Patron’s Day Conference Looks at Range of Issues Facing Primary Schools
Primary school principals and chairpersons gathered for a fascinating morning at the annual Dublin & Glendalough Patron’s Day Conference yesterday (Thursday May 17). The conference, which took place in the Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley, drew together a range of topics affecting schools from conflict resolution and having the difficult conversation, leading a listening school to children’s physical literacy.
The Patron, Archbishop Michael Jackson, opened the conference by thanking teachers, chairpersons and boards of management for their contribution to schools and parishes. He recognised the pace of change and the need for change and also the solidarity that a day like the conference brought to all involved. In today’s world of communication, the Archbishop said that what was learned at the conference was bound to make its way into the life of the schools of the dioceses.
He thanked the organisers, Senan Murray, Rachel Harper and Ann Creaner for choosing such important and interesting topics; addressing conflict, developing a listening culture and integrating body, mind and spirit.
Dr Joe O’Connell, who teaches Education Legislation and Governance on the MA programme in Christian Leadership in Education in Mary Immaculate College Limerick, talked about how principals and chairpersons could address difficult situations that arose in their schools and guided them through conflict resolution techniques with an emphasis on solution based thinking. The former secondary school principal pointed out that often people brought their preconceived ideas to meetings (based often on prior knowledge) which was not helpful in finding solutions.
Psychologist and founding director of Jigsaw (Ireland’s national centre for youth mental health), Dr Tony Bates, talked about the art of listening in schools. He stated that a school’s capacity to educate students depended on its capacity to listen and build trust. He explored how the practice of listening to ourselves, to each other and to students could be cultivated so as to develop and sustain a culture of trust within schools. He spoke of the importance of ‘leading by listening’ to give someone a safe space to talk, be present and encourage him or her to reflect on what they are saying about themselves. Addressing the increasing issue of anxiety among teenagers, he suggested that for many, their social media story did not fit in with their real lives and teenagers were often frightened, didn’t know who they were and didn’t think they had enough to succeed.
The final speaker, Jamie Stafford of JSTA, addressed the issue of children’s physical literacy. He suggested that the average child had become less physically literate, even in basic movement such as jumping, hopping, catching and throwing. Attention spans had also dropped and he suggested that screens had played a part in all of this. He addressed ways of helping children to become more active and motivating them.