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Family lines....Geraldine Lambert, chairperson of the Board of Management at St Senan's NS Shannon with her daughter Michelle Alford, grand daughter Nicole Lambert and great grand daughter Layla Stewart Lambert. All three girls went to school at St Senan's which celebrates 60 years this year. Photograph by John Kelly

St Senan’s celebrates past and looks to future

THIS month marks 60 years since the first national school was opened in Shannon.

It was in February of 1962 that St Senan’s opened its doors, as the town was being established, with thousands having received their education there since.

School principal Tori Hehir said that plans are being made to mark the milestone.

“We’re doing a school mass on February 23, and we’ll have past pupils and past teachers there, all of that. With fun days we’re going to push them out to March and April and see will the remaining Covid measures lift.”

She said the school now has 129 pupils, with the numbers not as large as they once were due to demographic changes in Shannon and the opening of a number of other schools.

St Senan’s board of management is chaired by Geraldine Lambert, who has deep family ties to the school.

“I’m actually the first great grandparent of a child in the school. My great granddaughter started school there last year and she’s the first third generation. My daughter went there and then her daughter went there and now Layla is there.”

She says it was special to her to have the connection being passed on again.

“Ah yeah, it was lovely, it’s the local school to me as well, it’s three minutes at a stroll. It was quite special that another one was going there, another generation.”

The school was built just as the town was being established on the back of the success of Shannon Airport.

“It’s actually referred to when we get documents from the Department as the Airport number one school. It was the first school and then St John’s the year after.”

Geraldine says there have been a lot of changes since her own daughter began attending St Senan’s.

“It was quite different, and it was much bigger then. When she went there it had four or five hundred pupils there, and even a year or two later, it was a 15 teacher school, there was a double stream of every class.

“We’re down to five teachers now. At its height there were over 700 pupils in the school, before St Tola’s was built. It was the only school catering from the Drumgeely and Tullyglass end. It has reduced significantly, but it’s still a special school, although I’m biased!

“We’re very lucky in the location because we have space around it and space near it. The children can go out and do the river walk, they’re within ten yards of it, we’re near the Shannon Town pitches, so there’s a very good link-up with the club.

“We’re across the road from the Mary Immaculate Church. We’re in an ideal location.”

The physical size of the school offers some advantages, she feels.

“With smaller amounts of pupils in a big school you have good sized rooms and we’re able to offer a bit more space for other activities, or for resource needs etc.

“We plan now this year as a project for the 60th anniversary to have a sensory room and what can be put in place for children with additional education needs, not necessarily special education, but just needing some smaller amount of additional support.”

She says they would like to see the enrolment increase a little bit now.

“We’d like it to be a little bit bigger, we don’t want to lose any teachers and we’d like to build the enrolment to have another teacher or two. The ideal would be to have eight teachers so each year has its own class.

“On the other hand we’re blessed with the teachers we have and the staff we have, that go far above what you would expect, and put in a lot of extra effort.”

She also says that the parents of the school make a great contribution.

“We have an extremely active parents association who put a lot of effort into the school. It’s a small school and all schools have to fundraise constantly, there’s never sufficient funds for everything you want to do and everything that a school needs.

“We have an extremely busy parents association who are very good to the school and constantly look to put extra things into the school.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.