KILRUSH Community School principal, Rock Kirwan, attributes the fact that 100% of last year’s Leaving Cert students went on to study at third level, to a collective ambition to get the best from each student.
This figure is a huge increase from 2009, when 51% of students went on to study at third level. Almost 50 students sat the State exam in 2016, while the school currently has a student population of 460.
“We just do our best with the students. We try to get the best out of them and, if something like this happens as a result, that’s a bonus. It reinforces our sense of what we’re doing as a school.
“Education is changing constantly in difficult times. We’re well aware that an individual child has a personal best. If there’s something hindering them from achieving that personal best, we do what we can to resolve that. Children, whom we feel aren’t achieving their personal best, we will point that out to the student first of all. We do that regularly throughout the year. That’s where the teaching and learning comes into it,” the principal, who in his 25th year in the role, explained.
Mr Kirwan feels if a student is content at home and at school, they are likely to maximise their capabilities.
“What I mean is that they are secure and comfortable. We take them on a journey in the five years they are here to try and get them to where they want to be. Some students have particular difficulties along that journey. A lot of what we do is to try to pick up on that with the student and the parent. In co-operation with them, we try to get the best out of the student. Praise goes a long way and praise in itself is excellent, if it’s deserved.
“Schools would be remiss if they were aware of any child who was capable of better and they are not pointing that out to them. It’s good for students and parents to have ambitions but they have to be grounded in reality. What’s best for one student is probably straight As. Another student, their personal best might be to pass their Leaving Cert, which could be as big an achievement, in some respects, for some youngsters.
“Time moves on. The voice of the student and parent is more pronounced now than it was 40 years ago,” he pointed out.
The school was established in 1992 when the CBS, the Convent of Mercy and Kilrush Vocational School amalgamated. The old CBS was refurbished and opened in 1998 but it is now running at capacity.
“The school is reaching virtually maximum capacity numbers-wise. Our numbers have increased during that period as well,” Mr Kirwan said. He is not sure, though, if an extension is needed.
“That is something the Department of Education may have to look at but, in years to come, there could be a dip numbers-wise, given the population trends in West Clare. That is something the department may have figures on from the primary feeder schools. The numbers should remain intact in the short to medium term. In the longer term, indications are that the number of children going into primary schools would appear to be in decline,” Mr Kirwan concluded.
By Peter O’Connell