Laois pupils benefit from Active Schools Week

Pictured are Rory Delaney, Sports Editior Leinster Express, Caitriona Slattery, Laois Sports Partnership, Karen Phelan, Organiser, Aidan Colgan, Colgan Sports Main Sponsors', Gareth Culleton, L.S.P, Ann Garry, Principal Rath N.S and Anne Marie Colgan, Colgan Sports. Photo Denis Byrne.
Active Schools Week took place this year from May 12 to 16, with a whole host of schools across the county taking part.

Active Schools Week took place this year from May 12 to 16, with a whole host of schools across the county taking part.

Part of the Active School Flag initiative through the Dept of Education and Skills, it is a great opportunity for schools to bring together different initiatives taking place during the year such as Sports Days, Active Travel Initiatives, Art Competitions and PE displays in a fun way for the whole school to enjoy.

As one of the organisations who promote Active Schools Week locally every year, Laois Sports Partnership launched an exciting local initiative in 2013, whereby primary schools were invited to set themselves an Activity Challenge for the week.

For the second year running, schools who promoted the theme of ‘inclusion’ had the opportunity to win €1,000 worth of sports equipment for their school. Participating pupils donated €1 to the LSP Sports Inclusion Disability Programme which supports sports and physical activity for people with disabilities in the county.

A panel of judges made up from sponsors Colgan Sports and The Leinster Express along with Laois LSP Sports Inclusion Disability Officer, Garrett Culliton, reviewed the activity reports returned by the schools and were blown away by the efforts of the schools and quality of the challenges set.

Finalists for the 2014 Inclusive Competition were Newtown NS, Scoil Naomh Eoin Killenard, Presentation PS Portarlington, Rath NS, St Pius X NS Ballacolla, Arles NS and Gaelscoil Phortlaoise.

They carried out a range of fantastic fun activities that involved the whole school with games adapted if necessary to ensure all pupils could take part regardless of ability.

Newtown NS held a fun Skipathon for the whole school, incorporating fun skipping challenges, individual and group skipping, with children learning lots of fun rhymes and games which can be enjoyed all year round.

St Pius X NS held a fun ‘Easter Bonnet 1km Run’ while Scoil Naomh Eoin in Killenard held a ‘Heritage Challenge’ where pupils walked/ran the adjacent 5km walking track. Senior pupils also designed an obstacle course in the yard which every pupil completed over the course of the week.

Arles NS also completed an obstacle course but they decided to highlight the challenges faced by people with visual impairments, so the course was completed with pupils wearing blindfolds.

Gaelscoil Phortlaoise had so much fun in 2013 that they said the activity week was “an tseachtain is fear” and couldn’t wait to take part again this year. Once again they carried out an extensive list of fun and challenging activities for the week, joined by the parents and teachers.

Presentation PS Portarlington was another school who had taken part in 2013. Their special emphasis on inclusive games this year meant that they were this year’s worthy runners-up, receiving a €500 sports equipment voucher for their school.

Teachers from the school took part in Disability Awareness Training earlier in the year and taught the inclusive games to the pupils, including Goal Ball, Star Ball and Boccia.

The pupils had fun devising their own inclusive games such as Blindfold Balloon Volleyball and seated throwing games, and they had a huge variety of sports equipment to use freely throughout the week used to make up new games. If all this wasn’t enough the senior pupils also went orienteering in Corrig Wood.

One of the schools had to be chosen as the eventual winner, a very difficult decision for the judges considering the efforts that schools had made. After much deliberation, Rath NS emerged as winners.

They carried out a dazzling range of fun and inclusive activities over the week involving pupils, teachers and parents. Their motto for the week was “All Together Now” reflecting the focus of inclusion that is central to the environment of the school.

This was also a very important week for Portlaoise College who scheduled their second annual ‘Active Week’ with a weeklong programme of activity which included an Olympic style inclusive sports day.

The week coincided with the completion of the schools application for the Active Schools Flag award and the school proudly becoming the first second level school in Laois to officially become an ‘Active School’.

Garrett Culliton commenting on the initiative said. “It was great to see so many students and teachers getting involved and from my point of view it was especially pleasing to see the schools really embrace the inclusive element of the challenge.

“Many people with disabilities are precluded from participating in sports activities and often it is simply because of a lack of understanding on the part of service and facility providers.

The disability program is working to address the imbalance in opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in Sport and Physical Activity, through working in partnership with all stakeholders.

“Our policy is to develop and promote opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in sport at a level of their choice. We encourage everyone to participate regardless of age, ability or disability”.

Laois Sports Partnership would like to offer congratulations to everyone at Rath NS and all of the schools who took part in the 2014 Activity Challenge, with a big thank you to sponsors Colgan Sports and the Leinster Express for their support.

We are already looking forward to next year’s Challenge and encouraging even more schools to take part.