06 Jul 2022

WATCH: Laois special school celebrates winning DCU Changemaker award

A Laois special school has become only the second in Ireland to win a place in the Dublin City University Changemaker Schools Network.

Kolbe Special School in Portlaoise cares for and teaches 40 pupils with profound disabilities.

School principal Orlagh Mahon formally unveiled their plaque on Thursday, June 23, with a whole morning of celebrations for students, families and staff laid on, including a dance show by the Lynam School of Dancing.

It was the first whole school gathering for the families since before the pandemic, as the small prefab reliant building has no hall. 

The Principal told the Leinster Express what it means to win the status.

"It recognises the fact that our school is creative, has empathy, leadership and teamwork. It's about how we are innovative in how we teach our pupils, we have to think outside the box all the time. 

"We had a formal interview and a school visit, but it wasn't until we went to DCU to accept this that we realised how big an achievement it is. It is down to our staff and their efforts and hard work, and to our families, that we achieved this," she said.

Parent Niamh Ryan was among the many parents there, with her son Liam, 14 who is with Kolbe since he joined its preschool aged 3, and Liam's twin brother.

"Congratulations to Orlagh and all the staff. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful school and staff to look after our children. This award is so well deserved to recognise the work they do. It's like another family here for Liam, he's so happy here and that's down to the staff," she said. 

They were nominated anonymously for the DCU CMSN award and then had to undergo interviews and a school visit before being chosen as one of four schools this year out of 40 applicants nationwide.

They now join a network of 19 Irish schools and a global network, getting extra support to help pupils become society's 'changemakers'.

Fiona Collins is Network Co-Ordinator of the DCU Changemaker Schools Network.

"Kolbe Special School places their students at the heart of all they do and have demonstrated how the four pillars are fostered throughout their school," she told the Leinster Express.

The DCU Changemaker Schools Network (DCU CMSN), adopted by DCU in September 2020, is a professional learning community (PLC) of 19 schools.  It commits to shaping children’s identity as empowered learners and Changemakers. A Changemaker is someone with the skills and confidence to lead change in their home, school and community.

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