Derrynoose, Co. Armagh

In Brief

Located in the small village of Derrynoose, Co. Armagh, Our Lady’s & St. Mochua’s is a microcosm of the huge potential in towns and villages throughout Ireland. Through peer-to-peer learning, entrepreneurship, engineering projects with local businesses and e-learning initiatives with other schools south of the border, Our Lady’s & St. Mochua’s instills leadership skills in their pupils that will be essential for rural areas to thrive in the future.


Situated on the border of Armagh and Cavan, Our Lady's & St.Mochua's (OLSM) is the local primary school for 176 children from the small surrounding villages of Derrynoose and Carna. A rural school under the patronage of the Catholic Church, OLSM gives a unique insight into Ireland's history and future.

The Biggest Idea

Despite the many challenges faced by rural communities across the island of Ireland, OLSM looks positively towards the future, placing a particular focus on technology, entrepreneurship and above all, leadership. Guided by their school motto: 'Reaching for the future... A voice today,' the pupils at OLSM are brought up to take charge of their future now, not merely develop the potential for their adult life.

Life at OLSM

Core to the school's philosophy is ensuring that no student leaves without experiencing a leadership role. This can be in sports, student councils, eco-committees or the House Cup, where teams are formed throughout the whole school and older students take on the role of teacher to younger pupils. Older students also take this leadership outside of the school, engaging with the local business community in hands-on engineering projects that develop real-life improvements to the school grounds. In the past, these and similar projects have been developed with Queen’s University and presented at Stormont. Enterprise is a recurring theme throughout life at OLSM. The student-organised Swap Shop runs all year round, culminating in Young Enterprise Week, an exhibition of the pupils’ own ideas and projects.

Beneath this, and amid all other curriculum requirements, OLSM places a great emphasis on developing the emotional and cultural intelligence of their students. Through Roots of Empathy, the children follow the development of a new born child on visits throughout the year, following a simultaneous lesson plan to help them understand their own emotions and those of their classmates.

Through Dissolving Boundaries, the pupils bring this empathy to life, engaging digitally with students in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, on the other side of the border. History and heritage is deeply ingrained in the students, from film-making projects on years gone by to the locally-run Old Time Games programme, bringing imagination and resourcefulness back into playtime. In this small cluster of communities, the children and teachers at OLSM are providing a pathway to the future of rural Ireland. Digitally connected, enterprising and confident, the school is a microcosm of the huge potential in Irish towns and villages.

The School Leadership

Principal Gary Farrell is driven by a simple but powerful vision: that no child should ever pass by OLSM because a better learning environment lies beyond it. From special needs assistance to sports, creative outlets or the quality of teaching, OLSM is designed for every student to thrive. Local to the area his entire life, Mr. Farrell embodies the school’s future-focused ethos, with a background in up-skilling other Northern Irish teachers in IT. The emphasis on rural connectivity and opportunity inspires the school’s ambitious culture, which comes to life through the leadership of not just the principal and teachers, but most of all from the pupils themselves.