Mindfulness Monday in RETNS.


In a world where stress is cited as one of the greatest occupational hazards, mindfulness based practices are invaluable for adults and children alike… Inviting mindfulness into the daily lives of children increases their capacity to become still and feel good about themselves. Mindfulness based practices are simple yet profound and create a solid foundation on which to build self-worth, compassion and understanding.



As part of our recent Wellbeing Week most classes sampled the practice of mindfulness and we intend to continue the practice with our Mindfulness Monday initiative. Mindfulness is becoming a highly recommended practice for children and adults, and many of our staff members have completed courses in mindfulness and are aware of its connection to wellbeing. Mindfulness for schools is associated with the SPHE programme, specifically the strands of Myself and Self-Identity. It is claimed that mindfulness practice has been shown to enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and improve concentration. There are a number of websites dedicated to mindfulness in schools, including www.mindfulnessmatters.ie and www.mindfulnessinschools.org.

According to mindfulnessinschools.org, mindfulness differs from some other forms of meditation as instead of encouraging a person to clear their minds, it asks them to concentrate on their thoughts and focus on what surrounds them without allowing themselves to get distracted.

Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, Mark Williams, says that using mindfulness to become more aware of what’s going on around us can help to alleviate the “tunnel-vision” we develop when bustling between daily activities. ‘Mindfulness offers us the chance to take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate each sensation, feeling and emotion that affects us and respond appropriately to them. By doing this, we can move forwards with a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us.’

In 2012 an academic study was conducted by Katherine Weare, emeritus professor at Exeter and Southampton universities. Looking at the impact of mindfulness on children and young people, the study found that mindfulness helps to develop cognitive and performance skills. In turn, this then leads to children becoming more focused in the classroom and paying closer attention to their studies. (www.mindfulnessinschools.org).

Mindfulness can be a simple technique that only takes a second. Some classroom activities promoted at the teacher training on mindfulness include asking children to take out their copies mindfully, write mindfully, colour mindfully or sit mindfully. In this way they are more fully present to the activity and therefore more focused and able to learn. A mindfulness posture can set the scene for listening; being ‘alert yet relaxed’. Children may be asked to focus on their breathing. Focus on breathing and body awareness is an integral part of mindfulness, again helping us become more aware, more present.

Mindfulness can be used for all kinds of situations and with different intentions. Children can be asked to take a silent moment to listen to the sounds around them, they can be asked to become aware of the pictures and personal stories in their mind, focusing on times when they were resourceful, confident or pleased with themselves. They can then re-create this in the present. When a child is anxious, stressed or ‘in a bad place’ they can be asked to become aware of it and then think of a favourite piece of music, let it play in the mind, and see how they feel afterwards. Visualisations can help children to let go of stressful thoughts or experiences, or they can write their stressors out, crumple them up and dump them. Children can go on mindfulness walks, being aware of what they experience through their senses as they walk.

Parents who are interested in exploring this area in more detail might like to check out www.mindfulnessmatters.ie for more information and a range of Irish resources, podcasts, etc. on the topic of mindfulness.

I asked some children in 5th class for their thoughts on mindfulness.

Mindfulness makes the rest of my day more relaxed.

It clears my mind from my worries.

If you’re really stuck at something, like in maths, a quick 10 second mindfulness break is really good.

It gets down stress.

It makes you feel like a better person.

Mindfulness colouring helps you get your mind working at the start of the day.



Well-Being Week

Well-being Week

‘Well-being means feeling strong in our minds and bodies, having energy, getting along with and helping others, knowing our strengths and feeling proud because we are doing our best. It means we can cope with the little problems and disappointments of life. It means enjoying life, being grateful for what we have and accepting ourselves just as we are!’

Quote from Weaving Well-Being, Fiona Forman and Nick Rock


Many programmes and practices exist in our school to enhance the well-being of pupils and staff, and our hope is that these will lead to a positive learning and working environment for all. Through our committees and other opportunities for student participation in the life of the school we are committed to listening to our students and providing them with ways in which they can build their self-esteem, solve problems, resolve differences, develop supportive relationships and become active and responsible citizens in society. This work continues throughout the year and permeates all aspects of school life. It has been well documented recently that enhancing well-being brings benefits to other areas of life; better academic performance, greater sociability, better ability to cope with the ups and downs of life. It has also been said that success follows happiness rather than the other way around – an interesting viewpoint for those involved in enhancing the well-being of children.

During Well-Being Week teachers will explore with children, at an age appropriate level, what is meant by well-being and what are the implications of taking care of our well-being in our daily lives. They will help children to realise that well-being is linked with feeling good in our body and mind and that it helps us cope with the ups and downs of life and increases our resilience to setbacks and failures, helping us to bounce back and start again. Children will be given tools to develop character strengths and boost positive emotions and they will explore, through a range of activities, ways in which they can empower themselves and make well informed decisions and choices. Well-being will be discussed in terms of friendship, caring for others, feeling part of a community. Other aspects to be explored will be the link between well-being and healthy eating, exercise and sleep, and the importance of being able to switch off our busy minds for a while and feel calm and peaceful, and present in the moment (mindfulness).

Our senior pupils will have an important role during Well-Being Week as they will support the younger children on the playground, building relationships and being role models for the type of behaviour we expect in school. Through taking on responsibilities and assuming ownership for their school, our senior pupils are invaluable in promoting a positive well-being culture throughout the school.

We look forward to a positive year ahead, where we will build relationships, support each other as a team and help to foster in our pupils a sense of care and respect for themselves and others, creating a school in which pupils feel safe and happy and are motivated to learn and achieve to the very best of their ability.

Odd Sock Day - Celebrating our diversity and uniqueness
Odd Sock Day – Celebrating our diversity and uniqueness.

A year of celebration.

Photo Gallery

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Ready to roll… 6

10   The beginning…South City School Project.

Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan

Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan

Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan

Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan

Thanks to Peter Houlihan for some lovely photos.

Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan
Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently.
Photos: Peter Houlihan

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Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan
Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently.
Photo: Peter Houlihan



Rathfarnham Educate Together National School celebrate their 25th anniversary recently. Photo: Peter Houlihan

IMG_5781  Here’s to the next 25!

Recent Achievements in RETNS – May 2016


We were delighted to have a winning team in Santry Sports this year – our third class girls’ relay team won gold medals for themselves and a trophy for the school for coming first in the Under-10 Relay. Congratulations to Ruby, Eve, Molly and Lily on their great achievement.

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Our winning relay team – Molly, Ruby, Eve and Lily.



Global Awareness

Earlier in the year our sixth class entered some projects into the Our World Irish Aid Awards and three of these projects went forward to the Dublin Regional Finals. Each of the groups focused on a different aspect of the Global Goals theme, under the title ‘Our World, Our Future’. The winning entries were the Whole Class entry – which was a music video with words written by Calum O’Riordan, an information video by Maryam, Hannah and Sara on the Global Goals, and an information poster by Mallaidh, Nada, Michelle, Jennifer and Niamh on the work of Irish Aid itself in different countries around the globe. Three students represented the class at the award ceremony in Department of Education, Marlboro Street, on May 17th, when they received a plaque for excellence in global awareness.

See their class video again on our website under Older Entries-Sixth Class- 5 th October 2015, or follow the link below. http://retns.ie/page/3/


Green Schools

Representatives from our Green Schools Committee travelled to the Tidy Schools Competition Awards Ceremony in Dún Laoghaire and came back with our third award of the term Best School with Little or no Green Space. The judges awarded marks for our window boxes, potato growing in the side garden, our outdoor classroom and pond, and they remarked on the ‘nice trees at the rear of the school.’ Also noted was the willow wigwam, the Astro Turf area and ‘plenty of nice paintings on the shed area to add a splash of colour’.

There was little or no litter to be seen in our school grounds and an absence of graffiti, while the children gained top marks for their awareness of litter and biodiversity, with the judges remarking,

There are plenty of excellent examples of student involvement with litter and waste management and biodiversity action.

We are very proud of our green schools work this year and delighted to receive this award with its prize of €100.

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Outdoor Classroom.
Potato planting.

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Active Schools Week – a springboard to summer activity?

Active Schools Week – April 25th-29th.

According to the website www.getirelandactive.ie , 4 out of 5 children in the Republic of Ireland are still not getting enough exercise, posing serious risks to their wellbeing.

The benefits of being active for physical and mental health are huge.  Being active helps release chemicals in your brain (endorphins), which have a positive effect on your mood, not to mention the benefits to your heart, lungs, muscles and bones.  Getting out and being active is also a great way to manage stress. 

It is well documented that physical activity has a beneficial effect not just on the physical body, but also on mental health, and there is a growing amount of research to show that this beneficial effect is increased considerably when physical activity is combined with exposure to nature. There is also concern, however, that children are not benefitting from ‘green exercise’ in the same way as adults because they are not connected to the natural environment in the same way that adults are, quite possibly as a result of the amount of time children are spending in front of screens! Getirelandactive.ie encourages families to limit ‘screen time’ and get children out and about, and gives suggestions for some ‘family-friendly activities’ that will not just get children active but will also help them to connect with nature and avail of the associated mental health benefits.

During the year we have encouraged and promoted activities to get children more active, most of which can easily be outdoor activities during the summer months. Fifth and sixth classes were given some introductory lessons in orienteering, which we hope will spark a new interest for some of the children. We had our annual skipping day to remind children of the benefits of skipping, encourage them to increase their skill and see this as an activity that they can take with them wherever they go – no equipment needed except a rope and an outdoor space! We have extended our basketball coaching to the younger classes and have indeed spotted some potential future stars, again hopefully igniting an interest in this sport for some of our younger children. Senior basketball has been very popular again this year and children have seen for themselves how well they improve with practise. Soccer is continuing thanks to the voluntary commitment from two of our teachers, Rebecca and Conor, and again, practise has paid off in terms of confidence and performance this year, with important wins for both teams.

Our gymnastics and athletics programmes have proved very popular, with great potential for further involvement for those with a particular interest. Many joined running clubs as a result of the athletics programme last year and many more may do so again this year. Great for those who are not particularly fond of team sports! The athletics summer camp being held in the school will no doubt be very popular again this year. In addition to the athletics camp, a number of summer camps are being held in the school which will give the children an opportunity to get active, be out in the open and enjoy time with their friends. There is also a range of Parks Tennis camps in local DLR parks, at a subsidised rate.

Our weekly Walking Bus is still proving very popular, even throughout a cold winter, and hopefully this good walking habit will continue for children throughout the summer, maybe even extending to hiking and other related activities in the open air.

We in RETNS are great believers in outdoor work when possible, understanding completely the huge benefits to children in learning about and interacting with their physical environment, therefore as the weather warms up children are already being seen in the wildlife garden, exploring the school environment for maths and science activities, geography trails, art activities, making extensive use of our all-weather surface for sports and digging and planting vegetables which they will tend until harvest time. All of these activities are getting children out of the classroom, walking or running around and interacting with their environment.

Active Schools Week will spark greater activity as summer approaches and hopefully will also encourage a more long-term habit for children of becoming active in the great outdoors!

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Proclamation Day in RETNS

In conjunction with schools throughout Ireland we held our Proclamation Day and Flag Raising on March 15th. Our ceremony was a simple, student-led ceremony, during which the infants carried out flags of all the countries represented in our school community and fourth class students dressed as Irish people would have looked a century ago. Our National Flag was carried out by Michelle, Chairperson of the Student Council, and Carol, the first employee of our school.

Saoirse and Hannah opened the ceremony with a welcome and gave a brief introduction and explanation of why we were gathered:

Fáilte roimh go dti Rath Fearnain ag Foghlaim le Chéile ar an ocáid speisialta seo. Táimid anseo inniu chun ár mbratach naisiúnta a ardú agus cuimhneachán a dhéanamh ar Seactain na Casca céad bliain ó shin. Freisin táimid ag smaoineamh ar an fís atá ag na páisti sa scoil seo don tír.

Today, March 15th, 2016, along with the rest of the country we are raising our National Flag, given to us by members of the National Defence Forces in November 2015. We will also share the visions of the students of RETNS for the future of Ireland.

To begin, Holly from sixth class read a section of the original proclamation read by Padraig Pearse 100 years ago. The particular section was chosen by the students because it represents the ethos of our school.

Maryam, Jarvis, Calum, Megan, Ellen and Sorcha from sixth class then read our school proclamation RETNS Proclamation for a New Generation that contains our hopes for the future of Ireland.

Saoirse and Hannah continued the ceremony by announcing that Carol, who was the first employee of the school, and Michelle, chairperson of the student council, would raise our National Flag, helped by caretaker Dennis. The children stood and faced the flag as it was raised.

We continued by singing Amhrán na bhFiann agus Cúig Bliain is Fiche ag Fás, the song celebrating our 25th anniversary.

Saoirse and Hannah concluded the ceremony by thanking everyone in Irish and wishing our school another successful and happy 25 years.20160315_111522


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RETNS Proclamation for a New Generation

Proclamation Day 2016

In preparation for Proclamation Day 2016, when all schools will raise the National Flag, schools have been invited to draw up their own Proclamation for a New Generation. Using the original proclamation as a foundation, schools reflect, through their own unique Proclamation, their own values, ideals and aspirations of the present generation. In RETNS we highly value equality, religious freedom, care for the environment and animal rights, and these values, among others, are reflected in the RETNS Proclamation, which has been composed by sixth class with contributions from every child in the school.

To read our RETNS Proclamation click below.


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Excessive Internet Use – A Real Problem

Excessive Internet Use – A Real Problem.

While the internet is a powerful learning, recreational and social media tool, much has been written about the damaging effects to children (and adults!) of spending excessive amounts of time online. A psychologist working in this area, Dr Kimberly Young, has identified symptoms which could be indicative of excessive internet use, such as

  • Agitation and anger when interrupted online
  • Irritable if not allowed online
  • Loses track of time online
  • Sacrifices sleep to spend time online
  • Neglects fundamental parts of their daily lives to spend time online, such as homework, hobbies or chores
  • Prefers to spend time online instead of with family and friends

‘The Challenge of Excessive Internet Use’ http://zeeko.ie/blog/


When these symptoms appear it is time to take a good look at the child’s time spent online, and seek help if necessary, but much can be done to prevent a child reaching that stage. The authors of website www.zeeko.ie have the following advice.


Preventing Excessive Internet Use – The 5:1 Rule

We have conducted extensive research into excessive internet use, the habits amongst children in Ireland and the optimum time spent online in order to come up with an appropriate guideline in this regard. As a result, we are pioneering the 5:1 Rule; 5 hours of real world activities to 1 hour of ‘screen time’.

In order to use the 5:1 Rule, it is important to understand what we are referring to when we say ‘screen time’; the time spent looking at a laptop, PC, TV, smart phone, tablet, iPod etc. All of these devices involve ‘blue light’ technology, to which children should not be overexposed. It causes suppression of the hormone, melatonin, which is also known as the ‘sleep hormone’. Excessive exposure to this ‘blue light’ will disturb your child’s sleep patterns. It is highly recommended that screens are turned off an hour before bedtime, and that there are no screens in the bedroom. Experts advise that ‘blue light’ exposure at or around bedtime impedes upon sleep quality, and can have a significant impact on the child’s learning capacity, by affecting memory consolidation (the process through which new information is committed to the brain). In other words, a good night’s sleep is fundamental in optimising memory consolidation and learning (The American Physiological Society, 2013).

In addition, we recommend downloading a piece of software called f.lux (also available as an app). The programme is free to avail of, and removes the blue light from your screen in line with the natural sunset, thus mimicking natural sunlight patterns. This minimises the impact of ‘screen time’ after sunset upon melatonin production, which in turn reduces the impact of ‘screen time’ upon sleep patterns, so it is a valuable tool for children and adults alike.

Extract from, ‘The Challenge of Excessive Internet Use’ http://zeeko.ie/blog/

www.zeeko.ie is based in UCD, Belfield. The site offers parents and teachers the knowledge and tools to protect children online and to empower children to make smart decisions to protect themselves online.

Keeping Children Safe Online

Safer Internet.


A new Irish site, Cybersmarties.com, has recently been launched, endorsed by Pat Courtney, Director of Anti Bullying Services, former National Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator SPHE, Dept of Education. The site aims to allow children to use social media in a controlled, supervised​ and safe environment.

“What children need is a basic building block; a skill set that will serve them in good stead for lifelong engagement with the internet, and will ensure that they can cope on the occasions when the cyber-wolf comes to the door. The skill set needs to include: discernment; critical thinking; empathy; and the ability to cope when presented with uncomfortable behaviour. Cybersmarties.com is about developing these relevant and age appropriate attitudes and strategies in a supervised and controlled cyber environment. Cybersmarties.com’s values relate comfortably to personal safety aspects of the SPHE Curriculum, and relate to strands such as ‘Myself and the wider world – media education’, and ‘Myself and others’.”

Cybersmarties.com will help:

  • Develop netiquette and good habits
  • Enjoyment of and confidence in communicating on social media
  • Perspective taking
  • Consideration and support for others.”

Pat Courtney (B.A,M.Ed, Director of Anti Bullying Services, former National Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator SPHE, Dept of Education)



Cybersmarties.com is Irish owned, based in Limerick. It is being launched for school and home use but children can only register through their school, eliminating the risk of predators accessing the site. The site does not post photos and has no public ‘like’ button. There is no advertising and there is an immediate response to any threat of cyber bullying. The site is endorsed by prominent figures working in the field of cyber safety and bullying prevention, it is safe for children and fun to use while at the same time educating children in the responsible use of social media.

Cybersmarties.com is a progressive, up to date social media site developed for children, with children’s internet safety and education in mind. At Cybersmarties.com they have a keen understanding of what makes for safe and responsible use of social media as well as how to tackle the negative behaviours which can result in cyberbullying and other misuse. They do this through a clever form of positive reinforcement using video clips and daily messages which promote responsible use by children at an early age. I would highly recommend the use of Cybersmarties.com to Parents and Teachers”

John Wills (School Cyber Safety Consultant, Psychologist) (BA Psych;MA; Dip CBT)


HBSC 2014 Survey Results

Last year, a number of classes in RETNS took part in the Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2014 (HBSC) survey.

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study tells us what young people think about health and personal behaviours; how they perceive harm and threats to their health and wellbeing; and how these perceptions influence their decision making and choices.

The report of the survey, issued recently, highlights a number of positive trends in lifestyle and behaviour, such as a slight reduction in smoking levels among young people, a reduction in the consumption of soft drinks and an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.  However, there are still some concerns such as the number of children exposed to smoking at home or in the car and the fact that 20% of children do not wear seatbelts. Also of concern is the high number of children who consume sugary drinks on a daily basis.

An interesting statistic is that the number of children who reported being bullied has remained stable since 2010, yet 15% of children reported being bullied online, a statistic that is still far too high.

The report is available to download from