Flag for mental health and their first Active Flag.

Over the past two years, the school worked hard to increase and develop physical activity in the whole school community, holding Walk to School Wednesdays, active assemblies, and focusing on dance in their PE curriculum. The school was selected to appear on Operation Transformation and also held two active weeks.

For the Amber Flag, the pupils designed a worry box, organised Friendship Fortnight, painted a buddy bench in their yard and introduced Mindful Monday. An important part of this initiative was the Mental Health Awareness Day, during which Wexford Senior Hurling Captain Matt O'Hanlon spoke to the pupils about positive mental health.

The Active Flag was raised by Jason Kehoe of Marathon Fitness and the Amber Flag was raised by Matt O'Hanlon.

Two years of hard work came to fruition for the pupils of St Mary's NS in Tagoat when they raised their first Green Flag for Litter and Waste. They devised an action plan to increase recycling and composting while also reducing the amount of waste generated by the school. The children also engaged in a wide variety of initiatives and fun activities over the last two years as the green code 'Here's your rubbish, there's the bin. Think about it, chuck it in' was spread throughout the entire school community.

The children of St. Mary's showed a genuine sense of pride in their locality as they cleaned up Tagoat and ensured it was litter-free.

The flag raising ceremony was attended by members of the local community as well as Wexford hurling goalie Mark Fanning and selector/coach JJ Doyle.

School principal Fiona Whelan said she was immensely proud of all of the pupils for their hard work.

The pupils at Curracloe NS got the chance to try out numerous activities as part of their Active Flag campaign including gymnastics, cricket, tag rugby, yoga, swimming, self defence, badminton and enjoying some time on a bouncy castle.

Following the school sports day, the Active Flag was raised by local senior Wexford hurler Simon Donoghoe who also presented swimming certificates. The final activities of the year took place on Friday at Curracloe beach.

Finally, in St Joseph's NS in Ballymitty, the kids were enjoying their school sports day, having taken part in a variety of activities over the past two years to secure an Active Flag for the school.

Wexford People

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