RETNS is a well-established school and thanks to a lot of hard work over the years, it is also a very well-resourced school. However, there is always room for development and the Board of Management and staff are continuing to ensure that the school meets the needs of all the pupils, both now and into the future. To this end the Board produces an Annual Improvement Plan to look at priorities for the school and highlight areas where planning and development are needed. Already this year the eLearning part of the plan has been given a great boost by the upgrade of our ICT system. We strive to give the pupils every opportunity to use ICT to enhance their learning and to look at ways to improve in this area. Development of the school website has been looked at in this context and work in this area is ongoing. To support the area of visual arts in the school substantial work was also completed last school year in developing the school hall/stage area and in providing new stage lighting. This lighting undoubtedly made a great difference to our Winterfest performance last year.
Work is getting under way to improve the outside space and it is over to the pupils initially to add their voice to this plan by taking part in a garden design project. An adult working group has also been set up and decisions have to be made regarding elements of the garden for which funds were raised, particularly the bike shelter. The working group will take all suggestions on board before making final decisions which will hopefully fulfil all requirements.
After much input from all concerned, and many long discussions, the new Behaviour Policy has been completed and is now on the website. This is a comprehensive document covering all aspects of behaviour and is an outline of the way in which we hope to run the school to ensure a safe, caring and positive environment for all. The Anti-Bullying Policy is under review to take account of the new anti-bullying procedures issued by the Department of Education and Skills in September 2013.
As always, ethos is central to our development as an Educate Together school and the Ethos self evaluation survey, carried out two years ago, gave a lot of valuable feedback as to how the ethos is observed in the school. Feedback from the survey was overwhelmingly positive and constructive. Some of the main issues in need of attention have been extracted from the responses and these are being worked through on a continuous basis. One of the developments has been the streamlining of communication between school and parents, which was begun last year with the increased use of email, and the use of more ways to communicate to parents about their children’s lives in school. Web updates and blogging are being used to a greater extent, and work has been done on our website to enable pupils’ blogging. Just this week the student IT committee has launched a new Kids’ Blog. Greater involvement of children in the decision making process has been a priority for the school, with a new line of communication and co-operation between BOM and Students’ Council on issues of mutual concern. As part of our ethos development some members of staff make an effort to attend the ET ethos conference each year and there is a lot of discussion on Learn Together within the school. Part of the improvement plan is to create a link person between school, BOM and the wider ET community, particularly in the light of upcoming revisions of the Learn Together curriculum.
School maintenance is always a Board of Management priority, with a short term maintenance list drawn up as required and a long term plan for non-urgent items. Health and safety and security of the school are of primary concern at all times and there are ongoing discussions to ensure that there are no breaches in these areas. Safe parking is an ongoing issue also and there has been some recent engagement between the local residents’ association, the Board of Management and the Students’ Council. The students have proposed some excellent ideas to help with the problem and these will be furthered in the coming weeks. The students’ involvement in the process has been welcomed by all as they are committed to ensuring the safety of all the children attending the school and want to do what they can to help.
The Board of Management has given backing and support to the creation of a sensory room in the school, and a support group for parents of children with special needs is in the process of being set up. Both these projects will require co-operation between staff, BOM and parents and are good examples of the democracy principle in action.
For all of the development projects a high level of commitment, time and goodwill are required from all of those involved and we are fortunate to have so many in our school community willing to make these commitments for the benefit of all our children, and so many more who support this work in whatever way they can. As the current priority list for development is worked through and projects are completed, new projects will be added in an effort to ensure that our school is a vibrant learning community and that we remain focused on achieving the best possible educational outcomes for all the children of RETNS.