- Effective Two-Way Communication
- Parents Supporting Learning
Northern Ireland Context
- Northern Ireland Curriculum
- Supporting Learning at Home (COVID)
Gaelscoil na gCrann is an Irish Medium primary school near Omagh. It opened in 2006 and now has around 190 pupils and 20 staff members. The school has been successful at a national level in drama, music and STEM competitions.
As a relatively new and fast-growing school, the staff recognise that parents are making a significant commitment in opting for an Irish Medium education for their children for seven years, and may also be breaking with tradition in their choice of school. Effective communication has therefore been vital, building a school community by engaging and supporting parents and so that they do not feel isolated and are kept informed and reassured about their child’s education. Parents report that the school has engaged with them from the outset.
When lockdown occurred in March 2020, teachers realised that children could be away from an Irish Medium context from March to September, with the resulting negative impact on their linguistic development. However, they also recognised that many parents were working from home or had other commitments and would therefore not be able to participate fulltime in their children’s education, particularly through the medium of Irish. They had to consider how to provide a broad curriculum experience without putting undue pressure on parents. Parents also needed to be provided with structured support and resources so that their children could learn with a certain degree of independence.
The school realised that teachers would really have to engage with online learning and with the children on a regular basis, to ‘be there’ for their pupils, to support parents and ensure a structured, holistic approach to curriculum delivery. Throughout lockdown, from the first Monday, teachers let parents know that work packages for pupils were available online in Google Classrooms. The school made daily provision for lessons in literacy, phonics, mental maths, numeracy, the World Around Us etc and for PE once a week.
The Principal, Deirdre Nic Cionnaith, outlined how the school also supported families with physical resources and access to technology:
‘We provided laptops and iPads for families during lockdown to ensure that the lack of technology was not a hindrance to anyone. Day to day learning resource packs were also provided for each child - whiteboards/ calculators/ clocks etc which would also be required for them to continue with their learning while at home.’
Teachers had ongoing regular contact and engagement with their pupils, having Google Meets twice a week and listening to children read every day. They used a range of available resources (such as An tAisaonad’s LeighAnois and CCEA’s Taisce Tuisceana) to develop pupils’ linguistic skills and created their own resources such as sound files to read all the texts, helping pupils with tricky vocabulary by providing it in English where necessary.
Teachers and teaching assistants were contactable during the school day to deal with parents’ and pupils’ emails and queries. The Principal was also in touch via calls with keyworker parents and the parents of children with SEN who needed additional support during lockdown.
As a result, the school has had very positive feedback from parents on how quickly they responded to the COVID emergency, the level of engagement, effective communication and on how they have provided for curriculum delivery without pressuring parents.