Over the last couple of years, Newtown National School in Crettyard completed a programme of activities designed to achieve an Active Flag for the school.
Active School Flag (ASF) is a Department of Education and Skills initiative supported by Healthy Ireland, and part of the National Physical Activity Plan.
The ASF initiative provides schools with a framework to guide, support and incentivise them to work towards achieving a physically educated and physically active school community.
The campaign was driven by Ms Siobhan Nash, herself an athlete of some renown, having won many national medals, and member of the local St Abbans team honoured with a Civic Reception by Laois County Council.
Having committed to experiencing a range of sports including GAA, soccer, rugby, rounders, basketball, badminton and cycling, and hosting events such as a Colour Run, Newtown NS was awarded this flag in 2020, but due to the various restrictions of the past year, the raising of this flag was delayed, finally taking place during a ceremony on Friday last.
On behalf of the school, principal Kevin Gorman was delighted to welcome distinguished guests from a variety of sporting fields to attend at the ceremony.
On hand were Laois senior footballers Evan O’Carroll and Eoin Lowry, All-Ireland winning basketballers Shauna Dooley (also an Irish international) and Rebecca Reddin (also a Laois footballer), Irish international athlete and long jump record holder Ruby Millet and last but not least nationally renowned All-Star hurler, footballer, basketballer and coach, Laois legend Pat Critchley.
The guests presented the children of the school with their Sports Day medals which came at the end of the school’s annual Active Week, which included Karate and Hip-hop dancing amongst a myriad of other activities.
They took part in a Q&A with the schoolchildren, and offered lots of valuable advice on the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle and how they can achieve the most from whatever activities they choose to take part in.
The sports stars were in turn presented with a memento thanking them for their attendance, by the school’s graduating 6th class of 2021.
The school’s Active Week came hot on the heels of their Creative Schools week, undertaken as part of Newtown’s selection as a Creative School last year.
The Creative Schools initiative supports schools to put the arts and creativity at the heart of children’s lives, providing opportunities for them to build their artistic and creative skills; to communicate, collaborate, stimulate their imaginations, be inventive, and to harness their curiosity.
It will empower children to develop, implement and evaluate arts and creative activity throughout their schools and stimulate additional ways of working that reinforce the impact of creativity on children’s learning, development and well-being.
The children have been working on ideas over the last number of months on a number of different projects with their Creative Associate, Aideen McHugh, and just this week completed their first project, a stencilling on the school shed by each of the children of what life in Newtown NS, and Crettyard in general, means to them.
Guided by Aideen, the mural was inspired by Banksy’s “Balloon Girl”, completed entirely by the children, and will be a “living” mural, with each new child attending the school contributing, leading to it growing over the years. The next school year will see further engagement with the creative process.
Newtown NS is also in line to have a Green Flag raising ceremony in September. Promoting long-term, whole-school action for the environment, Green-Schools is a student-led programme, and the hard-working school committee, under the guidance of Ms Claire Walshe, gave a presentation to the National Committee in May, describing initiatives the school has undertaken on working together to provide a sustainable future.
The assessor and the team at Green-Schools were very impressed with the application, and informed the school that the submission for the Green Flag had been successful. It is the third Green Flag earned by the school, this latest one focussing on the theme of Water.
And finally, to complete a month or so of good news for Newtown NS, the school were this week delighted to announce that it has been one of the few schools accepted to the Hot School Meals Programme 2021, which means that from the 2021-2022 school year, all children attending the school will be provided with hot meals every day, free of charge to all families.
The School Meals Scheme provides funding to schools towards the provision of healthy food and the objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children to enable them to take full advantage of the education provided to them.
The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.
You can check out a selection of photos from their Active Flag day below.