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President Michael D. Higgins tells Primary School Principals that mental health and well being must underpin primary education

Date: Wed 2nd Jan, 2013 | 15:12

President Michael D. Higgins, addressing over 1000 primary school principals at the IPPN annual conference in City West this morning, spoke of the importance of the promotion of positive mental health and well being in the primary school setting.

“The achievement of good mental health and the building of positive self esteem and problem-solving abilities amongst young people must happen in their primary years of education and the school environment has a critical role to play in promoting that positive mental well-being.”

The President went on to say that “a country’s well being is so much more than its economic performance. The ability of people to relate as one equal citizen to another to value our shared health and the natural environment is a proper aim of education and a true measure of a country that has the mental well being of its citizens as its concern.”

Addressing the issue of cyberbullying he commented that “bullying often extends far beyond the boundaries of the school grounds blurring the demarcation line between where the school principal can and cannot become involved”

President Higgins expressed his great concern at the results of the IPPN survey of Irish principals which showed that one principal in five reported that more and more children are arriving at school hungry.  Drawing on his visits to schools and instancing the example of St. Munchin’s in Limerick he said “It is the wish of Irish people that no child go to school hungry”.

The President complimented teachers in modern conditions “who are bringing a freshness to their performance and compassion too” and remarked that “every School Principal by now acknowledges, I am sure, that a pedagogy of care is better than a pedagogy of fear and that there is no place for authoritarianism in any of our school settings, that have become more democratic through participation of parents, children and the community”, and “that an empowering and nurturing approach to the education of our young people is the most important factor in enabling our children to become independent minded, yet socially informed and responsible, democratic citizens who will not be afraid, who will be encouraged to question, to think critically and to envision the possibilities and the means to  a better and fairer society.”

President Higgins emphasised the importance of teachers having the freedom to work with children in a creative capacity saying that extra curricular activities such as “sporting activities, choirs and drama productions, after school clubs, local community work and so many other activities can awaken undiscovered interests”.

Speaking of the new multicultural atmosphere of our schools the President also said that “Even without the recent difficulties of our economy we have evolved and have been changing rapidly in recent years and the economic, social and cultural backgrounds of pupils attending Irish schools has also changed considerably, and we are richer for it as we make together a new tapestry for our shared future”.