Duiske College in Graignamanagh had cause for celebration and reflection recently, when it was named among the top schools in the country in terms of National League tables for Schools.
Principal Pat Murphy has said it is great to get the recognition as one of the most improved school in the country, as everybody in the school community is working together to create a culture of excellence at the school.
“We are delighted to have such a high number of students going onto third level,” he said.
“We have very committed and professional staff who are dedicated and hardworking in the interest of the students. The bottom line at Duiske College is: 'Is it in in the interest of the students?'”
All departments in the school work as part of a whole school approach. The Characteristic Spirit of Duiske College is based on respect for the dignity of each person at the school.
“We have a very positive and caring atmosphere coupled with the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning,” says Principal Murphy.
“It is very important to us that each student has a smile on their face, that they are happy and contented, that they are valued and feel important. At Duiske College we endeavour to create an atmosphere which enables each student to reach his or her potential.
“We are a proud ETB school with a holistic approach to education. There is an excellent combination of academic and practical subjects on the curriculum and with a dynamic and vibrant Transition Year programme students have a myriad of opportunities in self-directed learning, learning by doing, leadership opportunities and project work.”
The Graignamanagh school has seen a huge uptake and demand for its Transition Year programme. Part of Duiske's holistic approach is a strong commitment to extra-curricular activities. Hours and hours of work are contributed on a voluntary basis by staff for the benefit of students.
“We are conscious now more than ever that the well-being of our students is of paramount importance,” says Mr Murphy.
“We see ourselves as a community school, an integral part of the local community. We have built and continue to build strong links with our parents and local community on many different levels.”
School self-evaluation at Duiske College is a well-established process where the key emphasis is on school improvement and the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning.
“It is important to recognise that League Tables are just one measure of what goes on in any school,” says Mr Murphy.
“League tables do not measure many things that are also truly important. In an era when the measurement of outcomes is the norm, it is time to give due recognition to the cultural aspects that are not and cannot be measured in league tables.
“For some students, who have to overcome many obstacles and deal with much difficulty in their personal lives, it is a magnificent triumph for them to actually sit the Leaving Certificate examination. In fact such students should be awarded a gold medal for their efforts.
“Often these students will not feature on any school league table but their story and journey is often the real success story of a school. It is often a huge achievement in itself for such students to remain in school and complete their Leaving certificate while at the same time picking up the life skills to participate in a meaningful way in society.
“It is also a huge achievement for the school to help them and enable them along their journey.”
In the characteristic spirit, ethos and atmosphere of the school, Duiske College's students gain the self-efficacy and self-esteem that league tables are unable to measure and certainly do not recognise. Principal Murphy says that a balanced, holistic experience that contributes to the wellbeing of students, prepares them for the world of work and enables them to contribute in a meaningful way to society should be considered the goal of education.
“In giving recognition to school culture we at once acknowledge that 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts',” he says.
“ A broad balanced educational experience truly respects the unlimited potential and profound dignity of each and every student. Each and every student that walks through our school entrance at Duiske College is a very, very important person. We are very proud of all our students at Duiske College. The school motto is 'Mol an Óige agus Tiocfaidh sí.