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Ennis primary school making ‘Progress’ in online education

AN Ennis primary school has been taking homeschooling to another level, keeping connected to students by launching its own online channel. Like all schools across the country, Holy Family Ennis has been deeply impacted by the arrival of Covid-19. A group of teachers at the school came together to formulate an online learning plan to support their students and from this, Progress TV was born.
Co-ordinator and fifth class teacher, Darryl Eade explains, “Social media was inundated with homemade videos when the lockdown began. There were cooks, fitness instructors, health experts and musicians posting recordings from their living rooms. We wondered could a few of us record some simple educational lessons and present them in a fun and light-hearted way. Our hope was that the students would be naturally motivated to engage with each activity. We assembled a team and got started on episode one.”
Progress TV has grown into a weekly video classroom with staff from Holy Family Senior and Junior schools providing lessons in a myriad of subjects, from music to science, PE to art, literacy to geography. The show is anchored by Mr Eade who introduces and links clips from his self-proclaimed ‘Den’ in Ennis, guiding the children through this unique learning experience. 
“The show is steeped in diversity. One minute the children are virtually attending the new born lambs feeding time on Mr Bells farm, next Ms Felle’s guides them through a relaxing yoga lesson. Ms Coughlan’s music clips and Ms Normoyle’s and Ms Cahill’s cookery demonstrations wonderfully branch off into history, science and art lessons for all ages. That’s just the start of it. The entire Holy Family community have rallied behind the project. It is a real team effort.”
The project has required a significant team effort from all staff members, and not only those in front of the camera. An editing team of four cut, sequence and polish each episode. “Hours and hours of work have been put in by Sinead Finn, Gary Tyrell and the editing team. Their newly found passion for digital editing meant the show improved week by week. They have now helped create something that we are all proud of,” he says.
So far, Progress TV has proven to be a big hit with Holy Family pupils and is bringing the school community closer together in a time of social distancing.  In fact, such is the popularity of early episodes, that a dedicated weekly highlights show has also been produced, showcasing the students engaging with the different activities prescribed by their video-savvy teachers. It has been the enthusiasm of students in engaging with this project which has been most heartening for principal of the Senior School Sarah Barnes. “Every week I look forward to seeing Holy Family students shine and flourish on camera. What make this project special too is that it is inclusive. Our camera-shy students can engage with ProgressTV activities and their teachers through our online classroom system (Seesaw) – even if they aren’t posted videos, we know that they are engaging with the content,” she says.

The show has proven to be a big with parents too. Anne Walsh, mother of Ruadhán in fourth class, commended the project, highlighting its value in maintaining a strong home-school link. “Most important of all is the experience of physically seeing the teachers. That part of the interaction is invaluable. This strange time as we adults call it, has impacted on children in ways yet to be assessed. While everyone does their best with home schooling the connection to child’s own school is so important and supportive.  Ruadhán says it is “fun”.  Thanks so much to the teachers it is a wonderful initiative.”
Mrs Barnes has admitted that embracing these new digital platforms hasn’t been easy but the teachers always put the pupils first. “They are professional and generous in all they do. They just wanted to stay in contact and keep everybody connected to the school. The positivity, enthusiasm, motivation and creativity of these staff has become infectious in our community during these challenging times.”
So what’s next for Progress TV? Right now, Mr Eade is keeping focus firmly on each week’s episode, but there are plans to diversify and include some more unique teaching ideas. “The potential is limitless. There are amazing teachers, educators and staff all around the county. We’d love them to get involved with with us so we could create a show for every primary school student in Clare and end this tricky year on a high note. We also hope that some local business owners might invite us into their workplace for a very special Community Links episode.”
ProgressTV can be found  on YouTube at ProgressTV Holy Family Ennis and episodes are uploaded every Monday.

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