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Education Minister announces plans for a new pastoral care award for schools

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, today announced plans for a new pastoral care award during a visit to St Mary’s Primary School in Derrytrasna.

The new award will be officially launched next year and schools that have shown exceptional standards in supporting the emotional health and wellbeing of pupils and their families can be nominated. The exceptional quality of pastoral care that St Mary’s Primary School has provided to its pupils was the inspiration behind the special new award and it will therefore be known as the ‘Derrytrasna Award’.

The Minister said: “Earlier this year I received a letter from Mrs Eleanor Madden, whose daughter Adele had attended St Mary’s Primary School. Adele was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and sadly died in February 2011. While Mrs Madden’s letter was a very moving letter, it was also in many ways a very inspirational letter. In it she described how the school Principal, Mrs Joan Aldridge, and her staff and the pupils in her daughter’s class all worked together to make Adele’s last days at school so happy and so special.

“What Mrs Madden described to me was something that was very special and exceptional and she wanted to know if there was any award or way in which to formally recognise the very special way that the whole school community had worked together to support Adele. I agreed with her that there should be an award of this kind and that is why I am here today.”

The Minister continued: “My Department has been in discussion with the Public Health Agency (PHA) about how we can formally acknowledge school communities who have worked in an exceptional way to support one of their own and I am pleased to be joined today by Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA.

“We have decided to create an award which will be known as the ‘Derrytrasna Award’. The name has been chosen quite deliberately to remind us about what St Mary’s did to support Adele and her family and that this was the inspiration behind establishing the award.

“Full details of the award and how it will operate will be developed by my Department in partnership with the PHA over the next few months. When that is completed we will communicate details to all schools and the plan is that the award will be open for nominations in 2014.

“However we were keen to acknowledge the special support that Adele’s classmates provided before they leave St Mary’s and move onto their new schools in September, so I am here today to present special certificates to the Primary 7 pupils and a citation to Mrs Aldridge.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “This is a very proud day for St Mary’s Primary School in Derrytrasna and I want to commend everyone involved. The creation of this new award, named in honour of your school, will allow us to hear about and commend other schools that are following your excellent example in supporting the emotional health and well-being of pupils and their families.”

Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, added: “I am delighted to join Minister O’Dowd in presenting this award. One of the Public Health Agency’s key roles is to promote people’s health and wellbeing and the staff and pupils at St Mary’s Primary School have provided a perfect example of how people can work together to support each other in difficult circumstances. Adele’s passing was very sad, but the support which the staff and pupils gave to her and her family is a shining example which should inspire others.

“Everyone at St Mary’s should be extremely proud of themselves and I am honoured to be able to acknowledge the exceptional example which they have set for us all.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/education-works for more information. Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/thedeptofeducation
2. See photos from the Department of Education in our collection at http://www.flickr.com/niexecutive

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