Ballymoney National School in Ballineen recently received exciting news when they were selected as a Changemaker School by DCU. The DCU Changemaker Schools, established in September 2020, is a network of 19 innovative primary schools on the island of Ireland who were chosen for their pioneering work in the development of the skills of empathy, creativity, leadership and teamwork. This social innovative initiative has one powerful yet simple ambition – to support students as Changemakers. A Changemaker is someone with the skills and confidence to lead change in their home, school and community.
Ballymoney National School first drew attention because of its’ creative approach to supporting its pupils during the pandemic. The students had daily zoom lessons for up to three hours per day so they were not isolated from their peers and they did not fall behind in their school work. They had a baking week with daily videos to instruct them and they created a ‘Bottle Top Mural’ out of 12,400 plastic bottle tops. The collaborative artwork was originally intended to help to keep the two classrooms to feel connected to each other but it ended up involving the parents, parishioners and wider community of Ballineen and Enniskeane. Since then many other schools, youth groups and tidy towns groups from around the country have copied them and created similar murals, reusing thousands of plastic bottle tops.
Ballymoney National School in Ballineen, County Cork, is the only Church of Ireland School in the network. It is a small, rural school with 29 pupils. They were independently nominated to join the network, there was an initial interview with the directors of the programme, a school visit followed and members of their Board of Management and parents were interviewed. Being nominated for the network was a very proud moment for the school, it acknowledges the huge contribution that the whole school community has made to the culture of the school with empathy at the core of their daily interactions. Pupils’ voice is very evident in their school and they have an effective system of distributed leadership where everybody is included. Joining the network is a wonderful opportunity for the school to network with other creative and positive schools and to learn from their innovative ideas.
The DCU Changemaker Network is shortlisted in the Best Outreach Education Programme Category at the Education Awards. Visit www.dcuchangemakernetwork.com for more information on the programme.