Scoil Iognáid de Rís welcomed Minister for Education, Norma Foley, on Friday 24th February. The entrance area was festooned with the colours of the CBS when Minister Foley was welcomed by Fr. Richard Scriven, Chairperson of the Board of Management, Niall Bergin, Principal, Tom Cunniffe, Deputy Principal and Ann Marie Cahill, parents’ nominee on the Board. Minister Foley had a special word for Yuliía, mother of one of our Ukrainian pupils, Richie, who also welcomed her to the school. Accompanied by John McGuinness, TD, Councillor Andrew McGuiness and her officials the Minister spent over an hour visiting the school. The visit was a historical moment in the life of the school as the school community welcomed the first ever visit of the Minister for Education in its 70 years.
The Céad Míle Faiíte continued when the Minister was met by the Student Council as she made her way to Room 2 where she was introduced to 2nd Class. Ms Moloney, Ms. Larkin and Ms. Delaney were delighted that she called to their classroom and the boys sang for her ‘Circle of Friends’ demonstrating their singing and also the interactive panels and technology which is now part and parcel of every class room in the school.
Walking along the corridor the Minister commented on the variety of art work that adorned the walls: pictures of spring, history projects and so much more. Ms. Brennan’s 5th/6th class welcomed the Minister next. The boys showed off their musical ability playing the ukulele. Explaining that the school was benefiting from the school programme, Music Generation Kilkenny, the boys entertained the Minister with the tune ‘Shooting Stars’.
Continuing the visit, the Minister met Ms Bolger’s class in Room 12. There the Minister was assured of her welcome when the boys sang Consider Yourself from Oliver. She certainly made herself at home as she talked to the boys about the Accelerated Reading Programme in the school. The boys talked to her about their choice of books which include a wide range of novels to books on Irish History. Reminding the boys that Saturday was Ireland Reads Day and with World Book Day fast approaching she encouraged the boys to read as much as they could and spoke about her own love of reading.
Friday 24th was the First Anniversary of the Invasion of Ukraine and Minister Foley was delighted to meet with Ms. Curran and the Ukrainian pupils who were proudly wearing their country’s colours. As she admired their work she was asked to plant a sunflower seed which will be planted in the school grounds. As she left their classroom she commented on the beautifully decorated biscuits that the boys had made that day in the Ukrainian colours.
In each of the classes the Minister asked the boys if they had any questions: Augustas wanted to know how many countries she had visited; Richard asked if she liked her job; Tomas asked what the best part of her job was. When asked if she like hurling or played camogie she commented that she used to play basketball.
The Minister then went out to the hurling field where she observed the hurling which was in full swing: needless to say, the boys continued with their hurling…priorities!
The Minister returned to the hall where she was offered a cup of tea as her visit came to an end. The Student Council explained the various displays to the Minister: their own notice board, the Amber Flag display, Green School noticeboard and the display dedicated to the Soccer World Cup.
As her visit came to an end, the oldest and youngest pupils, Diarmuid and Ben, presented the Minister with a bouquet of flowers and a framed collage of activities of the school.
In thanking the boys, Minister Foley commented that the picture would hang on the corridors of the Department of Education. Since becoming the Minister of Education she has received many such pictures and she has decided that their rightful place is in the corridors of her office where they will remind her and her officials of the purpose of their work.
The Minister formally announced the opening of an Autism Class in September 2023. Minister Foley in acknowledging the presence of the Chair of the Board, Fr Scriven and Board Member Ms Ann Marie Cahill thanked all the member of the Board for their commitment to the school commenting that from her own personal experience in education how the Board of Management contribute in a very important way to the life of the school: “a generosity that is not often acknowledged and an asset to the school”. Minister Foley acknowledged the Edmund Rice spirit in the school but also the foresight of Rice who created an education system so that everyone could have a place in education, regardless of gender or background.
Principal Niall Bergin thanked the Minister for her visit. He also thanked the officials of her department for their help and cooperation in recent months as the School planned for the future. Those plans include welcoming boys and girls into Junior Infants in September 2023 and of course most specially the new Autism Class.
As the Minister left she received a guard of honour from the whole school population. A great round of applause greeted the ‘Home Work Pass’ that the Minister gave as she left.
A memorable day in the 70 years of the school as Scoil Iognáid de Rís looks with confidence to the future.