Matterhorn summit challenge by principal raises €7,500

By Maurice Garvey

THINGS have improved at a Drimnagh secondary school over the last year, but like a classic report card, staff at the Deis campus are striving to ‘do better’.

In July 2018, Pádhraic Gibbons, Principal of Our Lady of Mercy, Drimnagh, raised €7,500 after climbing the 14,600ft Matterhorn in Switzerland – money, which along with existing grants, went towards refurbishing two computer rooms.

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Principal Pádhraic Gibbons presenting a cheque for €7,500 he raised for the school to Michael O’Sullivan, Chairperson of the Board of Management and Patricia Colton of the Finance Subcommittee

The location of the impressive building on Mourne Road presents its own challenges in terms of upgrading the slightly outdated premises – which currently houses 354 students.

Self-funding is the name of the game for projects they can tackle themselves – students even created their own striking murals in the computer rooms – but bigger scale works are scheduled to take place once State funding is approved.

In 2017, an extension and refurbishment plan was submitted to the Department of Education for consideration after 2021, along with an Emergency Works Scheme application to refurbish the bathrooms, changing areas, entrance lobby and external grounds of the school.

“We are hoping to grow and expand, our target is 400 students in 2025, but that depends on us being adequately resourced,” said Mr Gibbons.

Looking ahead, the school hope to install an exterior wire mesh, and create a green and wellbeing garden.

Every penny counts, but like all voluntary secondary schools, the Dept of Education removes €500 per teacher per year – and for some 30 teachers at OLM Drimnagh, that amounts to approximately €16,000 per year.

“The Dept issue standard capitation which should technically cover your budget for the year,” said Mr Gibbons.

“It goes back to the days when the Dept of Education paid 90 per cent of the teacher’s salary – today they pay 100 per cent, but in the case of voluntary secondary schools, the Dept removes €500 per teacher, another way of getting back that 10 per cent.”

Gibbons says it is a “fallacy” that Deis schools get extra funding, noting schools receive 30 per cent of the €190 average capitation fund per student.

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Daniel Beattie (Climbing partner) and Principal Pádhraic Gibbons on the Matterhorn Summit (4478m) July 2018

On a brighter note, he reports their teacher situation is “much better than two years ago – we have a full complement now.”

He is proud of the school’s achievements and growth in recent years, acknowledging the efforts of the school caretaker, a “proactive” Board of Management, and Minister of State, Catherine Byrne TD, who he says “has been instrumental in ensuring that our Emergency Works Application will be approved.”

On the stairs, he points to pictures depicting two Zambia immersion projects the school was involved with over the past 10 years.

“Education has seen huge changes, with the introduction of the new Junior Cycle in particular, over the past few years,” he said.

“In OLM, we looked at how to best implement those changes. A common lesson structure that allows self-directed learning from the students, teachers observing one another in action and giving feedback, are just some of the ways that we are changing the way we do things.

“Our school is part of the new Trinity Access 21 programme, which will see our students thinking about their progression after school from the moment they start with us in first year.”

Heading up this year’s OLM Drimnagh fundraiser is the Deputy Principal, Nuala Brady, who is running in the Dublin City Marathon on October 27.

Ms Brady is organising a number of fundraising events to coincide with the marathon, including a snail race night on October 24.

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