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REMARKS by President Mary McALEESE At St. Aidan’s Community School, Brookfield

REMARKS by President Mary McALEESE At St. Aidan’s Community School, Brookfield On Friday, 4 December 1998

I am delighted to have this opportunity to visit your school - to acknowledge the important work of St. Aidan’s for and in this community – and to formally open your new library, which is very much in keeping with the school’s philosophy to promote the holistic development of young people.

Indeed, that philosophy recognises that education is not just a process of accumulating factual information – and not just about maximizing points. It has a lot more to do with developing people – and enabling them to discover their own talents – to liberate and air those talents – and to build the confidence to blossom. A good education is the best investment for life, and you have a strategic partnership in making an investment in the future for the children of Brookfield. It is a partnership of school management and teaching staff, who have the vision and commitment to take bold decisions and to do what’s best for those in their care – the parents, who provide the vital home environment, guidance and values that promote a culture of learning and development – and the young people themselves, who respond to that interest and encouragement, and realise the investment in their future. That is a tremendously successful partnership, and I would like to pay tribute to all three – the school, the students and the parents – who each play such a vital role in making it such a success.

In Ireland we have a very young population, and their education and development are critical to our current and future success. Indeed, the young educated and self-confident people that our education system has brought to maturity has contributed significantly to our current success. This would not be possible without the superb work of the local schools and colleges that help young people to set and achieve high standards and to go on to acquire new skills in third level colleges before embarking on careers.

St Aidan’s is more than just a school – it is a community resource that has widened its horizons and availed of every opportunity to fulfil its mission - being an ‘early adopter’ of almost all the new educational initiatives of the Department of Education and Science since 1984 – with a comprehensive system of Pastoral Care – a ‘Discipline for Learning’ philosophy to reward positive behaviour and good work habits – encouraging the active involvement of its students in the successful Students’ Council – a wide range of extracurricular opportunities from Art, Music, Educational Tours, Dance and Drama through Computer and Language clubs, to Soccer, Gaelic, Football, Basketball, and Table Tennis – and encouraging students to develop their talents through Debating and Art competitions, Musicals, Concerts and the President’s Awards.

At the wider community level St. Aidan’s has provided vocational courses under the Vocational Preparation and Training scheme, and Post Leaving Certificate courses in Information Technology – both of which have helped young adults to take up skilled jobs and careers – and a programme of adult education for parents and guardians of the students, organised by Kevin Fahy, the Home/School Liaison teacher.

In his report ‘Access to College’, published in 1995, Professor Patrick Clancy found that very significant levels of inequality existed – where, for example, a young person whose father was a “higher professional” was about 6 times more likely to go to a third-level college than a young person whose father was “unskilled or semi-skilled”. While these figures relate to 1992 some young people still find it difficult to pursue further studies. Two young students in this school made the necessary sacrifices and have come back as teachers - Ellen O’Reilly, and Heidi Tully.

In recognition of the ever-growing importance of education to individual and national success, new initiatives to encourage greater participation are under way in many areas. In West Tallaght, St. Aidan’s is in partnership with two other local schools, Killinarden Community School and Jobstown Community College, and are about to launch a positive support programme where sixty students have been identified to receive special support, together with their parents and school staff members. The aim is to help each student to gain a college place, and to sustain their progress. This initiative combines imagination with practicality, ambition with sense, and hope with reality – and I commend the initiators on their vision in bringing it about.

St. Aidan’s, being a school of and for the community - gives inspiration, support and an educational focus to the Brookfield area. While its motto is “Times change and we with them”, St. Aidan’s goes much further by ‘changing the times’ for the people and community it serves. Its success is itself a tribute to the trustees of the school, to a partnership between County Dublin VEC and the Mercy and the Loreto sisters over the past 14 years – and to the Principal and Deputy Principal, another partnership that makes things happen. I would like to congratulate the staff on their excellent work - and the students and parents, without whose commitment that success would not be possible.