Education Minister John O’Dowd visits St Killian’s College

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The Education Minister John O’Dowd this week paid his first visit to St Killian’s College. He was welcomed by the Principal Mr Jonny Brady, Mr Sean Doherty Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors and Ronan McIlwaine, the Head Boy and Marianne O’Toole the Head Girl. After a discussion about the historic castle building, with which the minister was very impressed, he went on a tour of the college.

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The Principal, the Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors and the two Vice-Principals Mrs Eileen McKay and Mr Padraig McIlwaine accompanied the Minister throughout his visit. During the tour of the college, he saw students who were engaged in their learning and being prepared for life beyond school.

Principal Jonny Brady (right), VP Padraig McIlwaine with Minister O'Dowd

The Minister commented upon the outstanding ETI report that the college had received in November after only two and a half years in existence. He noted that it was evident in what he saw that the students of St Killian’s have a belief in their ability to succeed, are confident, work well with each other and have excellent independent learning skills. Furthermore he commented upon the great unity of purpose among the students and staff at the college.

Mr O'Dowd speaks with a Year 8 Spanish class

He also saw first hand the delivery of education at St Killian’s College when he visited a number of curricular departments, including Spanish and PE. The Education Minister spent some time with the students to hear their views on learning Spanish and was delighted to see the young people from across the Glens and East Antrim were being educated together, regardless of ability or tradition.

Mr O’Dowd also spent some time with PE students who were taking part in an orienteering exercise. He congratulated the students on their knowledge on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Mr O’Dowd said that he had taken a keen interest in the sporting successes at St Killian’s. The Minister was interested to find out that the Year 12 Hurling team had just won the Foresters’ Cup for the second year in a row and, since the Ulster Colleges’ Council had retired the old Cup earlier this year after half a century of use, St Killian’s is the last name on the old Cup and first on the new one.  Although a Down fan, a county more renowned for its Gaelic football prowess, Mr O’Dowd was delighted that Gaelic sports were being so positively promoted within the college.

Minister O'Dowd is greeted by Head Boy Ronan McIlwaine with Deputy HB Paul McKay in the background

On the Minister’s visit, Principal Jonathan Brady said :

‘This is further fantastic recognition of the work of the college in only its third year and is a great credit to the students, their parents and our staff.’

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Throughout the visit the Minister was impressed by the way in which the college had adapted its buildings to deliver high quality education.  However the Principal stressed the need for the DE to further invest in the college which would not only benefit the students but could be used as a hub for both community education and sporting facilities.  At present the college has a number of bids with the Department of Education to enhance the college facilities and it is expected that there will be a significant announcement to that effect in the near future, in line with the School Enhancement Programme announced in January of this year.

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Mr O’Dowd commented upon the positive impact that St Killian’s has had on ensuring a seamless transition between Primary and Post Primary education in the Glens and East Antrim area. Indeed this was reinforced after the tour of the school when he enjoyed some refreshments with the local feeder primary school principals who underlined the clear partnership that exists between St Killian’s and themselves.

The college is presently working alongside four of its primary partners to promote science skills between the two phases of education. This includes sharing good practice between the primary school teachers and St Killian’s Science department as well as using video conferencing and IT to link and learn with each other. This will further create a true learning community among the schools in the Glens and East Antrim allowing not only the students to develop their skills but create real partnership between primary and post primary.

Minister O'Dowd, St Killian's Principal Jonny Brady and Principals of St Killian's feeder Primary schools

Mr O’Dowd also said that he believed that St Killian’s was a great example of how education should be delivered, where young people regardless of ability or creed were educated with high expectations and where they quite obviously achieved. He congratulated the governors, staff, parents and students who have all contributed to the school’s success and wished the whole school community every success in the future. He believes that the model of schooling that the Glens and the East Antrim have is rightly the envy of all.

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