Cyber Safety

In this year which marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, there is no doubt that the ‘digital landscape’ has changed enormously in recent years, in particular for the younger members of our community for whom a world without smartphones is unimaginable. This fact was brought home to me recently in a conversation with some 9 and 10 year olds who incredulously wondered how on earth we managed to survive without mobile phones! And while the world has undoubtedly benefited from the advances in mobile technology, and children have unprecedented opportunities to learn, to create and to interact in new ways, the advent of smartphones, social media and increased access to technology of all kinds does bring increased risks for young people.

CyberSafeIreland published its second annual report yesterday, September 13th.

During the last year CyberSafeIreland has spoken directly to 4,893 children aged between 8 and 13 and 885 parents across Leinster and has made some disturbing discoveries in regard to children’s behaviour online. According to the report:

  • Despite age restrictions of 13 and older on many social media services, the vast majority of children under 13 that we have met already had a significant online presence
  • 16% of the children surveyed spent in excess of 4 hours online a day.
  • 22% of the children surveyed were in online contact with strangers. Most of these (14%) reported that they were in contact at least once a week and 6% of this number every day.
  • Nearly a third (32%) of children have either never spoken to their parents/guardians about online safety or have not done so in the last year.
  • In almost two-thirds (64%) of our workshops with 8-10 year olds, at least one child was playing adult rated games.
  • 12% of all children reached had shown themselves in YouTube videos.

The report outlines what it considers to be the risks to young people online, and why they are particularly vulnerable, and is well worth reading by parents in order to keep abreast of developments and safety issues. In fact, the report stresses that, “children and young people need the guidance of teachers and parents to learn to manage and cope with this added dimension to modern life” and that, “parental engagement in, and supervision of, their children’s online lives is an extremely important strategy in mitigating these risks”.  At one point the CyberSafeIreland report quotes the ISPCC’s assertion that online safety is the “child protection issue of our time” given that there has been an increase in younger children contacting their Childline service with online safety concerns.

Another significant finding of the report is that,  “Almost 70% of teachers surveyed reported that they do not feel sufficiently resourced to effectively deliver educational messages on Internet safety; this is up from 64% in 2015/16”, and the report  recognises that “both parents and teachers need far more support in order to protect children from online risk, and that children, as avid users of technology, need to be empowered from a young age to use the Internet both safely and responsibly”.

Read the full report here: 

There is also a good article on explaining their digital footprint to your child at the following link:   

New Term Update

 Wellbeing Week 2017

Welcome back to all children and families for the 2017/2018 school year, and in particular we welcome our new class of Junior Infants. Hopefully they will all settle into the routines of RETNS very quickly. A very special welcome also to our new staff and we wish all in our school community a very successful and enjoyable year ahead. 

We start off the term as always with our Wellbeing Week in which the children look at what will help make this year a happy year for them and how they can help others. Pupils’ wellbeing is very important to us in RETNS and we are always looking at ways in which we can improve wellbeing, whether through encouraging increased activity, healthy eating choices, positive attitudes and culture or working with the children in new ways to help promote a happy school for all. Through our assemblies, our in-class work in SPHE and our ethical programme, Learn Together, and through our many student committees, we listen to the pupils’ voices, we actively foster empathy among our pupils, develop leadership and teamwork skills and encourage creativity. We aim to actively foster and create a safe, supportive environment in which all of our students feel cherished, stimulated and proud to be the best version of themselves.  All of our work is towards equipping our pupils with the skills and resilience they need to make the most of learning and school, to be good citizens and to become changemakers for good. We encourage children to be kind, to look out for each other, to be role models for others and to ensure that bullying never rears its head in our school. If potential bullying situations arise pupils are encouraged to speak up and use the power of the school anti-bullying ambassadors team to nip any potential bullying in the bud. Each child is encouraged to be part of the solution of creating a school where all will feel safe, happy and cherished for the unique individual that they are.

Last year 4th class read an inspirational quote to the school each week. This one emerged as a favourite: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito” Dalai Lama.

An apt quotation for a new term.


     5th class have placed some motivational posters around the school.


Story Sacks

Last term a number of  children worked with their parents and grandparetns to produce some beautiful stroy sacks for use in the school. The results were amazing, extremely creative and each one very individual. These will be stored in the specially made ‘sacks’ to use during special story times in the junior classes. A huge amount of planning and work went into the making and filling of the sacks and we are very grateful for all the time and effort spent by those who took part in the project. While acknowledging that the project was time-consuming, everyone was delighted with the outcome and those involved thoroughly enjoyed the process.


Drone Footage

After our very successful Blue Star programme last year we were delighted to hear that the Blue Star team would like to use our drone footage as part of their promotional material for this year’s programme. Check it out here!

 BSP Promotional Video.mp4

Art Gallery


Also by Junior Infants


Senior Infants were inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’. They also produced some wonderful Still Life paintings inspired by the work of Cezanne.



First Class read ‘The Magical Garden of Claude Monet’ and were inspired to paint in an impressionist style.


Second Class have done some lovely sunflowers and paintings.


Senior Infants and Third Class took part in an Art Review with a school in Poland.


Fourth Class have done some Still Life chalk pastel drawings. 


Work of some budding artists in Fifth Class.


Final Blue Star Event – Europe Day Celebration


Click here to view our Blue Star Programme Final Report

Blue Star report (Final)

We marked the end of our participation in the Blue Star programme with an Open Morning on Tuesday, May 9th, (Europe Day) to which parents, guardians and members of the local community were invited to view the children’s work and talk to our student ‘guides’ about what each of the classes have been doing as part of the programme. Displays included written work, art work and projects as well as videos of dramas enacted by the children, a specially composed Rap and some PowerPoints presenting work completed as part of the programme. Later we gathered on the playground to have an aerial photograph taken with a specially commissioned drone, which caused great excitement! 

As our special event to mark Europe Day and the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome this year, we all dressed in blue and walked through the local housing estate, joined by parents and some local residents, making our way to the local park where we sang Happy Birthday EU and did our Handshake for Europe

Staff and students have enjoyed participating in the Blue Star programme, with the combination of learning new and interesting facts, creatively presenting their learning and celebration which have all been aspects of the programme. 

Euro Wave

Handshake for Europe


Marian Harkin, MEP, visits RETNS

On Friday, April 28th, we were delighted to welcome to our school  Marian Harkin, one of our Irish MEPs. Marian told the children she was honoured to have been invited and she was very impressed with the work they were doing. Ciara Corcoran, chair of the Student Council, welcomed Marian to our school, then to begin her visit Marian was treated to a beautiful performance of ‘May We Never Have to Say Goodbye’ from our choir.



A number of representatives from each class gave details of what they have been learning in the Blue Star programme, culminating in a spirited rap performance from sixth class detailing the achievements of many famous Europeans they have been learning about.


Marian spoke to the children about aspects of her work as an MEP and agreed to visit each class to take questions. Assembly concluded with all the children singing the European Anthem, ‘Ode to Joy’.


Celebrating Marian Harkin’s visit with the official Blue Star.

During the afternoon Marian made a visit to each class, taking questions from the children, which ranged from her favourite aspect of her work to her views on the effects of Brexit and whether she thinks there should be more women in Irish politics! 

Two representatives from the Blue Star programme also attended assembly on Friday and had a tour of the school to look at the children’s work. We are now looking forward to the culmination of our year’s work, our Europe Day celebration on May 9th.

Marian Harkin, MEP, and representatives from the Blue Star programme, Ryan and Isolde, listen intently to the choir performance.


Blue Star Programme. Leaf Hunt – Our eTwinning Project

Have a look at the PowerPoints created as part of the Leaf Hunt eTwinning project. The children really enjoyed taking part in the project and would love to do some more eTwinning in the future.

Leaf Hunt by groups from 2nd and 3rd Rathfarnham Educate Together

 Leaf hunt Sicicilian Primary school

As part of our Blue Star Programme each member of Third Class  researched a folktale from the country they had picked.  

Saul made a video at home of his story. Watch it here.

EU Ambassador visits RETNS

Blue Star Programme

The 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome was marked in RETNS on Friday 24 March by a visit by the E.U. Ambassador, Mr. David Daly, his wife Aideen and their daughter Ceola.  Mr. Daly is presently E.U. representative for South East Asia, having previously been E.U. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Prior to this he represented the E.U. in Australia.  

Mr. Daly was initially greeted by a song “as Gaeilge” from the school choir.  He then heard members of the Student Council make a presentation on the history of the E.U.  Mr. Daly then spoke about his role as EU ambassador and took questions from children from all classes.  His answers covered topics ranging from the most important thing he does in his job (thinking!) to the things he most enjoys (working with people from all cultures) to his one time (continuing!) ambition to play for Sligo Rovers!

 Ambassador Daly’s wife Aideen and his daughter Ceola spoke to the children about what life was like moving from country to country every four years, the many good points as well as some difficulties, ie. missing family events at home etc.  Aideen also spoke in Irish to the gathering and referred to her love of Irish and how useful it  is at times to be able to speak a language that not many other people worldwide recognise! 

 The assembly then watched a sample of videos created by Sixth Class students on “Inspirational Europeans”.  Ambassador Daly made particular reference to the role of the EU in ensuring that a situation such as that experienced by Anne Frank, one of those inspirational Europeans, would never happen again.  

 The visit continued with a tour of some of the school’s EU displays and a brief visit to First Class, where Mrs. Daly read a Hungarian story to the children, who have recently been learning all about Hungary.

 The visit concluded with refreshments, including EU star cookies (!) in the staffroom.

 It was a great day at RETNS.  Photos attached.

by Aileen Cronin



On Friday, March 10th, we had a visit from Eamon Ryan, T.D., also as part of our Blue Star programme. Our assembly began with the Student Council making a presentation with facts about the EU.  Deputy Ryan then addressed the whole school, speaking about the EU, why it was set up, how it has evolved and its benefits for Ireland.  He then took questions from each class group and the Green Schools’ Committee.  The questions covered a range of topics from life as a T.D. to his thoughts and opinions on more complex issues such as climate change and Brexit.  Deputy Ryan  then posed for photos in our School Hall and Wildlife Garden.  To finish the visit we sang our school song “Everyone Belongs”, the theme of which corresponds to the EU motto “United in Diversity “.


The Student Council presented some EU facts. 
Deputy Ryan answered questions prepared by the children.
  Chatting in the wildlife garden.


Deputy Ryan with our Student Council.

Blue Star Programme


As we mentioned last term, this year we are taking part in the Blue Star Programme, a programme designed to help students learn about the EU through fun, curriculum-friendly projects and earn a Blue Star Flag for our school at the same time! The Blue Star Programme aims to foster better knowledge and understanding of the EU, and how it affects our lives, amongst Irish primary school pupils through classroom projects and activities. The programme began with just 32 schools involved and this year has involvement from 755 schools nationwide.

Pupils of all ages, from primary schools all over Ireland, are challenged to get creative and think about Europe by carrying out simple, straightforward projects in relation to four key elements of the EU:

  • History
  • Geography
  • Culture and Creativity
  • Institutions of the EU

 The programme is designed to be curriculum friendly so it can fit in with lesson plans already in place and it encourages students and teachers to be as creative as possible in their project work, particularly in the use of online technologies and tools. It also aims to draw in the wider school and local community and to encourage parents to engage and get involved.

Each participating school is required to carry out projects and tasks that include information about:

  • the foundation and development of the European Union;
  • the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe;
  • the role of the EU: what it does and how its work affects the lives of European citizens;
  • participating schools are also required to hold a Europe Day event (on or around 9 May) where the school community showcases and celebrates its achievements throughout the year.

In RETNS we have already submitted our action plan and lessons have begun to address the different areas of the project. In history pupils will study topics such as Inspirational Europeans, Historical Hungarians and Famous European Explorers, along with Renaissance in Europe and World War 2 in senior classes. Geographical study will include a fact file on chosen EU member states and country facts on countries that have links to our own families. Some classes will study the natural features of some European countries while others will focus on the social aspect of these countries. The aim is to develop a sense of belonging to Europe and International communities and to encourage children to value and respect the diversity of peoples and become familiar with various ethnic, religious and linguistic groups in Europe.

For the cultural and creative aspect of the project classes will look at story/folk tales, songs/music, traditional dress, food, customs, art, language and games from a selection of European countries. In the Institutional Section, older children in particular will learn about the history of the establishment of the E.U. – it’s raison d’être, post war concerns about the need for greater co-operation between nations, the interdependence of peoples, etc. They will learn about the main EU institutions: Council, Commission and Parliament, and find out about a day in the life of an MEP.

As part of the project we have invited a T.D., an MEP and an EU. Ambassador, who have agreed to come to the school to talk to the children and answer their questions on aspects of the EU. The project will culminate in a Europe Day celebration, when we will be inviting parents, grandparents and members of the local community to get involved and to see our work, and we will take part in the National Handshake for Europe.

Students will record their learning in the Blue Star Programme in a variety of different ways. There will be PowerPoint presentations, drama re-enactments, art, map making, project work, mini concerts, displays, dress-ups, Skype links with a class in Europe, video and film making. There will be many opportunities to link this work with our Green Schools work on Global Citizenship and already we have created a display of stars in the hall, one star by every children setting out his/her wish for humanity, interspersed with twenty eight blue stars to highlight the role of the EU in seeking a just and peaceful world through co-operation between nations. Learning about the

We look forward to watching the project take shape and progress over the remainder of the school year and look forward to proudly displaying our Blue Star flag at the end!

Educate Together Ethical Education Conference 2016

Educate Together held its annual Ethical Education conference on November 25th and 26th. The theme of this year’s conference was Raising Student Voices and students took centre stage on Friday evening as representatives from both primary and second level Educate Together schools took part in Ireland’s first ever StudentMeet.

The conference was officially opened by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., who said:


“I am delighted to launch Educate Together’s conference this evening. Educate Together is at the forefront of educational innovation and the movement combines excellent teaching standards with values of social justice and human rights.”


The Minister went on to say how impressed he was to hear students sharing ideas and initiatives which they have led in their schools and he spoke of how heartened he was to see students take such an active role in their schools.


During the StudentMeet representatives from a number of student councils, including Rathfarnham ETNS, gave a rundown of why their involvement in their school’s student council is important, not just to themselves but to the whole student body in their school, and outlined some of the initiatives which student councils concern themselves with. The confidence and competence with which these students spoke brought the theme of the conference to practical reality. In his later address to delegates at the conference, Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together, said that,


“Ethical Education is all about the primacy of creative and critical thinking, of students taking responsibility, becoming self-aware and being equipped with the skill to become active, respectful and responsible citizens in a rapidly changing world.” 


A keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children.


See for more details of the conference.

Raising Student Voices

Elections have finished, the counting is over, and our new student council members for 2016/2017 are looking forward to their important role in the school.

The student council has been a very important part of life in RETNS since the very first council was formed in 2000. A lot of work was done at the time in drawing up the Rules and Constitution for the student council and these Rules and Constitution still govern the student council today.

Each year a new student council committee is elected from among the student body, to consist of 12 children, five from sixth class (who also represent JI-2nd), three from fifth and two each from fourth and third.

Over the years the student council in RETNS has raised the student voice in a number of ways. Members of the student council have been active in numerous projects within the school and they have also made contacts outside of school; with other Educate Together schools, by sending letters to newspapers and to public figures or by inviting visitors to the school, such as the Garda Band last year. The student council organises a fund-raising event each year and they have raised considerable amounts of money for worthy causes of their choice. Over the years members of the student council have helped to bring about many of the changes that students in the school require, they have taken on responsibilities and challenges which have helped them grow and mature, and, above all, they have succeeded in achieving their primary aim, which is to get all of the children’s voices and opinions heard.

The theme of this year’s Educate Together Ethical Education Conference, to be held on November 25th and 26th, is Raising Student Voices. Teachers and educationalists will discuss whole school strategies and classroom activities that will encourage students to speak up and have their voices heard. They will also consider ways to encourage schools to facilitate student-led learning.

RETNS student council has been invited to the StudentMeet part of the conference to meet student council members from other Educate Together schools and to have an opportunity to share initiatives and innovations which they have introduced into their schools. Our students are very much looking forward to this opportunity.

Membership of the student council is not the only way in which students in RETNS can have their voices heard. Over the years a number of other committees have been formed from among the student body which allow students to have a say in many different aspects of school life. The Green Schools Committee is a popular choice for those who are interested in the environment and in helping our school to maintain its Green Flag status. Interested students prepare a speech which they deliver to their classmates and some adults, who then choose the committee members for the year based on the content of the speeches. An ICT Committee is open to those with an interest and/or expertise in technology. Students are invited to apply for this committee, stating their interest and ability in this area. The committee has taken responsibility for the Kids’ Blog and members are also involved in organising polls and ICT based competitions. Our newest committee is the Sports Committee, which will appeal to those with an interest in sport, and which will involve promoting sport throughout the school. When students reach fifth and sixth class they all have the opportunity to participate in the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors Team, which gives them an opportunity to build relationships with younger children, use their initiative in organising activities and be part of a Day of Action each term. This team has been the source of great ideas for improving relationships within the school and enhancing the wellbeing of students. This term’s Day of Action will be a Partners’ Day, to be held shortly.

All our committees seek to give our students a voice in the running of the school, but outside of committees all of the students are free to suggest improvements or different ways of doing things and many of our students are delighted to put forward their ideas, either to the committee members or to staff. At the moment, due to the work of the student ICT committee, children are also getting a chance to see how and why a policy is made. The students realised that there is a need for a policy/guidelines in relation to comments posted on the Kids’ Blog. The have set about formulating a policy by issuing a survey to students, staff and parents. The committee will then devise guidelines based on the responses received. An opportunity to see democracy in action!

School committees do not appeal to all children, but all children still have a voice in the school and there are many ways in which this student voice can be encouraged. Classes frequently have whole class or group discussions on various topics, where children are encouraged to voice their opinions and hear the opinions of others. They often get an opportunity to meet people from outside the school and to ask them questions about their life and work. Learning strategies such as circle time, values line and conscience alley are used to help children reflect, clarify their thoughts and make informed decisions. And at all times throughout the day children are engaged in talking about their work, making decisions about their learning and evaluating their own performance. Hopefully, through these early experiences of expressing their opinions and having their views valued, these students will become well-rounded young people who will be confident about themselves and their choices in life and well equipped to take an active role in society.

(See also and

img_9730  Student Council 2016-2017