Darndale, Dublin 17

In Brief

Situated on the outskirts of Dublin in an area of high social and economic disadvantage, Our Lady Immaculate Junior National School has built strong bonds with the local community in order to provide a quality education and has raised literacy and numeracy levels, as well as attendance rates, over the last several years. With initiatives like “The Play Project,” a meditation programme and many opportunities for creativity, Our Lady Immaculate emphasises the wellbeing of its students, and through innovative partnerships with several colleges of education, it is developing new ways to help disadvantaged students learn as effectively as possible.


Opened in 1974 on the outskirts of Dublin, Our Lady Immaculate Junior School serves 240 students up to the age of age 8. According to the Department of Education and Skills, the school is tackling the highest level of social and economic disadvantage impeding education. Nevertheless, the school’s innovative teaching has raised literacy and numeracy levels over the past few years, and attendance rates have increased.

The Biggest Idea

The school has worked often with external partners that range from various colleges of Education to the Department of Education and Skills’s School Completion Programme to implement innovative educational programmes that rethink the role of play and learning, increase literacy and boost attendance rates. At the same time, it has developed numerous outreach programmes that maintain a positive relationship with the local community.

Life at Our Lady Immaculate

Working with St Catherine’s College Rathmines and St Patrick’s College of Education, Our Lady Immaculate developed “The Play Project” to integrate teaching with play. Teachers throughout the school were trained in teaching through play techniques, making it a sustainable part of the school’s culture. More recently, the school has worked with the Marino Institute of Education to pilot a project that encourages parents to read with their children. This is just one example of Our Lady Immaculate’s excellent track record of engaging parents, as well as the local community in general.

The school runs literacy programmes and peer groups for adults, as well as a community lending library. It also makes its meditation space available to the community at times. The meditation programme began several years ago, and it provides a weekly opportunity for relaxation and concentration for students. Besides this, there are many other programmes that promote children’s wellbeing while also providing educational opportunities. These range from sports to a robust arts programme, which includes an Arts Week that brings in members of the community to share different artistic disciplines like woodcarving and Irish dancing.

Our Lady Immaculate is a member of the School Completion Programme of the Department of Education and Skills, which aims to reduce the number of young people who leave school early. The importance of school attendance is emphasised—with prizes for students with excellent attendance—and in recent years, attendance rates have increased. At the same time, literacy and numeracy levels have improved as well, and the school continues to enthusiastically bring new innovations to the community and prepare students for the future.

The Leadership

Under the leadership of principal Breda Murray, the school staff has built a track record of innovative programmes. Murray leads a talented team of teachers and staff who are highly capable and work well in teams; they have led the way nationally in employing team-teaching. Murray has a history of finding funding from organisations and individuals to fund exciting projects at the school and also benefit the local community. For example, a few years ago Aer Lingus refurbished the school yard and redecorated the school.