CORPUS CHRISTI PRIMARY SCHOOL
Moyross, Co. Limerick
Corpus Christi Primary School is transforming a chronically disadvantaged community with empathy-based learning. Located in the council estate of Moyross, on the outskirts of Limerick City, the school offers modern resources, a low pupil-teacher ratio, and unique educational programs including leadership initiatives and a partnership with the Irish Horse Welfare Trust, wherein students learn to work with animals. Over the last decade, Corpus Chrsti’s successful teaching has been reflected in enormous improvement in literacy and absenteeism rates.
Corpus Christi Primary School serves 175 students in Moyross, a council estate on the outskirts of Limerick City, and is committed to celebrating the achievements of its students, while actively addressing the challenges of life in a chronically deprived community.
The Biggest Idea
Empathy-based learning is central to Corpus Christi’s holistic education. The school partners with the Irish Horse Welfare Trust to implement Equine Assisted Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning programmes. There are also robust woodworking, art therapy, and mindfulness programmes that can be therapeutic for students. Engaging parents in their children’s education is a core part of the school’s philosophy.
Life at Corpus Christi
Housed in a vibrant school building, Corpus Chrsti boasts modern facilities including interactive white-board technology in every classroom, ample computer and musical resources, a woodworking space, and a kitchen used for teaching. Class sizes are small to allow teachers to focus on the needs of each individual student. Parents are engaged in their children’s education as much as possible, for example through initiatives like Story Sacks and Family Reading Sessions, wherein parents get to coordinate with teachers to read with their young children at school, and Maths for Fun, which gives parents the opportunity to lead various mathematical activities in class. These programmes get parents involved with their children’s education and enhance communication between students and parents.
A partnership with the Irish Horse Welfare Trust gives students fulfilling experiences with horses and encourages them to learn the practical and emotional knowledge required to take care of animals. Corpus Christi also has a strong drama programme, as well as providing art therapy and woodworking classes. Principal Tiernan O’Neill has described the therepeutic impact of programmes like these through the example of one student whose emotional issues made him a candidate for institutionalization. After the student joined the woodworking programme’s boat-building project, however, he became much more engaged with school and could participate fully in the classroom.
Students are encouraged to work together in art programmes, sports, gardening projects, and many other aspects of school life. Moreover, several programmes (for example, buddy reading and writing, as well as the cuntoiri initiative) allow older students to act as mentors for younger ones. 13 years ago, 70% of students at Corpus Christi were reading below the national average and 50% of the children missed 20 or more school days per year; now 80% of students read at the national average, and only 10% miss 20 or more school days per year. The school’s inclusive techniques have engaged its community to a truly inspiring degree.
Principal Tiernan O’Neill has been at Corpus Christi for over a decade, as principal for last several years. Before that, he was a teacher and a Home School Liaison Coordinator, promoting partnership between parents and teachers. Therefore, he understands education as a holistic project involving the entire community. He has given much input into Literacy and Numeracy initiatives and staff development, and working together with the Father Tony O’Riordan, the chairperson of the school’s Board of Management, he is leading a staff of dedicated teachers and community advisors. O’Neill and O’Riordan plan their work strategically, guided by a vision for a more egalitarian society, where the students of Moyross feel that they belong.